For years Lacie and I have bounced around from church to church unable to really “plug in.” There was always some “reason” (aka excuse) for why we were not able to connect.
“I don’t really connect with the message.”
“I don’t like how the pastors are so sarcastic.”
“These small groups feel too fake. I’d rather make friends organically.”
“It’s hard to make friends when everyone else already knows each other.”
And when all else fails I would always pull out the ole, “religious spirit” card. It’s like the Get-Out-of-Church-Free card.
“Remember, it was the religious people who had the hardest time with Jesus,” I’d say.
You may already know where this story is going. Obviously the problem was on our end, not with the church.
But to be honest, I didn’t realize this until recently. After several years of living like this I “suspected” my attitude may be playing a small part in this but I was still convinced that we just needed to find the “right church.”
One that shared our core values… and our theology… and our beliefs about money/business… and our style of worship…and our approach to parenting… and one that embraced the supernatural power of God, etc.
At one point I even made a list of our family’s “Core Values” so that I could compare that to the different churches we were
shopping visiting (I felt like this was a very spiritual act so don’t laugh!).
It felt good to get clarity about what we wanted, and didn’t want, in a church. My “Core Values” list allowed me to easily qualify or disqualify churches without spending too much time thinking about it.
So when we finally found a church that we felt aligned with our values we were pleased. All we had to do now was “pray about it” (aka ask God to seal the deal).
But when we prayed the strangest thing happened. We felt like God was calling us to go back to our old church, Church on the Rock (COTR). It felt good to hear from God but I was honestly a little confused.
However, we figured God knew a little bit more about this so we obeyed. We started attending COTR again but still felt “on the outside.”
We’d go to Sunday morning service and sometimes attend another event during the week.
But we still didn’t feel “plugged in.”
I could feel the same old thought pattern start to emerge again. I started to stir up my gift of criticism again which allowed me to “discern” things that were wrong with the church.
Side note: there’s a fine line between discernment and suspicion. When I’m only able “discern” negative things, it’s usually a sign I’m moving in suspicion.
I was frustrated and wondered if I would ever be able to get connected to a church.
That thought weighed heavier on me when I considered how this would affect my kids. I remembered growing up and watching my parents be isolated. They didn’t have any close friendships or support groups and I got scared I was heading down the same path.
Then a few weeks ago my wife was reading this little black journal of mine (she calls it a diary even though I insist it’s a “journal.” I like to remind her that 12-year-old girls keep diaries and men keep journals. But she just laughs and calls it my diary!) and in this particular JOURNAL I only write an entry about 1–2 times a year. So it’s interesting because you can quickly read the highlights of my life over the last 13 years.
She flipped to an entry where I wrote about how we were at a new church again but were having a hard time “plugging in.” After she read that she looked at me and said, “Wow. Nothing has really changed, we have a problem.”
“Yep,” I said. “We’ve been dealing with this for the last 8 years!”
So the next day this was on my mind as I drove to CrossFit.
As I thought about it I realized “pride” was what was keeping me and my family from really connecting with others and from getting plugged in to church. It had nothing to do with the church and everything to do with the issues of my heart.
I repented for my pride and admitted to God that I had a problem with this.
When I did this, I felt like something changed in me. Not only did I feel forgiven but I also felt free to really connect with people… even if they didn’t tick all the boxes on my “Core Values” list (Gasp!).
I admit all of this is still fresh… so I hesitated even writing about it out of fear that I’ll revert back to my old ways.
But the last 2–3 weeks have been so exciting and new for us that I can’t help but talk about it!
We’ve been going to all these church groups lately, which is not special in itself, but what’s cool is what’s been happening as we go.
For example, my wife mentioned several months ago about how she’d like to hang out with a particular couple from our church. I told her that sounds fun and that yes, we should try to do that sometime. But nothing ever transpired (apparently you actually have to talk to the other couple to hang out with them or something like that).
And I’ve told my wife repeatedly how I’d love to meet other men who are entrepreneurs and who believe God is good. I’ve also been telling her about my strange experiences with the city of Nashville (that’s a story for another time but the bottom line is that Nashville keeps coming up over and over again for me). I told her that Nashville is on the top of my list of places I want to visit.
So last weekend we attend this Valentine’s Dinner Event that the church put on for the couples. It was really nice and everyone was dressed up. We walked up and were greeted by one of the hosts who let us know there were assigned tables. 8 people to each table.
They brought us to our table and we sat down. Out of the 100 or so people who were in the room we were seated right next to the couple my wife had been talking about wanting to hang out with!
And guess who was seated right next to me? An entrepreneur from Nashville! Not only that but about 5 minutes into our conversation he just randomly started talking about the goodness and kindness of God!
I ended up talking to him all night and we connected really well. After the dinner ended he put his hand on Lacie’s shoulder and said, “So apparently I went on a date with your husband tonight.” We laughed and exchanged contact info and agreed to have coffee this week.
This is just one of many stories of what we’re seeing God doing in our lives as it relates to friendships and community. It’s so cool! And we’re excited to continue on this path.