By Sophia Agtarap
When church was just a habit without meaning, Matt Hooper walked away. Which meant he would have to fall in love all over again.
Church means different things to different people. For some, it’s a community of people who gather on a Sunday morning. For others, it’s an irrelevant place.
For Matt Hooper, it’s been a little of both.
Matt is one of those guys who was raised in The United Methodist Church. The son of a Methodist minister, his childhood and adolescence were full of church-related activities. As many young adult before him have done, he fell out of the habit of going to church on a regular basis and spent a good part of his young adult life without a church home.
And then he found Trinity United Methodist Church. He recalls stumbling, quite literally, onto the campus of Trinity United Methodist Church in Homewood, Ala., and fell in love with it from that very first Sunday. “I joined a few months later and, soon afterward, started singing in the sanctuary choir and serving wherever I was asked to serve,” Matt recalls. He’s been at Trinity for the past five years, and he considers them the best five years of his life.
It’s not easy plugging in to a new community. Even mustering up the courage to show up to any number of activities or worship opportunities can be daunting. But what one finds there can be amazing.
“Now, most of my friends are people from my church. I’ve developed deep, honest, meaningful relationships with our pastors. I’ve relied on them to get me through some rough patches, and they’ve been there for me every time. I’ve got mentors there that are my age and up to 50 years older than me. Literally, there’s someone at every age and stage with whom I can connect.”
For Matt, being a part of a church isn’t just about the people, though the relationships he’s building are a large part of it. It’s also about being a part of a faith community where beliefs and action mirror one another.
“I grew up in the church without really feeling a part of a church community. And I grew up, unfortunately, watching a lot of church people talk the talk, but not walk their talk.”
Matt is a part of “Church Can Happen Anywhere,”* a commercial for The United Methodist Church through Rethink Church.Matt’s story of putting beliefs into action is exactly what Rethink Church is all about. Rethink Church is a ministry led by United Methodist Communications, dedicated to connecting and reconnecting people on a spiritual journey who are disconnected or disengaged from church and faith communities, through relevant media and culture. We wanted real-life stories of people connected with United Methodist churches in their area for this project.
Now, Matt finds himself surrounded by people in his church community who are actively living their faith. It challenges him day-after-day and it makes him rethink the ways he spends his time, and even the things he purchases. For example, he asks himself this list of questions: How is this purchase going to impact my giving? Or, do I really need this outfit, this expensive meal or this trip? Am I honoring God by getting this? How could I put this to better use?
Though some days he is better at than others in asking these questions, he has developed the habit of pausing, especially in light of our church’s focus on neighbors, to ponder those points.
But Matt isn’t naïve to think that the church has it figured out, either. We argue about things. Important things. There are issues we are trying to solve but just can’t. And we have to admit that. But he has hope:
“By taking an honest look at what it means to be the modern-day church, being willing to admit that we, too, have issues we’re working to solve…I think that is an attitude that is appealing to a lot of people who aren’t connected to a church right now. They, too, are struggling to find answers to eternal questions, they need community…but they need to community to be present where they are.”
*”Church Can Happen Anywhere” focuses on living one’s faith beyond Sundays. Watch how others are putting their beliefs into action; then share where ‘anywhere’ is for you with Rethink Church on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with us. #ChurchCanHappenAnywhere
To learn more about Rethink Church visit rethinkchurch.org