I Want Some Answers


I have been pretty patient about this whole transition thing for quite a while now. The time that has passed has been useful and necessary for healing and detox.

However, these are important years for us, and our family.  I am upset with what my kids know and have seen about church over the last few years. You cannot keep secrets from teenagers. They pick up on everything.

We have done a good job of raising kids that are not religious. Their BS detectors are keen to legalism and hype. But have we done enough to ignite their passion for the things of God? or have we leaked too much cynicism, drowning out that spark?

In the meantime, I have been waiting, trusting that God would show us what’s next. I’m getting a little tired of waiting.

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28 thoughts on “I Want Some Answers

  1. Yeah Grace, I hear ya. Any couples in the church you attend feeling the same way? I really believe we need to start some half-way houses to detox from institutionlism and embody an alternative way. I’m convinced these feelings of discontent are more widespread than we imagine.
    BTW — thanks for picking up on my blog “You Might Have Missional Tendencies If . . .” I received a lot of favorable response through your blog.
    Peace,
    Larry

  2. Grace, you sound like me…or I sound like you. I hate to see what my cynicism did to my family. I know my anger turned to bitterness and I know it hurt my family. My boys are like your girls…they can spot hypocrisy a mile away and have the “pomo” thing down to a “t”. I must say that they also have developed a heart for God in all of this. I see a growing passion for Christ, but I’ve seen it happen as we planted a new church. Now, I don’t think that’s the answer for everyone…;)…but it was part of our answer.

    I know I’m done with saying what is wrong with Saddleback and Willow and North Pointe. I’m done with deconstructing. As much as it’s ingraned into me…something else is ingrained in me deeper – a love for the beauty of God. I want HIM more than I want to be right. I don’t think there is A way to do church…i think there are ways to do church and I’m trying to find one that’s consisting with who God made me to be. That may sound hokey but I’m finding that I have a history and it’s okay to serve God out of that history / tradition.

    Funny, I’ve kind of come full circle. I loved the church, I liked the church, I disliked the church, I hated the church, I disliked the church, I liked the church…and now, uh-hem…I love the church and sometimes even in all its manifestations. Whew, that was hard to say…

    peace.

  3. I hear ya sister – our girls definitely have a very non traditional experience with “church” but they’re still so young that I don’t worry about it much.

    I really want them to have experiences with community and with God and with service to the other but I’m not necessarily dead set that they have experiences with “church”.

    How do we accomplish that? good question that I’m just now trying to feel my way through.

  4. As an individual who works in the institutional church; stories like yours and others break my heart.

    I have servedn various churches in various states and in various denominations. I think that I am well adversed and can speak with a lot of experiences.

    A lot of churches are screwed up majorly and some that I have served at and in are horrendous.

    HOWEVER, there are churches out there who truly practice community, who are missional and their first focus is loving on Jesus and each other and not on the “church junk”.

    I hope your journey gets better.

  5. Between your post and what Barb wrote over at Former Leader today, my heart is breaking for my sisters here in the blogosphere.

    Really. I mean that, grace. I hurt with/for you. And Christy and I definitely know what it’s like to not have the community that we desire. And our soon-to-be 15-year-old son picks up on our disappointments and tries to chip in with his own cynical comments. I want to rebuke him for them, but realize he’s just processing what he hears from us. That’s hard.

    What I told Barb a few minutes ago on her blog, I’ll tell you. I am praying for you right now as I type this, and will continue to pray for you after I publish this. And that is not trite or cliche. It’s from my heart.

  6. Hi Grace …

    I don’t know what to say … except … that’s exactly where I’m at.

    Only I haven’t been at church because I know the machine is running and I refuse to be part of it. My kids are becoming spiritual weeds and it’s weighing on me.

    I’m afraid to start anything because I don’t want to become that which I despise.

    So … I’m waiting … and waiting and waiting.

