A Home Church is So So Necessary to the Christian Life
For anyone who's been reading along as I share the different reflections on things that the Lord was doing in my heart through this time of Sabbatical and sharing some of those things through this blog series- Thank you to anyone reading along. It's been healthy for me to write these things and I pray its been helpful for anyone who's been reading along.
I have decided to attempt to be painstakingly vulnerable even to the point of potentially over sharing for a couple of reasons:
1. My hope and prayer in writing this series is that if anyone has shared in or ever felt any of these convictions that they would get an honest reflection of how I've shared in those wrestlings and my best shot at sharing where the Lord has met me by being willing to dive into hard questions of the soul.
2. I feel like I have a stewardship to Redeemer. You guys REALLY INVESTED in me and us (the Loyers) as a family. You guys have given us a gift that we did not deserve and could never repay and I feel like I had no idea how much I (we) needed it and how restorative it's been to the soul and how the Lord has met me (us) in ways that I never could have anticipated or met me in areas I didn't even know that that I even needed to meet with Jesus in and reinvigorated my desire to be amongst you as my church family and how excited I am to enter into what I believe are going to be some really special years as a church and my unflinching faith that our best years as a body are still ahead of us, which is fun to say because the first 3.5 years have already been so special...
I know that was a run on sentence but I've been dying to spew all of that out of my head and heart for a while now. I feel like a sponge that's just waiting to be wrung out. But anyway, back to the idea of a stewardship: you guys trusted us with the idea that this time would be used intentionally to draw near to Christ so that I might be a closer disciple, a healthy disciple, a healthy family man with a healthy family life, a healthy leader with healthy energy for healthy vision. Maybe you didn't have those expectations, I don't know. I tend to overthink things, but anyway, I feel like it is part of the stewardship of you investing such grace in us and our being able to receive that grace to at least share how Jesus has taken that grace and broken and multiplied it like the loaves and the fishes.
This morning's entry is far lighter than the previous two topics. I just wanted to share how the Lord has just affirmed so deeply in my heart that there's no place like home and has shown me something I already believed, but confirmed it so much more deeply, that...
...a solid home church is absolutely essential for what it means to live as a Christian.
As sabbatical started, I was so excited to visit new churches and see new things and hear things that perhaps I even knew already taught through a fresh perspective that I've never been taught or considered. All of these were exciting. And, I would add, I think these were pretty healthy goals.
And it was exciting for those reasons and more. One of those reasons being that I ALWAYS end up viewing any new places or experiences through the lenses of a church planter. Before you think that I am trying to sound spiritual or trying to "humblebrag" (a word I came across on the internet that I found to be hilariously descriptive of the weird things humans do when they talk to each other) by saying that, let also say that it is a blessing and a neurosis.
I go into a town and I see all the angles. I start doing searches for demographic info on my phone. I look for where the most strategic place to put a church would be. I look at old beaten down buildings and think of the potential it would have if it was renovated and turned into a sweet facility and how that church could then view this community (that I don't even know mind you) and I do all of this while just stopping off at an exit to hit a gas station or a Chipotle. I'm actually going to write about some of the musings I had while traveling the country and taking notice of areas that were underchurched, areas that were trendy and saturated with churches, and all areas in between in tomorrow's blog entry.
So, thinking that way and feeding a proclivity toward that type of thought, I had plenty of stimulus to respond to along the way. But, as I just said that it was a blessing, it is also exhausting to think like that. Sometimes I wish I could just poke my brain with a stick and tell it to shut up.
I was able to enjoy some pretty cool places and experiences and opportunities for worship that I am profoundly grateful for. But something just wasn't right. It just wasn't home.
One of the things I wrestled with early on in sabbatical was that I did not miss home or miss worshipping together as much as I thought I would. And you know that when you get a potentially condemning thought like that in your head that Satan will have a field day with it because he knows you're already vulnerable to attack.
So I would journal about it. Pray about it. And like the beautiful old Keith Green song, "His love broke through", Jesus met me in a way that caused Satan to have no other choice to flee as the vanquished foe that he is. The Lord did it through a very simple thought. It was like Jesus was saying (not audibly, I've never had one of "those" experiences) "Eric, the reason that you are thinking about and mulling over and contemplating questions like 'how much are you supposed to miss my church family while I am being sent on sabbatical?' and the reason I kept coming up feeling like something was coming up empty when I was not with y'all on on Sunday is because I really, really love the warmth and family experience and doing life with my home church, and if that wasn't so it wouldn't be occupying this much space in my head".
