Yesterday morning I cried in the church parking lot.
For most of my life, church was my very favorite thing. I was a pastor’s daughter for the first several years. I remember many a faked sick day laying in the Sunday school room watching Barney while my dad worked. Church was home. In middle and high school, church was my life. In college, I went to a young adult filled church that I loved so much. They were family.
I went to college to work at a church, so when I got out I did. It was/is a great church, but when the place that had always been my home suddenly became my work, it was hard.
When we packed up to head to DFW, I was most excited about finding a church here. I had lived in a small town for the last ten years, and I remember times in middle and high school cheering with my friend Abby when we sang a song written in the 1990s. DFW meant new music! Small groups! Friends!
Chris and I have visited a dozen churches over the last ten months. We loved one but had a little trouble with the preacher. We loved another but they dropped their foreign missionaries because they didn’t fit their new direction. A few have really bombed. One is the first one out of them all where someone came up to us and said hi. Really, just one out of a dozen.
(One time I heard a pastor of a local church I never attended brag about the fact people could walk in and walk out of their church without ever talking to anyone. Why would anyone ever brag about such a thing?)
This brings me to yesterday morning. We sat outside in the heat, both looking downright defeated. We are tired. We are sick of looking. We are sweaty (106 degrees this week, folks. Come, Lord Jesus.). The thought of going into a new church and smiling and singing and trying to look friendly so people will come talk to us and be our friend was just too much. And so I cried.
On Saturday nights when we are trying to figure out where to go, it’s hard for me to want to keep going and trying, and my relational roots with church are deep. This is a problem, but not really for me. This is a problem because there are so many people with exactly 0 roots to the bride of Christ who are hurting, empty, and lonely. We paint a picture of church as a place to belong, a place to have community, and place to be loved. But if Chris and I, 10 months and 12 churches in, are struggling to find that to be true, what happens for those who have never before walked into a church?
What are we doing to serve and love newcomers, or even just welcome them? Why are we waiting until they join our D-groups and take the 8 week membership class to invite them into our community?
It’d be easy to throw myself a pity party (I’m actually really good at this), but really my heart is hurting for those people who are crying in our parking lots (or their houses, or schools, or work) who have no reason whatsoever to go inside.