  7. grace- i thought i knew what i’d say but i see that most of it’s been said. so… yup, uh huh, mmmmhmmm, uh huh, and yup. oh- and shoot- i’m not supposed to say those things since i’m still on staff…

  8. Grace,

    Maybe I’m completely out of line here… if so, please chalk this up to my own failure (I’ve been known to make a mistake from time to time).

    But, I’ve read your posts. I’ve heard your heart. I see where God is moving in your life and in the lives of the people around you.

    So… live it. Live exactly what God is showing you. Yes, I know the immediate question is, “But how do I live it?” Don’t worry about the “how”, just live it. God will show you where to plant the next step once you take the first.

    This is what I have in mind:
    For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

    You and your family are God’s workmanship… created by God with works already prepared by God… just walk in them (or live it).

    (Again, if I’m out of line, please forgive me and forget about this comment.)

    -Alan

  9. Grace,

    Welcome to the next part of the detox! It’s a wierd spot, I agree.

    What I’ve found to be good for us is to focus on the relationships within the congregation that we’ve developed. And staying far away from anything smacking of “leadership”.

    My kids have seemingly found a balance: you sometimes over-hear them make comments to their friends like “yeah, I know ______ is a control freak, but I’ve seen worse and Jesus calls us to forgive and bless anyways.”

    Which makes you grieve that as teenagers they’ve seen and experienced bad leadership, but also proud of them that they’ve learned to serve Jesus and others while not letting the controlling leaders frustrate them to the point of giving up.

    Those are life skills that they’ll need in any church they are a part of, because after 23 years in various kinds of ministry, I’ve given up on the fantasy that there’s such a thing as a “healthy church” — there’s healthy Christians in any church, and those are the ones we hope to meet and form relationship with.

  10. yeah, those are all things we mostly do as a family, with a few friends or whatever…our “church” is 8 people who don’t have kids so it’s a challenge but since I believe strongly that my kids’ spiritual development is not up to my “church” anyway, it works out …I guess… hehe.. we’ll see in 10 years.

  11. For whatever this is worth I wrote this email today to my pastor. I have been strugging for a while trying to figure out Church. I wanted to share. As I was writing it God spoke something into my heart I can’t guarantee he will with you but I know that in his time he will lead you right where he wants you to be

    “My dilema I guess with how Church is today is because we as Christians can become so inwardly focused(on our own local fellowship) and we need the whole body. I think what I am looking for is unity among beleivers even with those we don’t agree. Maybe a more generous orthodoxy(it’s the only word I could think of that explains my heart) Will you try to at least hear my thoughts on this?

    Hmmm… Is it wrong for me to want to celebrate what we have in common, that “Jesus Christ is Lord” with others in the valley in other denominations regardless at what other views they have? Do I really disqualify myself from serving and fellowshipping at a church because one month I go to this place and one month I go to this place to commune and break bread with others in the body? Why can’t some one attend more then one sunday morning gathering on a regular basis? Why do we have to be so seperate from each other, so divided?

    If we all have one King why don’t we see a lot more attempts to
    try and get together with other beleivers from other “churches”. To reconcile our differences. Isn’t this what Jesus is about? In him we are one. He’s the head we are the Body. Gods whole purpose was and is to reconcile “all” things under Jesus.

    When Jesus comes to restore all things we will not have these denominational lines and non denominational lines that seperate us but we will be how we are supposed to be Gods one bride and if we know this to be our true future reality and in a very real sense because of the Cross and ressurection our present reality. Why can’t we practice what we know is to be in the future now? Isn’t this kingdom living? Trying to put back together what is broken and divided.
    So instead of just leaving one church and heading to another because you don’t agree with this or that because that is what so many do. Look at CC for example a lot of people have just left a different denomination because of what ever reason and now attend CC. Well what about the place that they left? Aren’t they Gods people too and vice versa. Why don’t we attend both…?

    I am not into trying to divide the Body of Christ. I am not about rebelling from the present way Church is done. I am just trying to articulate, envision, and imagine how I might be able to do in my own little way “Gods Will on earth as it is in heaven”. What would happen to the Body of Christ if more of us thought like this? Is it possible that as people did this relationships would be developed and people from different denominations would get together out side of “church”? This would truly be a witness to the world that Jesus is on the throne. True brotherly love would be exercised and the Church would have a voice in the world again . The world would see that the Church is truly the first fruits of new creation and reconize that Jesus is the King and Lord of the whole world and would want to be a part of it.

