Combustibility: Why I Couldn't Quit Church

Category: By Christian
They say there are some things you shouldn't talk about at family gatherings. Combustible subjects. Politics and religion, mostly. I'd also add race, because that's the one that seems to get people really fired up whenever I broach the topic.

With the holidays approaching and all, there are going to be a lot of family gatherings. I guess we had better get the passionate topics out of the way this week so that something crazy doesn't slip out later. Here we go.

A couple of months ago I tried to quit church. We had been going to the same church for 4 years...ever since I started working there. Then I got a different job, but we kept going. But as time went on, there became a wider and wider disconnect between our church experience and the rest of our lives.

We live in the 'hood. We work in the 'hood. We are a multi-ethnic family. But we were driving 20 minutes into one of the wealthiest and whitest parts of the city to go to church each Sunday. There came a point where the whole thing was just surreal. I am living out this understanding about the Kingdom of God where I truly believe that God wants us to live amongst those who are on the underside of the empire, and that in our society a lot of what determines your place in the empire has typically centered on money and race. But then my worship experience was amongst the "haves" and that created a lot of dissonance.

So one Sunday Stacy was on call, and I decided to try a new church. There were a couple near us that I knew were multi-ethnic and that appeared to be mixed income. So Elli and I went. And on one level it was cool. People came from the fringes. People were different colors. A former drug addict gave testimony about how this community gave him the space and freedom to know Christ. But on another level it didn't feel quite right. So I went back with Stacy. Still didn't feel right.

A few weeks go by and we are sitting around one Sunday morning trying to decide where to go to church, and Stacy raises the idea that maybe we shouldn't switch churches. And at first I'm like, pfffffft. But then I figure she has a point. So we load up the car and make our trek to the 'burbs.

Well, there is no happy ending that morning. It still felt strange. Not only that, but it felt stranger than before, because we hadn't been around in a while. So we went back. And we went back again.

As we've been going through that process of coming back I've been trying to listen really hard to what God is telling me. The message comes in pieces, but I think it's something to the effect of...

Christian. You can't just quit church. Now, I might call you away to a different church someday, but that would be a different deal. That would be far less self-righteous, and much more about me than about what feels right to you at any given time. While you have grown a lot in the past two years in your ability to do justice, you have some work to do in the areas of loving mercy and walking humbly with your God. So go back. Because the people at that church have been nothing but good to you. They have shown you nothing but love. And you know they love me. And while it can be very difficult to feel as though you share much with that group of people in terms of paradigm and plane of existence, this is a very safe place for you to learn what it means to challenge popular conventions of power and living out faith. So love my people. Be loved by my people. Push my people. Be pushed by my people. Carry yourself with grace and dignity. Don't contribute to the stratification of your community by leaving a church and making it more homogeneous that it currently is. And don't be a jerk.

Renew and Restore

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