This post is about the church with a little ‘C.” Not that which includes the entire Bride of Christ, but instead the local church…
I guess this part of our story started in 2008 when we left our local church here in Tacoma. It was a very painful transition. Still, I am amazed at how God’s grace can sometimes cause us to forget the worst parts of difficult situations and recall the good. Since then, we have been on a journey to find a new local church community/place of worship… Although, I didn’t see it as a journey five years ago when it started. In the beginning, I was convinced I would never enter a church again. Needless to say, I was angry, hurt and cynical. You can read more about this season here.
But I changed and when we first started searching for a local church it was awkward. Ryan and I were still only dating at the time and it was hard to know how much emphasis we should put on “us”, “our opinion” when we weren’t yet married. In my past, I had minimal experience with different churches. Afterall, I had only attended two previous congregations – the one from my childhood and one with college friends during my years in Greenville, IL. So, we set out with little direction and began visiting churches with the simple desire to find a community centered on Biblical teaching (and of course Jesus).
Anyway, since 2008 we have been to several churches including some in Tacoma and Seattle. Most of them have been non-denominational – a mega church, a church plant and a few others in between. There were things we loved about them and things that left us bewildered. Throughout the years of searching our direction has become refined. Recently, something new or “old” has begun to stir inside of us. A desire for “rootedness.” An appreciation for the historical church and the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. A new found love for communal Bible reading, creeds, hymns and prayers that have been prayed for centuries. Tradition. Ordered worship. (An explanation of outside influences and how this change has occurred is due, but will perhaps show up in a later post.)
And that’s where we are today. Over the course of the past six months we have visited a couple churches of a more traditional denomination. Both experiences have been very different from what we’ve had in the past, and we’ve been so grateful for some specific aspects of their form of worship.
Still, sometimes in my conversations with the Lord, I wonder if we are getting anywhere. If we’re changing and moving toward something or we’re merely treading water…
Recently, He is convincing me we are in motion. Two weeks ago I stumbled on a resource that has been both educating and encouraging in our search. I want to share it with you. Through a series of random clicks in my email and on the Internet, I stumbled upon Covenant Seminary which has made many of their classes available to the general public (for free!) One of the seminars featured from 1997 is called “What is the True Church?” It is a series of lectures from church leadership of many denominations, explaining from their perspective the subject of the church. You can listen to it here:
We’ve only listened to the first lecture by J.I. Packer, an Anglican theologian, but so far we’ve been so blessed by what we’ve learned. One of the most freeing things he said was that the Bible gives no explicit explanation for how the local church should really be and that within the books Acts and the letters, it is often assumed that the reader already understand and know what the church looked like and how it functioned. Phew! It was a reassuring thought and one that I’ve been pondering throughout my study of scripture.
I share our progress in this journey and this resource for others who may be walking along the same road we are… There are more chapters to this story and more things I’d like to share in the future.
But I am grateful that today I am filled with hope and encouragement instead of angst, frustration and discontentment.