Philosophizing Is Easy, Living Is Hard or Why I Came Back to Church

I was stuck. I had left the standard American church behind in search of something better, more true to the vision I saw in the New Testament. And I had failed to find it; truthfully, I had almost given up looking.

But I started to feel a nudge, well, really nudges. I was lonely for spiritual company. People to discuss God with on a regular basis, iron to sharpen iron. My circle of local Christian friends was small and I wanted more.

More importantly, I felt like a hypocrite. If you had asked me what I thought an individual believer’s relationship to the church was, I would have told you that the church was vitally important, that no one is meant to seek Jesus alone, that we are saved to be part of a body. And I was doing the exact opposite.

Those nudges turned into pokes. God was poking me. Sure I didn’t have my dream congregation, but I had plenty of others to choose from. (My town is hardly short on churches.) It was time to start dying to my dream and waking up to the reality God had placed me in. It was time to start living what I said I believed.

One of those aforementioned pokes involved a friend from community theater inviting me to come to her church. And so I did. Eventually, I started going regularly. My reasons for picking Litchfield Christian Church were hardly spiritual. Frankly, I decided to keep going because I already knew people there.

And yet, God used my very unspiritual dislike of strange crowds to put me exactly where He wanted me to be. There were time I questioned my choice, and wondered if I had actually betrayed my principles by trying to live them out.

On the surface, LCC seemed rather complacent in their old-fashioned style of church. In many ways, they were what I had run away from. But as I became more involved in the church, I began to detect a stream of discontent with the status quo and a strong desire for change. We wanted to see new disciples coming into our church, and that wasn’t going to happen if we kept things the way they were.

As the church elders began to be more open about these desires for change and as changes began to actually happen, I knew for sure that our new mission and focus was something I could believe in, participate in, and contribute to.

I still get frustrated sometimes with church life. But it is a healthier frustration, one born out of community with others instead of isolation, a frustration of impatience more than impotence. After years of searching, I believe I am where God wants me to be.

Greater Things or Why I Stopped Going to Church

When I was in college, one of the more popular worship songs in chapel was “Greater Things” by Chris Tomlin. During my senior year, I was going though a lot of turmoil about the church, it’s purpose, it’s structure, and whether we had completely lost our way.

One particular day while all my fellow students sang that song enthusiastically around me, I wrote this:

Greater things: what are greater things? are they thousands of people, megachurches, huge movements, “revivals” that grow a church and don’t change the community? or are they faithfulness, small but true communities, life change that can’t help but be shared? acts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control?

I didn’t mean this as a criticism of the song. I had and have nothing against Chris Tomlin or this song. I had and have no idea what he means by “greater things.” All I knew was that I was no longer sure that the things I had been told were greater actually were.

I’m still not sure what God doing greater things looks like. I know that no matter if they are big or small, they look like Jesus. And that if what you or your church is doing doesn’t look like Jesus, you need to step back and reexamine what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

A lot of what I was seeing being done in His name didn’t look like Jesus. A lot of what I saw being done by churches was so far from fulfilling what what their purpose should be. And so I left. I left it all behind because I couldn’t sit through a “church service” without my gut clenching and my mind screaming at me about how futile it was.

I left in search of other people who felt the same way. Other people who, hopefully, wanted to form a church focused on Jesus and being his body in this world.

I didn’t really find anyone. I found a lot of great believers. I heard hints and rumors of what I was looking for, but it was always too far away or it no longer existed or it turned out to be more dream than reality. It felt like I was chasing a shadow or a puff of smoke.

After awhile, I moved from Minneapolis to small town Minnesota. It seemed like there was an even smaller chance of finding what I was looking for. The dream of a true church never really died, and my devotion to Jesus was the same. But I was drifting, isolated and stagnant, until God woke me up.

But that is a story for another blog post…