The Beauty of Church

Three years ago, I walked into a church that met in a school. I heard about it in an odd manner, as the pastor had stopped into the ice cream store/coffee shop where I worked at the time, looking for my boss. He asked me a little about myself, and we chatted for a few minutes before he left his business card for me to give to my boss. The church’s website was listed on his card, so when I got home, I looked it up. A few weeks later, on the last Sunday of August, I attended for the first time.

Today, on the last Sunday of August three years later, that same church I now call “mine” celebrated a huge, momentous occasion. We had our first service in our very own building, only three years after we officially started meeting every week.

There’s an element to this that is crazy. The age of our church itself is young–only three years old–and demographically speaking, we are a very young church. We’ve seen the studies that say that Millennials are leaving Church as fast as they can run, and probably everyone who attends my church has seen that firsthand in their family and friends.

But we’ve also seen our Sunday morning services that, at times, nearly overflow with college students. The people that everybody says are leaving the church are coming to ours, but I don’t think it’s because we’re really awesome—it’s not our doing, but God’s. And we are blessed to be a part of it. I am blessed to be a part of it.

Both of our pastors and many in our congregation are Millennials—from those who never left Church, to those who left Church for a while but not God and decided to give Church another go with us, to those who never tried Church but are trying it with us—and a myriad of others in all sorts of life stages. We’re together, growing and struggling and discovering what it looks like to follow God well, no matter where we are.

And this thing that we’re doing, of buying a building and signing a mortgage and settling into a neighborhood, is risky and a little scary and a lot of exciting.

I’m not telling you it’s always easy. The nitty-gritty of running a church or getting a new building isn’t easy, and the personal work of going to church, getting to know people at church, of being church, is not easy either.

If anyone tells you that they always want to go to church, that it’s always easy for them to get involved and to feel like they belong, that church always feels happy and joyful—they’re probably lying.

Church isn’t easy.

Sometimes it’s really hard. Sometimes the sermons don’t seem to apply to you for weeks at a time. Sometimes you really can’t stand that one song they keep singing. Sometimes you want to sleep in on Sunday morning or skip that meeting on Wednesday. Sometimes your feelings get hurt and you feel a little lonely and left out. Sometimes you feel like it’s all a little pointless and can’t you still love God even if you don’t love hanging out with his people?

Yes, you can love God even if you don’t love hanging out with his people.

But some really, awesome, beautiful things can happen when you hang out with his people. I’m not saying they happy every day, every month, or even every year—but they do happen. And in those moments you see and feel the way that God is moving in Church and in those broken, messy people, and you count it all grace and mercy and love and you wonder how a feeling like that can possibly stay contained in your human body, because it just feels so out of this world because it is.

And that is Church. That is why my church has taken a bold, risky move by buying a building—because we believe in Church, of the power of God in and through his people to impact the lives of others, and perhaps, a neighborhood and even a city. We do what we do because our God is big and he moves in bold, risky, exciting ways. Because this is the beauty of Church.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How have you experienced the beauty of Church?

When We Ask “Why?”

My church meets in an elementary school.

Last Friday, states away, a horrific scene unfolded in another elementary school.

The connection was not lost on me.

And Sunday, when we gathered in a school that has not experienced such tragedy, “Why?” rang in my head.

It’s the obvious question, one that is being asked both of the gunman, and also of God.

Why would God let this happen?

I don’t know. That’s not a question I, or anyone, can fully answer.

 

But it has made me wonder about when we ask the “Whys”. Earlier last week, when a gunman took lives in a mall, and this past summer, when lives were lost in a Sikh temple and a movie theater, we asked, “Why?” When dramatic tragedies occur, everyone asks, “Why did God let this happen? Why didn’t he stop it?”

 

Though the stories are sometimes hard to find, there are other scenarios that could have ended in a similar way.

But they didn’t.

One took place on Saturday in Alabama, where authorities were called when a man was seen walking through a hospital with a gun. It resulted in several injuries, but police were able to locate the  gunman before any innocent lives were taken.

Also on December 14, a high schooler in Oklahoma was taken into custody after police heard of his plot to bomb and shoot his high school. More innocent lives could have been lost, but weren’t.

Yet few stop to ask “Why not?” of those situations and others like them.

 

Last Friday morning, I didn’t question why the sun came up, why my heart kept beating, why the people on the road next to me stayed in their lanes and followed traffic laws.

Yet as soon as I heard of the shooting, “Why, God?” flickered in my head.

On most news sites, mentions of God are infrequent; until a tragedy occurs, and people jump at the chance to claim that a loving God wouldn’t let this happen, and therefore must not exist. God is used as a sounding block in the pain of tragedies, and will virtually disappear from news sites within a few weeks. Some will remain angry, convinced this proves God’s nonexistence or lack of goodness, while others say the loss of innocent blood is some form of punishment. While I disagree with both of these views, I can’t help but notice that they state their views most strongly in the face of tragedy, then fade.

God often gets blamed for not stopping bad things, and rarely gets mentioned otherwise. He doesn’t get mentioned when bad intentions are thwarted, and when deeds of mercy and love are done, even by and for complete strangers.

In no way am I trying to downplay the horror of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary; I have no words for the sorrow of what those families and that community is facing.

 

What I am questioning is the types of questions we ask of God and when we ask them. We are so quick on the “Whys?” when something bad happens, yet so slow to ask “Why nots?” when a potential tragedy is avoided, or when good things happen unexpectedly.

We rarely ask “Why?” of things we have come to expect, or remember to accompany them with thankfulness for the goodness, faithfulness, and mercy God shows.

There are no promises that life will be easy, things always good, that tears will always flow from joy and not sorrow.

But there are times, even if only brief moments, when life is easy, when things are going well, when tears well up out of the sheer goodness of life. I hope that at least I will learn a lesson from tragedy, and take a moment to ask God “Why?” in the good.

And follow it with a thank you, thank you, thank you.

Because God is good. He is love and he is mercy.

And he is near to the brokenhearted.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~