“I’m just not getting what I want and need out of the church,” said a dear friend of mine. He and his family had been struggling in the church they had been a part of for nearly 20 years.
He had seen his children go through the cycle of birth, rearing, tenacious teenage years, and now onto college. For the last 20 years, the church had journeyed beside him and his wife, from young adulting to the uncertain waters of parenting. In turn, they had volunteer for countless church events, programs, and trips.
Now, they were left with this void. It wasn’t a sudden thing. It had been this slow and on setting phantom feeling for quite a while.
He asked me, “What should I do about it.”
The church is many things; a series of relationships, an organization, an institution of spiritual formation, and a community.
At each stage in our life, we find a unique relationship with the church.
At one stage, the church is a provider of necessary mentors and encouragers that show us that you’ll figure this adult thing, parenting thing, empty nesting thing, and retirement thing out.
At one stage, the church is a receiver of our time, talents, passions, and presence for events, programs, trips, and committees.
At one stage, the church can feel like an old friendship that doesn’t seem to have the same energy, luster, and value that it once had.
At one stage, the church disappoints all our expectations in relationships, spiritual formation, worship, and principles.
At one stage, everything the church does seems to edify and confirm all that we believe to be right and true in this world.
The reality is that our relationship with the church, much like all the meaningful relationships in our lives, will ebb and flow in a symbiotic dance that is life. You see, often what we see of the church is a project of the current reality we are facing in whatever stage of our life we find ourselves in.
Frustration, excitement, fear, certainty, seclusion, inclusive, ambiguity, and intimacy are just the beginning of a wide-ranging list of emotions and expressions of our lives and our life with the church.
So, what is the answer to all of this? What’s the easy solution?
The answer is that there isn’t one. I wish I could have told him this is the perfect answer to your problem.
Instead, what I told him was to reach out and have conversations with those he and his wife love and trust within their faith community. I invited him to turn to wonder that he might find that as he converses with others, they too have faced a similar chapter in their life and journey with the church.
I invited him to turn to perspective that others within his faith community had been at this exact place before and invested in relationships when programmatic and worship elements didn’t seem to be where they wanted it to be.
I invited him to turn to faith with others that God will use this uncertain chapter to not only enhance his spiritual journey but also the journey of others within his church. In invited him to be patient and wait, wait to see how God can do something powerful through his family and the church.
And we know that the waiting is the hardest part.