Two years ago God began to stir in our hearts a greater passion to see His name proclaimed in our city. We were no longer satifsified with status quo Christianity. We were no longer satisfied pouring our lives into a building while leaving little time for the lost and hurting just minutes from our front doorstep.
Our spirits were stirred and our hearts were broken. We felt trapped in the cycle of “church” and wondered if there was more – wondered if there was something we were missing.
This stirring and unsettling eventually led us to leave the church we had poured our lives into for almost five years. We began to attend church with the homeless in the intercity of our community. Our hearts were laid bare as we entered the theater each week and passed popcorn buckets as offering plates. We were uncomfortable but filled with a greater longing to understand this deep yearning in our hearts for more of God!
After a short three month stay we packed our bags and moved 1,500 miles across the country to a small town in the High Rockies of Colorado. We moved with the mindset that we would bring Jesus to this community. God’s will was clear and as close to audible as we have ever experienced. Our purpose in coming wasn’t for a better job (though that was a nice perk for my husband), better lifestyle (though hiking and skiing in an Olympic town is a dream), or to just get away from our families (this is hands down the hardest part). We were called to be missionaries in our town.
Our purpose was clear – Go share Jesus!
Shortly after arriving, we learned that 92% of our community is unchurched. After living here for more than a year, we’ve learned that the 8% who are professing Christians only about 1-3% are considered “mature believers.” Of the churches in this town, very few preach the gospel faithfully each week and even fewer resist the temptation to add to the gospel in any way.
In addition, we’ve habitually seen children as either an accessory or as a burden. There are more preschools than churches in our town, and we are constantly defending our lifestyle of doing life as a family.
Our town is “spiritual,” which means they acknowledge there is something greater and may even profess that there is a God. Many will even hold God in high respect, but few lack the humility to confess their need for a savior in the person of Jesus Christ.
Depression, alcoholism, suicide, and adultery run amuck in our town. But on the surface, you’d never know it. This is the friendliest town I’ve ever lived in. Yet it is devoid of the Spirit of Jesus.
Searching for a Church to Call Home
We visited several churches in our first year here, but it was tough – the gospel was sorely lacking in either the teaching or the application. Then, for seven months we lived here, fighting for faith, remembering God’s call, and wondering how we were going to exist in a town so devoid of the gospel. We held church at home each Sunday until two months ago we came to a point of complete brokenness and began to make plans to head back east. We were going home. We must have misheard God.
But God (have you ever noticed how often the Bible says “But God”?), being rich in mercy and grace heard our pleas and impressed on our hearts one last church we had not tried in our town. As close to audible as God has ever been for the second time, we decided to attend church on the outskirts of town as our last ditch effort. If this didn’t work, we’d begin preparations to head home.
The next morning we walked tentatively through the doors of the church and within minutes our spirits were at peace. God whispered, “Open your heart and your hands. Accept their love. This is your family.”
We were welcomed and over the course of the next few weeks we witnessed the gospel lived out in fellowship and worship. A family who has been “church-home-less” for nearly three years has finally landed where God has been moving us from the day we walked out of our beloved church home in Tennessee. We plan to pursue church membership in the coming weeks.
Our journey to this point has brought about many seasons of change.
Along the way, the church has let us down in tremendous ways, and most of those ways were because we had replaced God with the church creating a venomous idol in our hearts.
Along the way, we’ve disagreed with the doctrine of the church we attended and eventually separated.
Along the way, we have desired fellowship with both God and believers, but found ourselves lonely.
Along the way, we’ve been hurt, rejected, and worn down.
Along the way, we have been built up, encouraged, and revived.
Along the way, God has guided and directed our steps.
But above all, along the way, God has never let us go.
You see there are seasons in the life of every believer. Satan can’t stand for believers to thrive in fellowship with one another through the life of a healthy church body. People like me fill our pews and we often lose sight of God’s amazing love for His church.
Over the last few years, I’ve wanted to walk away from the church and say to heck with it all! But God loves His church. He loves His church so much that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life (John 3:16). It was this truth, this knowledge of the gospel, that kept my family plugging forward, fighting for faith as well as for the church.
Just because the church lets you down, don’t give up on God or the church. Remember there are seasons – a time for everything under the sun. Know that God hasn’t left you. He will never forsake you. He loves His church and He longs for believers to meet together for the mutual upbuilding of the body. You might be in a season where the church has let you down so hard, you don’t know if you’ll ever rise and trust again.
Can I urge you to go to God in prayer?
Cling to the gospel and the hope that it gives. When the church seems to be in disarray, remember that God has already won, victory is in the hands of the believer. Jesus Christ has already won the battle! This is only a season and this too shall pass. In the meantime, God’s grace is sufficient.
Are you in a hard spiritual season? How can I pray for you?
Part 8 – Remember Everything is Not Terrible