And with that simple thought, that I had internalized and made my own, Jesus set my heart free to contemplate more generally the very nature of the experience of a Christian and a "home church" and the Christian who feels as if they can follow Christ absent of a home church community.
So, just a few thoughts as you go about your Sunday worship about some things the Lord has impressed on my heart about a Christian and a home church...
1. While I began to miss my home church, I could not imagine not having a church family to miss. I mean, I had the comforting safety net of knowing that I had an amazing church family to return to.
But to be a Christian and not feel the need to experience Christ within the context of community? I just couldn't imagine the thought. Aside from the fact that the idea of being a lone wolf Christian is a very unbiblical idea that is COMPLETELY foreign to the New Testament and all, it just made me sad to think about.
I can get why some folks tap out:
- Church hurt
- Feeling judged
- Fall out with leadership
- Being disappointed by leadership
- Church splits
- Not feeling appreciated
I've been a Christian long enough to have heard most of the reasons professing Christians seek to "go it alone". I've even experienced some of them.
But I still just couldn't imagine not having a family that I call my own and that call me and my family their own. Sure sometimes its messy, unglamerous, periods of not being fun, having to deal with other people's messy workings out of their salvation and the mess spilling out onto you.
But, do you know what I just described?
Because of being knitted together as a family by the common bond of communion with Christ and His Holy Spirit that binds us together, we endure those unglamerous times. We probably grow during those times far more than we are realizing because its not that exciting mountain top, fun kind of growth.
But you know what else we get- we get to share in each other's joys, rejoice in each other's victories in Christ, grow together, laugh together, shoulder one another's burdens and so much more.
I simply could not imagine trying to do life apart from a Christian family. More specifically, we (the Loyers) could not imagine doing life apart from OUR Christian family. We love you Redeemer Fam.
2. The times that we get frustrated or feel hurt is because we care. This further drove home the "necessity for family" narrative that the Lord was weaving in my heart. When a stranger does something to me that I do not like I might get upset in the moment (we had a doozy of an experience with a hotel manager in Iowa) but ultimately I don't hold onto it because strangers can only frustrate me so much. At the end of the day, they're going to go live their life and I live mine and they occupy no further space in my mind.
But our Christian experience is supposed to occupy space in our minds because we're not strangers. At the risk of sounding all Chris Farley on you, "We're brothers and sisters".
This shows up most clearly when we deal with hurts within community in a godly manner. I would say that it shows off the beauty of that Gospel-Family dynamic even more than the sunny days. You wanna know why?
Because it shows that we think that one another are worth it.
That's an incredible feeling. Having the security of a family that demonstrates the value of being "worth it" to one another in seasons of rejoicing and even seasons of hurt- because the Gospel is big enough for all of it- is really, really powerful. And that leads me to my last musing for today.
3. The world needs to see the church living out a life where we demonstrate the value of community lived out amongst an unbelieving world.
People do not want to feel disconnected. Secular humanism drives the idea that there is no joint-human-experience. But our hearts tell us differently. I was once visiting a missionary in England and he told me something fascinating. He said, "you know what drives me as a missionary? Every person in the world is looking for two essential things- community and worship. Our job as the church is to show them that Jesus provided a place where both of those needs are met as God created them to be- through Christ ans His bride, the church".
I remember having my mind blown by that. He went on to describe how the towns people would meet at the pub Sunday mornings because football (soccer) is such a big deal in that community that the streets would be empty during a football match. Then he went on to describe how they have the thing they worship and a sense of community or belonging all in the same place on Sunday morning at the pub. But then they go home and they are scattered. Soccer and the pub are not enough of a common bond to give God given human need for a unified human experience.
Read the covers of magazines the next time you are on line at the grocery store. The term "community" has become the buzz word of the last 5 years. People desire it. It is innate to the human experience. People desire to feel like all of this fragmentation means something.
We owe it to the world to demonstrate the supernatural aspect of life together in Christ, lived out in meaningful Christian community because it is one of the greatest apologetics for our faith to show "we were created for more".
Every single person ever has walked around with the feeling of "there must be something more than this". It is the stewardship of the church to demonstrate that, yes, in fact we are and that longing can be met in Christ.
We need each other. And a crazy thought to add to that- the world needs to see that we need each other. That's a pretty cool thought when you chew on it.
Well, Redeemer Family, I pray that you are enjoying your Sunday Worship this morning and I pray that you are encouraged by the things I was processing when unable to share in that corporate worship and how excited I am to be back with my family next week.
We love you guys,
The Loyer family