This morning we visited the Pentecostal church in our community. The week before it was a Catholic church. Two weeks ago we attended the Christian Reformed Church.
We know people in all these churches. I could walk up and down each aisle and probably get about half the names right in most of our area churches, including the much larger Baptist church. Part of it is that through my vocation, I get to interact with the larger Body of Christ. So I feel that these people are family; I never really feel like a visitor.
But this morning I realized that in truth, these people are extended family. Each particular congregation has its own personality, and the people with whom I feel most comfortable, the people who perhaps I most identify with, the people who I really want to spend a lot of time with; all those people are at another church, the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church.
The local Alliance church represents family as well, but nuclear family, not extended. True brothers and sisters about whom I have written before, “We are invested in their lives, and they are invested in ours.” A place where — as one person defined home: “when you go there they have to take you in.” (More on that here.)(And here.)
Except for one or two people.
Maybe your family is like this. A sibling or a parent with whom you just don’t see eye-to-eye and probably never will. They kinda ruin it for you. You go away but then you come back. Maybe you’ve been abused physically or emotionally; but it’s home and damn it (your words, not mine!) you’re going to keep staking your claim.
Some people either don’t realize the damage they’re doing to other people, or they do realize it, and they revel in it.
Which is why we find ourselves in forced exile again. It hurts my wife too much to go back; it hurts me too much to be away. (An actual role reversal of how it’s been at previous times; they manage to get to us equally in different ways at different times.)
I met Mark several years ago. He attended a similar church briefly and thought it would be the ideal spiritual environment for his two teenage sons. He got involved himself in a midweek program, and, being a guy who has so much to give any local assembly, decided after a couple of weeks to help stack the chairs when the meeting had ended.
“No, no;” someone quickly grabbed his arm; “That’s not how we do this. We have an after-school program here and for insurance reasons we can only stack the chairs four chairs high.”
A little nuance that had been lost on Mark. But then they added, “Why don’t you just leave this job to someone else.”
Ouch. A little over-the-top isn’t it?
Mark thought so. He was a sensitive guy and that was a totally insensitive remark from someone in a respected leadership position. He started to rethink the whole thing and decided to keep shopping for a church home. He found one where the leadership team was a little less — for lack of a better term — anal; and where he could use his various gifts and desire to serve.
End of story, right? Everybody wins, right?
Not exactly. The new church didn’t have the same youth program for his teenage sons, and while nobody is blaming anybody, the lack of such a program may have contributed to where the boys are right now, which is not a very good place.
The similarities between Mark’s story and our story are huge. Same kind of people. Same pathetic mentality.
…I think it was Andy Stanley who said that “nobody has ever been hurt by a church; rather it’s people in the church who hurt people.”
Andy is right.
But sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.
Can’t wait to see where we go to church next week.