Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This church isn't for me

My friend Drew and I have struggled in recent months with wanting more out of our morning church, Jacob's Well. We've struggled because Jacob's Well is a "church for people who don't like church," and... neither Drew nor I any longer fit that demographic; we actually like church, yearn for longer moments of worship, and thirst for deeper spiritual growth. Drew made the decision a few weeks ago to find a new morning church, and I 100% respect and support his decision. My journey's been a little less clear-cut.

In my view, Jacob's Well is a church from which you want people to [for lack of a more respectful term] "graduate". It's a phenomenal home for anyone who's doubting, or who's been hurt by the church/had a bad church experience, or who's never really been sure about this whole "God" thing to begin with - at JW, it is not assumed that just because you're in church, you necessarily believe in God. That, in combination with our willingness to ask questions without assuming we'll find definitive answers, I think makes us quite unique. I can say in my own experience, JW was a restorative and safe place for me to come each week, after a rather traumatic break-up with my previous church.

My needs are different now. I want to have a consistently deeper worship experience, grow spiritually, and be in a community that challenges me to read my Bible and actually care about that more than I currently do. I also want a community that believes in miracles, speaking in tongues, prophesy, and that God is still alive and actively working in our earthly world. By all those metrics, JW is not the church for me. Also, if I'm honest: I don't even like Jacob's Well right now - there are a LOT of things that need to change, so many things we can and should be doing better.

And yet, I still love Jacob's Well. Inspired by an article I read last year called "Marriage isn’t for you," I find myself pondering if the same lesson may also apply to church. I'm not getting much out of the deal right now (well, maybe that point is arguable - you could argue I'm getting opportunities to get better at sound mixing, at guitar playing, at occasionally leading a worship song, and of learning "patience" :), but maybe it's not supposed to be about me. (Or heck, maybe it is, maybe like everything else, I'm making too big a deal of this and at some point I'll realize that and go find another church.) But in the meantime, the understanding I'm reaching is that for right now, my Calling isn't to "get" from Jacob's Well, but rather to ask where I can give back. Where, if I may perhaps be so bold, I can be the one of strong faith helping encourage and challenge others in developing their relationships with God. Because ultimately what I wish for myself is the same that I wish for everyone else: that no one's faith is stagnant.

Drew is really enjoying his new church so far, and to be completely honest I'm a bit jealous. Maybe I'm feeling trapped? Maybe I still struggle with chasing my own Calling vs chasing someone else's? I don't know. In either case, I can't shake the feeling that my work at JW is not yet complete, that I still have some purpose in being there. Or maybe I'm just being stubborn, and not willing to give up on an entity that has been so meaningful in my life. The end result is, for now, I remain committed, with the understanding (resignation?) that this church is no longer for me, no longer about what I'll gain from it, but instead about what I'm able to do in [humble?] service.


Mom said...

Life journeys can be challenging; Faith journeys even moreso. Personal needs change, so it makes sense that relationships (even with a church body) may need to change, as well. No matter what, God will always be with you.

Anonymous said...

Great and honorable wrestling here, Jeremy. Perhaps the greatest gift we, as church, can give anyone... to seek one's real purpose in being church with others and for Christ.
I love to hear your discussion, and I'll throw my oft repeated belief in as grist for your mill. That is that we never discover how to be truly fulfilled by our relationship with a church until we learn to give our church away. That's what Jesus did. That's what we all grow to learn to do.
Graduating from a church is really (as I think you were suggesting) graduating from being a consumer of that church, to helping others receive the gifts of it and discovering who God is for them. In that is worship in spirit and truth.
Aha! back to John 4!
Peace my friend.

Theresa Cardinal said...

Well written Jeremy. I/We have also been there and in the end God will let you know when the time is right to move on. When His work for you is done at that place. Just be sure you are getting good spiritual food some place else. Working from an empty spiritual bucket doesn't help anyone, especially you!

Theresa Cardinal said...

Well written Jeremy. I/We have been in that place. God will let you know when His work for you, in that place, is done and when it is time to move on. In the meantime, be sure you are being feed spiritual someplace else. It won't help anyone, especially you, if you become spiritually dry/empty. Protect that sweet heart of yours!