    This taking off a month is my attempt to not just talk about the Gospel but to really practice it in my own community.

    Now I know that you probably won’t agree with me. That’s Ok. Maybe I am being to optimistic. As least you took the time to listen, that is really all that matters that we are truly listening and hearing each other. I know that you have been a pastor and a Christian for many years and I know that you are a firm believer in “lets do it the way that it’s always been done, because thats what works” and that is great. It’s just that I truly beleive that “all things are possible with God” And God will do new things too.
    In a true sense Jesus is a revolutionary. He has a plan to change the World. And I think his plan is through the Church but I see the church so divided. For the Church to cause revolution we as people must have our own revolution like Paul did on the damascus road by changing the way of thinking about each other the Church and see it for what it is. The Bride of Christ.

    *just for clarification when I am talking about the church I am talking about the “whole church” not just cc ok*

    Anyway thanks for listening! If this does not make sense to you just please let it go in one ear and out the other because I enjoyed writing it.

    I hope to see you on Sunday :)

    (Ps. my personality test said I was an advocate (visionary) that might be why i have these weird thoughts)

    Love ya man

    Shea”

  12. You know Grace, these are some of my concerns right now about my children. Granted, they are only 8 and 6, but they dislike the “childrens church” experience, and I do worry that our journey will completely send them in the wrong direction spiritually.

    I’ve really appreciated reading some of the comments here though, thanks everyone for them!

  13. Hi Grace,

    thanks for your blog. It is my one onestop for the day…:-)

    We left the organized part of church about 6 years ago. This journey is truly wonderful, but it does have a lot of frustrations at the same time.

    I think the frustration part has to do with the expectations around what we believe church should be. And of course, you can take the person out of the organized part, but not the organized part out of the person….:-) We are out of Egypt but we still look around. Here in the desert it’s just a lot of dry sand. Looked at the scenery lately?…:-)

    What you know of church, has to die. Completely. This is ugly and traumatic. It’s like going from a car to walking. Walking has it’s perks, but it is…. slow. You are not protected against the elements. You cannot hide. [BUT I WANT A CAR!!!! A smaller one would do. Please,(crying), please God!!] Nope, the dying part is necessary.

    You are now busy with “what is real”. Who are the people that cross your life everyday? Can you be a friend to some of them? Jesus is everywhere to be found. Are we looking? Is everything holy? Is worship only singing?

    Talk to your children. About real life stuff. You are now the example on how to love. How to connect with Jesus. How to be a friend. Encourage them to look around. Perhaps there is a lonely kid in school. They could be friends.

    Jesus love is found in the everydayness of our lives. It is freakin boring sometimes. “We are doing nothing” you say to yourself. No…. look…. see Jesus. The difference between His love and ours is that He gave His love away without expecting any thing back. Can you love like that? Can your children? Can you grow as a family?

    To have church, you need 2 people. Don’t look back. Jesus is so much more.

    Thanks, and sorry for all my rambling.

  14. Hi Larry,
    I really do appreciate your writing. I also enjoyed the repost you just did the other day. I need to get over and read it once again. Good stuff!

    fr’nklin,
    Thanks for sharing your heart. I know that you understand every side of this deal. I think our kids do need to see us find something we are passionate about.

    Makeesha,
    Those are good goals – to experience God, community, and service.

    Erin, Rhonda, and Cindy,
    A lot of help you guys are! Just kidding. I was fine with this in-between place and now I’m just not. I don’t know what has changed.

    Jeff,
    I wouldn’t say that the problem is church. I know that every church is made up of imperfect people and that’s kind of the whole point of it.

    Steve,
    Thanks for your prayers.

