It’s hard to search for a new church home when you are on the road as much as I am. I won’t be able to get back to church for four weeks due to travel.
We’ve tried a few others lately but it’s hard to find a church. I imagine it to be like an adoption, you want to find the right family, not a perfect family, but the one that will be just the right fit.
For a few weeks, we just gave up looking.
There’s a big city 30 miles up the road from here. They have vibrant churches. A couple of mega-churches with in-depth teaching, Zumba on Tuesdays and a coffee-house.
But gas is $4 a gallon. No way we are going to be running up and down the road to a church in a community where we don’t even live. I’m married to the man who wouldn’t even teach in a community where he didn’t live. He believes in living in community, and teaching in community, and worshipping in community.
He’s read the Bible, the entire thing, so many times I’ve lost count. He reads the New Testament from his Greek Bible. He carries it to church with him sometimes.
I’ve been known to carry novels with me to read.
Mostly because I bore easily.
If I could, I would attend church at Antioch in Bend, Oregon every Sunday because I just love the way Pastor Ken Wytsma is able to take me through on a winding path of truths. But I don’t actually live in Bend. I just like to pretend I do.
I live in a small, rural farming community.
I love living here because the airport is thirty minutes up the road without any traffic. I rarely stand in line anywhere, and if my husband falls ill while I’m on the road, friends will drop what they are doing to get him some help. That’s happened a couple of times now, so I know it’s true.
But living in an isolated area can have its drawbacks. One of those is the lack of choices, in places to eat — better like Chinese or Mexican — and churches — Conservative or more Conservative.
It can be frustrating.
But I need community.
I need to know that when I am on the road that there is a community of people at home, praying for me. I need a community of people who believe that the books I write are as much a mission as getting on a plane and flying to Haiti, or offering a cup of coffee to the homeless.
“Do you have the gift of intercession?” a woman asked me today following the church service.
“No, I do not,” I said.
“You don’t?” she seemed surprised.
“No. My daughter does. She has that gift but that is not a gifting of mine. I will, however, pray for you.”
I know this woman. I know what she needs most besides my prayers is a good health insurance plan. She hears from demons all the time. They taunt her. They torture her. She goes without sleep. She can’t focus. Her thoughts are not her own thoughts. She needs a good doctor and medical care. A doctor who will make sure she gets all the drugs she needs to shut out the voices. But she doesn’t have medical care because she can’t work, because she hears voices all the time.
It was our first visit to the church she attends.
It’s a very small church, part of what they say is a dying denomination, like so many churches today.
I don’t mind small.
I think Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove got it exactly right when he explained in THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDY GRIFFITH why we all loved Andy Griffith and Mayberry so much.
Of course, many of the people at this church already know who we are, as would be the case with any church we visit in this rural community. Hard to be discreet when searching for a new church home when everybody already knows your name.
I have a family member who chooses church on the basis of his ability to remain anonymous. He does not want to build a relationship with anyone at church. He does not want anyone to know his daily routines. He does not want to join a care group or have a pastor pray for him. He does not want anyone close enough in his life that he might have to be held accountable for his choices. If his wife fell ill, he would not have anyone to call other than family.
Most Americans don’t live that close to family any more, so we need the community of church in the worst way. But most of us just hate going about searching for a family that will adopt us and love us, unconditionally.
I don’t want to be part of a family where nobody knows my name.
I don’t want to be part of a family that is mean to outsiders or dismissive of their own family members.
I don’t want to be part of a family that is more concerned about the family business than they are the people they serve.
I don’t want to be part of a family where the only thing they read is the bible.
I want to be part of a family made up of great storytellers.
A family who is rich in experiences, and history.
A family for whom faith isn’t something they put on for Sundays, but something they live out everyday.
A family comprised of all ages, shapes, sizes, and color.
A family who embraces the mentally ill, the physically challenged, the contrarian, the gay, the gray, the ornery, and the littlest of these, and promises to love them to Jesus,
A family who laughs, and sings, and weeps and prays, and serves together.
A church to call home.
Are you searching for family? Or do you have a church to call home?