Sometimes I really hate the church. This isn’t a shocking thing to say anymore. It seems like every day I see a different article posted on FaceBook that is some variation on this theme. The Church (with a capital C) can really drive people crazy. It has always been this way, but for a long time we had to hide that feeling in the shadows. We talked about it in hushed tones and used phrases like “of course I know not every church is like this” or “I mean, I’m going to keep going of course.” In the last few years we’ve been released from that silence and I think as a whole we’re seeing a lot more honesty about the struggles people have with the institution known as “the church”. This is good. Healthy. Essential even to our growth as the body of Christ. But, something happened along the way. I used to feel like I couldn’t talk about how I sometimes I hate the church. Now I feel like it’s more shocking when I say the following…
I love the church. And I do. I really do. I love that the church is where I find and build relationships with people I never would have met if I didn’t attend it; people who think so differently than me. Who force to me examine what I believe and why. Who teach me to be a better communicator both in the ways I listen, and in the ways I speak. I love the experience of singing songs with a large group of people all around me. I love sitting and hearing teachings that invigorate my soul and give me the strength to keep walking on this path called life. I love the God I meet at church. He’s different than the one I talk to on my own every day. He seems….bigger….louder…more present when I’m at church.
I’ve stopped associating church with a building. I’ve fully crossed over to that cliche phrase the older people in the church of my youth always said “The church isn’t a building, it’s the people”. It’s a cliche but it’s the truth and I’ve never believed it more than now. Maybe it’s because for the last 4 years my church hasn’t met in its own building. My church is the person I set up microphone stands and musical instruments with at 7:30 on a Sunday morning. My church is the group of people I get brunch with when service is done. My church is the friend I get milkshakes with on a random Thursday night. My church is the text that comes at 6:00 pm on a Tuesday night “I was thinking about you…How can I pray for you?”
Sometimes I really love the church. And sometimes I really hate the church. The two sides are equally a part of me. It can be hard reconciling both sides of myself. My love for the church sometimes makes me willfully blind to its faults because I don’t want to admit there’s a problem. My hate for the church can sometimes make me willfully blind to its beauty because I want an excuse to get out once and for all. How do I live with these two sides of myself? How do find a balance? I can’t be the only one that feels this way. And yet I can’t find any direction on how to handle the simultaneous love and hate you can have for the church.
And then, this summer…I read a book. I know, I know it’s very shocking that my answer came out of a book. But seriously this summer I read a book. And it was one of those books. One of the ones that got in my head and wouldn’t let go. A book that had so many parts I underlined it kind of defeated the purpose of underlining. A book that I talked about constantly, made all my friends read, and texted them quotes I loved the whole time they were reading it. One of those books.
It’s called Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans. An author who has always been able to speak right to my soul but with this book in particular she nailed my exact dilemma and position in life. How she did it can be captured in the subtitle of the book, “loving, leaving, and finding the church.” She takes the 7 sacraments of traditional Christian faith and uses them to explore what church truly is, what it has been, and what it can be.
I could write about this book for hours and not grow tired of it. I could go through each page and quote my favorite bits from each chapter. But what I loved most about reading this book beyond the actual reading of it was the discussion it brought up when I talked about it with other readers. It truly took the book to another level to read it and talk about it with my friends. That’s why when the time came for a new semester of small groups at my church I asked my friend Tika if she wanted to lead a group based on discussing this book with me. She said yes. So, here we go. Every Tuesday starting February 2 at 7:00 pm we’re gonna meet in Tika’s cozy apartment and we’re gonna talk about church. What we love about it. What we hate about it. What we hope for it. Where we see ourselves in it. But the key is we’re gonna talk.
If you live geographically close enough to come to our group and can make it out, you’re invited! You don’t have to be a part of my church; you can have faith, not have faith, be skeptical of faith; whatever. Just come and talk. If you aren’t close enough to physically come, you’re also in luck! I’m going write a little mini post about what we’re talking about in person that week so anyone who wants to get in on the discussion can. Either way I hope you’ll pick up this book and give it a read. It’s made my faith deeper and richer.
In the introduction Rachel writes “Even when I don’t believe in church, I believe in resurrection. I believe in the hope of Sunday morning.” Sometimes the Sunday morning hope comes a different way. I think a Sunday morning hope is coming on a Tuesday night in Philadelphia. I can’t wait to get there. I hope you’ll come.