    Sonja,
    Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

    Alan,Don’t ever worry about being out of line. I trust you and I respect your wisdom and insight. Consider this permission to share your thoughts (and advice) freely with me.
    Your words spoke to me. Thank you for the nudge.

  15. Grace,

    You’re poised now to help shape a new kind of being church. Julie and I have four daughters who were raised in the McChurch I pastored for years…their BS detectors are very keen.

    You might want to converse with Susan Arnold over at “The Philosophical Pastor” blog. She is in a similar place.

    Waiting?! Remember Moses? 40 years, friend :)

  16. Grace:

    As the old saying goes, “be careful what you wish for.”

    I felt so many of the things you describe — for several years. I went to church, went through the motions, pretended it all meant something . . . I led the music, prepared the PowerPoint, the bulletin, the newsletter, created and maintained a huge website . . . anything to make me feel connected, involved, like my service mattered and find some meaning and enrichment in the experience of being part of a church.

    Never felt that way. Not once.

    What I got was a smack upside the head from the Holy Spirit that sent me out the door, never to return again. The thought of setting foot inside a church for any reason makes me nauseous.

    Martin Luther said that when a church is erected, the devil sets up shop next door. Brother Martin was wrong.

    The devil sets up shop in the Narthex of the church.

    From my perspective, you have to ask yourself if attending church and being on the fringes the way other people here have described, out of any leadership role whatsoever, is the answer for you. If it isn’t, you may be better living out what one of your commenters said: “To have church, you need 2 people. Don’t look back. Jesus is so much more.”

    He’s absolutely right. I have never been a happier, healthier Christian than since I left organized religion for good.

    But are you ready for that? Because it is the next step on the journey for many of us.

    You’ll know when you must go. If you are unsure, wait and the answer will come. I’m living proof that the Holy Spirit will make sure you get the message. (Here’s where I explain how I finally got the message: http://hopefulspirit.com/2007/01/13/welcome/)

    You will remain in my thoughts and prayers.

  17. owever…..like mentioned in one of the other posts…you are out of Egypt, but Egypt may be alive and well in you.
    Not a terrible thing, as it’s a step closer to being free.
    As you have mentioned, the restlessness is suddenly acute..maybe it’s time for the next step…probably getting out of the church you are currently in.
    I went through that…I left my CLB, and spent time in another 2 churches, before finally being able to just let go of ‘church’ as I knew it.
    I spent awhile without a church, going from feeling guilty, to feeling giddy with the freedom.
    I worried about my kids…but, like another poster said, you just get real with them. Let them into your thoughts and feelings.
    Find other places to worship….just to commune with God. Let them know what it’s like, to see it displayed.
    Connect with folks who you really find life with…have BBQ’s, and discuss things you like about God.
    And when it’s time…God’s time…He’ll lead you to something new.
    Like with any breakup (like a divorce) there has to be time to detox, to heal, to be, to go slow, to begin to hope again, and many more steps.(those are not in order, sorry).
    All this to say, God’s got ya. He knows where you are at, He knows where your children are at..and He knows the best way to bring life to you all.
    I’m praying for you’all.
    Blessings.

  18. Grace,

    Thank you for taking my comment in the spirit that it was offered… and that you for extending me “grace” :)

    -Alan

  19. mmm it’s hard, i’m not that patient so i admire yours!

    The most helpful thing for me is the ongoing realisation that no church is perfect and that my anti-institutional feelings are pretty much part of orientation of life as much as previous churchs.

    I like Robbie’s comment on relationships, that is one of the helpful things that we found, actually hanging out with people and deliberately seeking to love and serve the folks God seemed to send us tripping over rather than the ones we thought we had to hang with when we were leaders meant a lot more freedom and fun. Altho there is a bit of fear to bein with of falling back into old cycles of our goodness being used and abused.

  20. Once again….I greatly appreciate your honesty in your blog. I greatly appreciate the response you have recieved as well. It is very encouraging to come across people that have (somewhat) the same exoeriences! Thank you! Thank you! Thank YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Grace,

    Oh the tension. My heart goes out to you. As we step out of the masses and into the wilderness it sometimes gets lonely. And as we look back we’re reminded that “doing church” is easier. That’s why there are so many people there.

