So, if you haven’t yet read it, please go read yesterday’s post. If you don’t, you probably won’t understand much of this one.
To pick up where I left off yesterday, it seems that I’m not the only unchurched Christian out there. I knew I wasn’t before I saw the Barna article; I have a handful of friends, including one of my best friends, who are all unchurched. But they are Believers, just like me. They will tell anybody who asks that the believe Jesus is Lord. But for one reason or another, they don’t go to church.
One of the unresolved issues Jeff and I have though is finding a church we both like. He likes liturgy. I do not. For example, he is really comfortable in a Catholic or Episcopalian setting. I, on the other hand, am not.
What I want is leagues away from what he wants. Over the past few years, I have lived and breathed the concept of the small group. At the last church Jeff was at, I became a member of an absolutely amazing small group. It was the pastor’s small group, but that’s not the reason it was amazing. It was amazing and awesome because of the people who are in it.
This last church was one of them that Jeff worked at. He was the youth pastor there. The kids loved him, the adults allowed him – mostly – to be the kid at heart that he is. Even the pastor, G, loved him as a mentor and a brother in Christ, and was patient with Jeff in his everyday foibles. When the church ended Jeff’s contract, for some reasons that amount to absolutely nothing, G was as heartbroken as we were. Maybe more. It wasn’t his decision, he wasn’t happy about it, yet even in his pain, he did his best to comfort us.
The first night I went to small group after Jeff was let go, I thought it would be to say good-bye to people I had come to love as my own family. I think I even told people that. But these were people who loved me back, saw my pain, asked about Jeff and told me to tell him they were praying for him especially. And then they told me I was welcome at small group any time.
I kept going to that small group for about a year or so after that, but I was also getting a master’s degree at the same time. Unfortunately, the last three semesters of that program, classes I wanted and needed to take met at the same time as small group. So I drifted away from my church family, pretty much for good.
What I discovered was that most of my remaining classes were like small group to me. Classes of seven to twelve people, having a conversation about what we learned and how we could make those ideas practical to our own lives. We didn’t talk about Christianity, but we had fellowship, which meant a lot to me.
In the months since graduation, I have clearly felt that lack of a small group again and again.
Quoting K.W.L. again:
If your church isn’t really a church, try to make it one. Start a group—a small group—within your church. Invite any of the Christians whom you see are working at being religious. Meet frequently. Keep it informal. Don’t create a bible study if you already have those. Eat together. Hang out with one another, and do what you can’t really do with anyone but Christians—talk about Jesus. Share what you’re going through. Share testimonies. Share experiences. Share worries and concerns. Share what God’s taught you lately. Share.
I completely agree with him, but this is easier said than done, especially for those of us who are introverts (No, really, I am). But it can be done, and it needs to be done for us to truly be the Church.
About four years ago, Jeff and I were talking about small groups and what kind we’d like to be in. That conversation sparked a question for me: Is it possible to start a small group that meets not to study the Bible, but to go into the world and live it out on a consistent basis? God has commanded each of us to take care of others, true, but could something like this be done in a small group setting, not as an event, but as a process?
I wanted to run with that idea a couple of times, but life circumstances got in the way. Then last year, I decided it was just time to do something, so I called one of our local homeless shelters and volunteered to bring meals once a month from July through December. Then I invited all my friends to join me.
The response to that was amazing. I had people volunteer to help me for more than one meal, and I got all the help I needed. When the shelter called me in March 2010 to do the same thing, I repeated the process. In the second round of helping serve these meals, what I have discovered is that I have an amazing group of core people who want to live out their ideals and faith just as much as I do, and really enjoy serving people in need.
It’s not exactly what I was thinking, but it’s a solid start.
Confession, it seems, it not only good for my soul, but for those of the people around me. One reader yesterday told me me that she and her family, also longtime Christians, were unchurched as well. She and I have known each other for almost twenty years, so this is no stranger baring her soul to me–this is someone who I have prayed for and shared personal experiences with, yet I had no idea she was struggling with the same thing. We both thought that the other would judge us for this shortcoming.
God wants me, and all the other unchurched Christians of the world back in in a relationship with the Body of Christ. If you belong to this group, I can’t tell you how to get back to that, because I don’t know how to do it yet myself. Like me, you might have a lot of fear and pain to deal with. You might need to learn to trust again. Maybe you need to trust that it’s God telling you to go find that church family you need. It’s possible that God is calling you to start the church you’re dreaming about (but be sure you really have the gift of apostleship, and that it’s really God calling you, not your own desire for glory and praise).
What I can say for certain is that God loves you, and He wants us all back in a community.