i’ve been without a church home for about a year now, and i hate it. it’s not that i havent been looking, i’ve been to church every sunday that i’ve had the opportunity (that is to say that i wasnt doing something like working), save one time. and that one time just felt really awkward. i had this feeling of, “somewhere, people are corporately worshipping the Lord, and i’m not a part of it.” i felt like i was cheating myself.
searching for a church home hasn’t been fun. and to be honest, i’ve come to despise the process. being a visitor in some churches is worse than others, but the fact remains: you are a visitor. you dont really belong there. you’re new and unfamiliar with the culture and ways of that body. often i’ve felt very alone in a sea of believers…or at the least, singled out.
the most bizarre experience i’ve had in searching was probably this small, apostolic, store-front church, whose name i wont reveal online. when i say small, i mean, i was one of probably 7 people there (including the pastor). dont get me wrong, i’m not against small (and growing) ministries. the church i left after six years was pretty small, and i loved it. and everyone starts somewhere, but at this church i visited, i was pretty weireded out by how much attention they devoted to me. they kept saying my name for no reason at all, i guess, in an attempt to make me feel welcome, but it just made me feel sooo singled out. for example: “sister lisa, turn that fan down, we dont want laila to get too cold.” “we’re going to take up our offertory now; laila you may give with us if it’s on your heart.” “in the book of exodus chapter 10, laila, this is where moses blah blah blah.” “we’re going to have our youth fellowship today at 5pm. sister laila, you are very welcome to join us.” no exaggeration. i wonder if i was the first visitor they’d had in a very long time. i do appreciate their efforts to make me feel welcome, it all just made me wonder though, “man, all this attention is on me [or other visitors], how much attention is really on jesus?” and it made me a bit uncomfortable.
i’ve been to different types of churches. big ones, small ones, apostolic, cogic, pentecostal, nondenominational, white ones, black ones, etc. i guess the most frustrating part of the search has been the sense of psychological church homelessness. i’m borrowing from the concept of “psychological homelessness,” which is when people feel like they’re in a land or place where they dont belong, and there’s not real home for them (think children of illegal immigrants or many african americans back in the day who were told to “go back to africa”). people who are faced with that often turn violent and exhibit sociopathic, or at the least, apathetic tendencies. that’s something i’ve had to war with–waking up on sunday mornings and asking myself, “why even bother? i know how this is going to play out: i’m going to go and feel awkward, or enjoy the praise and worship and the Word will suck or be unfulfilling, and after it’s over, i’ll see if anyone will greet me, and they wont, so i’ll go home, heave a sigh, and never go back to this church….or some variation thereof.”
nonetheless, i WANT to be a part of a church. and i want to point out to my readers that i’m not visiting churches to keep visiting, i’m visiting to become a servant to a ministry and people. to connect myself with a pool of believers in fellowship, discipleship and accountability. that’s what i’m looking for. i’m looking for a place where the people have a radical devotion to the Lord Jesus and living out his will. where people welcome accountability. where discipleship is fostered. where people fellowship. where people are more interested in looking like Christ than looking (or being) rich, or changing how you look (i.e., your clothes). where they preach the Holy Spirit. where they worship! but being honest with myself, the fact that it’s been a year has me wondering if my “standards” are too high. when i first left my former church i had this beautiful, magical list of what i wanted in my next church. it was glorious, but truly a dream. lol. since then, my list has been revised over and over, and finally, i’ve just thrown my hands up and said, “Lord, wherever YOU want me to go; no more, no less!” i’ve been struggling with the idea that i wont find what i’m looking for in North Carolina, or maybe even in the South. who knows?
i wonder though, if what i’m really looking for is heaven. this perfect ideal of believers worshipping the Lord in REAL fellowship with one another (and by the way, church services are NOT fellowship), pure Word, no agendas except to restore lives and easy on the “you-must-be-wearing-THIS-to-worship-with-us” attitude. does my church only exist when i meet Jesus? i refuse to accept that, b/c once i do, i’m slipping on my post of loving folks the way Christ calls me to.
of course i’ve been praying about this for…well…a year lol. and i continue to do so. i’m seeking God’s direction, praying for my own biases to fall, and ultimately having to trust his GRACE, whatever that means at the time. i welcome your prayers too.
this is how i truly feel about this all, i dont want to magnify this more than what it is though…guess i’m looking forward to home. and in the process, just waiting on God, which is a process. 🙂
UPDATE 1/10/11: beautifullaila.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/my-new-body