    But I believe, from reading your blog, that you were meant for this journey. As I’ve told a few others. You get to see the riches that come from the exploration process. Only a few can say that. And as you step out of tradition, you get to be one of the few to discover the deeper life Jesus was offering. Your hard work and frustrations will produce fruit in your life that will allow your heart to sing, because you will be free from all that holds you back. You were always meant for more. All I see is you walking towards what your Father wishes to bestow upon you. You will get there.

  22. “In the meantime, I have been waiting, trusting that God would show us what’s next. I’m getting a little tired of waiting.”

    When I read this Exodus 2:23ff came to mind. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. :-)

    Except of course for the fact that God is definitely doing a work in drawing people to him. I stepped back from church in 2003. Now I’m almost giddy with the possibilities that the Spirit can open up. There’s another side to the detoxing and it sounds like you’re not quite yet there. But it’s fun and free.

    Though, likely not entirely free from chasing Egyptians or giants in the new place, once we all get there.

    God hears. The Spirit is doing a work. And it’s going to be grand.

  23. robby,
    We are pretty far removed from the leadership this time.

    makeesha,
    I think that my kids learned more from things we had in our home – like small groups, prayer meetings, even dinner with friends – than they ever did from church. They just seem to soak it all in when it’s a part of everyday life at home.

    Shea,
    I hope that your pastor will hear your heart without being defensive. I also hope that you are able to connect and bridge with other believers in your community. I agree that this kind of fellowship across “borders” would be a witness to the world.

    Lyn,
    I think we need to start having more fellowship in our home. I agree that the comments have been so encouraging.

    abmo,
    Don’t be sorry, that was definitely not rambling. I agree with the things that you said. I feel free to NOT go to church, however, I still feel like it’s important to have some ongoing gathering of relationships. Since we don’t have anything else, we’ve been going to church.

    John,
    You mean I don’t get to decide when the waiting is done?! “A new kind of being church” hmmm.

    Hopeful Spirit,
    At our former church, we were over-involved, in leadership andbasically having our whole life revolve around church, and it did feel meaningful. At our current church, we are on the fringes. I’m not sure which is worse.

    Che,
    Thanks for your prayers and for sharing your thoughts. I loved your last line, “He knows the best way to bring life to you all.” That is what I’m really looking for. I don’t care what form or package it comes in.

    Alan, You’re welcome.

    Paul,
    I am hoping with fall that we can do more hanging out with folks.

    Travis,
    You are welcome, and I agree that the comments have been amazing.

    Jonathan,
    Your words spoke to my heart. You are right that “doing church” is easier, and I really don’t want to be lonely again. Thank you especially for your final statement about getting to where the Father wants me to be.

    Patrick,
    It is so nice to have someone remind you of the truth of what God is doing when you get disoriented. Thank you for your words of truth and encouragement.

  24. Grace,

    I understand your impatience. It took us two years to begin to see what direction to go. It continued to be away from the institutional church. Now, nearly 18 months into the “next” it is turning out to be more change and difference. We continue to learn as we go. To be transformed by Father means change is likely to be constant with intermittent periods of stability.

    As to children, I find that they are resilient and adapt fine. As one comment has already said it is our joy as parents to be the spiritual mentors to our children, not the institutional church. Will others in our circle help? Of course. Although my children are likely older than yours, it is a real pleasure to live through the journey with them. I believe our own struggles resonate with our children as they struggle as well.

    You are doing great! Stay on the journey.

  25. Traveller,
    That’s so true about change being constant. I really appreciated your statement about our struggle helping our children struggle as well. I always fight the tendency to protect them from struggle, but they can experience growth through this as well. Thanks for your thoughts and encouragement.

    Trish,
    I appreciate your intention, however I think the statement you quoted isn’t necessarily lived out as a simple formula. I have responded to this comment in my latest post. Hopefully that will give you a better understanding of where I am coming from.

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