I’m a pretty big freak about Church. It’s kind of an odd passion of mine. Those closest to me will tell you that I will remain pretty mum on the subject in polite company so as to not frighten or alarm anyone with my level of intensity, but get me in a room with my people and I will go to town. My hands start flailing around and my voice rises and falls drastically. I will talk your ear off until I start to see your eyes glaze over. Those who know me best have learned to interpret my intensity around the subject less as anger and more as a passionate love affair. I have worked on a few church staffs of varying denominations and theologies. That kind of stuff doesn’t bug me, the nitty gritty details that don’t actually have any bearing on who Jesus was or who we should be because of Him. But the ways in which the Church behaves both inside and outside its walls are of extreme interest and importance to me.
I’ve been this way since my freshman year of college. I can’t honestly tell you what happened that flipped a light switch on in me but I fell hard for the Body of Christ and I pledged my loyalty to her, knowing that she is (supposed to be) the fullest expression of Christ here on earth. I take that as a grave responsibility. Nerd alert: You know how on The West Wing (one of the greatest shows ever made) all of the President’s senior staff somewhat reluctantly leave other better and higher paying jobs to “serve at the pleasure of the President”? It’s an act of duty and patriotism for them. That’s how I am with churches. I can’t resist. The Church says that it has a need that I can fill and I’m in. I serve at the pleasure of the Church.
But I digress. I tell you all that to tell you that I’m about to let loose my Church crazy vibes for a minute, polite company included. So hold on to your butts. With all of this passion and angst and occasionally ire that I have felt around the subject of Church, I can occasionally meander into the nit picky and absurdly complex. I am a tried and true product of a post-modern meets millennial meets hipster meets Hillsong United meets Baptist Christian schoolgirl conglomerate. I have been taught to value the “simplicity” of a paradigm shift and I have used the phrase “paradigm shift” way too many times than I am comfortable with admitting. I have wandered the Church wasteland, claiming this one to be too seeker friendly and that one to be too rich and that one over there to not be meeting my diverse musical worship needs (aka: I need an anthem that will be stuck in my head for days). I allowed myself to become a consumeristic ball of complexity when it came to what I was searching for in a church.
Greg and I kind of stumbled into our current church home because Greg is a great musician and he loves to play and this church loves great musicians and provided him an outlet for his passion. I tagged along because, sigh, what else was I going to do? And little by little, we both fell in love with this place. And we decided to make it our church home. It wasn’t something we even made a big deal about (which is in and of itself a big deal, since I normally would go crazy go nuts on a decision like this) so imagine my surprise when I discovered that recently, on the very same day in fact, Greg and I were both asked in different ways by different friends why we had chosen our current church home and we both had the very same exact answer: Trust.
In all of my rants and ravings about/against/for the Church throughout the years, I somehow seemed to have missed that there was really only one thing I was looking for in a Church. I wanted to trust its leadership. Church leaders are human and, as such, are prone to mistakes and missteps but on the whole I was looking for someone or some group of people that I could stand on a chair and say “O Captain, my Captain” to and mean it with all my heart. I was looking for someone to trust.
And I have found that, in our church home. The people who lead our church are the most humble and earnest people I have ever known personally. They sincerely just want to do things right. They are so sincere and so genuine. Its refreshing, actually. For someone like me, who has seen the good, the bad and the ugly of church staffs, it was a breath of fresh air to find a group of people who just love what they do and love each other. That being said, I don’t always agree with the decisions that they make and there are things that I wish were different in our church but the beauty of it is, I still trust them. I don’t second guess their motives. I don’t wonder if I am being manipulated or kept in the dark. I know that God has asked me to trust them and so I do.
And that trust frees me up immensely, because what I have been asked to do is to trust them. What they do with my trust is on them and what God asks of them.
I realized this morning as I was doing what is hopefully my last blasted lap around Lake Eola, that the commonly used analogy of the Church being the Bride of Christ is accurate on a variety of levels. If I look at my relationship with the Church as a marriage then there are some hard and fast Truths I better believe are accurate as well. Marriage is hard. Just ask anyone who has been married longer than 6 days. And marriage doesn’t always feel awesome. Sometimes it feels like every joke you try to make with your spouse falls flat and every tiny discussion about where you want to eat lunch turns into a debate of epic proportions about something else entirely. Sometimes you just can’t click with your spouse for a while. And that’s ok. You learn over time that marriage ebbs and flows and if you bail at the first sign of choppy water, you will miss out on the beauty of riding out the storm…with someone you trust.
Churches feel the same tension. Sometimes they are growing so fast they can’t keep enough seats in the sanctuary. Other times, the seats go empty. Sometimes the leadership and its congregation are just clicking! They are on fire together! The vision is being realized and the guitars are hitting all of the right notes! Heaven on earth! And sometimes the jokes fall flat and the band gets out of tune. But that’s when trust takes over. Trust says, “This is hard and I don’t want to do this anymore but I still trust you and I will still bop along beside you as we ride out this storm.”
I can’t tell you what a relief it was for both Greg and I to look our friends in the eyes separately and simply say about our church “Oh, I just trust them. That’s all. I’ll ride out any storm with them because God has asked me to trust them. And so I do.”
So if I can put on my preacher hat for a moment and give you some advice: Forget all of the complexities that you might put on your perfect Church wish list. Forget about the music and the building and how many times the teaching made you laugh or cry or shifted your blasted paradigm. Ignore the name they have chosen to go by or the font they use on their bulletins. Just find someone you can trust and then follow them. Ride the waves with them for the long haul. The Church is a beautiful mess. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to add your color to it.