Church is pretty important to me.
I believe whole heartedly in the Church. My family loves our church. I believe its the most important organization on the planet! I believe that Jesus loved the Church so much that He died for it.
I believe that Jesus is building His Church and that it is God’s plan A for reaching this lost, broken and sinful world.
Whew! I BELIEVE AND LOVE THE CHURCH.
Church is pretty important to me.
I’ve also given much of life to the church. I grew up in Church. I went on all the trips and retreats. I volunteered. I prayed for my church and for my pastors.
And, one of my foundational memories of the Church is of my parents sitting in a pew worshipping with both arms raised high.
Actually, when I think of the Church, that’s one of the first memories I have.
My Church and THE Church are very important me.
I love my Church so I Sacrifice for it.
For our family, outside of our time together, it is THE priority for our family schedule. 97% of the time, everything else takes a back burner. Kids sports, family gatherings, weddings, professional sports games (well, we don’t have the money for those, hah).
I love my Church and I have sacrificed deeply for it.
But, lately, I’m wondering if I’ve been ‘doing’ Church the wrong way. I’m wondering if I go about Church the wrong way. Now, I understand that even using that phrase is ridiculous. You don’t ‘do’ Church. You are a part of a Church. A Church is a family, it’s a community and is a living and breathing organism.
But, lately, at 43 years old, I wonder if I’ve been approaching Church the wrong way.
It seems to me, that I have flipped in my personal priorities how one should approach the Church. From what I’ve experienced, maybe Church should be further down my list of priorities and especially my list for sacrificing for my Church.
Do people still Sacrifice for their Church? Or, are we so consumer driver that we refer to finding a new church as Church Shopping, as if you could shop for the bride of Christ?
Whew, these are big questions. Here’s a bit of my story:
I grew up in Church. I was baptized as an infant. I don’t remember much about those early years until my parents met Jesus. They were a part of a very traditional Lutheran Church and when they met Jesus and started a personal relationship with Him, we moved to a Church that I would call…’Alive’. Not that the Church of my early childhood wasn’t alive, they just seemed to care more about the religion side than the relationship side of this life with Jesus and the few select people that were already on the inside.
So, my life changed when my parents moved to the ‘Alive’ Church.
I was surrounded by people who were passionate for Jesus Christ. People who actually loved reading their Bibles and studying it. People who prayed and when they prayed, I thought Jesus was coming back right then! I had youth leaders who were in love with Jesus and I wanted to be like them. It was so evident to me that a relationship with Jesus could be ‘Alive’. I was then baptized in that Jesus as a 13 year old boy who made his own decision to follow Jesus and I went public with my faith. I still remember that day. I cherish that day.
Then, the craziest thing happened, my parents went back to that first Church. It was wild. It was crazy! It was like walking out from a waterfall and then into a desert. Totally dry. But, my parents were called to help an amazing Pastor bring life back to an inner city Church. My dad was the youth pastor. My mom was the church secretary. I loved it. My brother and I loved running all over the church and helping fold and stuff bulletins.
But then the craziest thing happened, it was over. Just like that. There’s a long story there and I share a little of it HERE. But, it’s not unlike many Church stories. People were hurt. People did and said unbelievably awful things and that season was over.
I hurt for my parents.
My dad loved being a youth pastor. He loved serving in that Church and people wounded him deeply. I saw how much they gave and poured into that church. They were grieving. They were destroyed. How could this happen?
A few years went by and in that time and then my parents lost two of their parents. Again, more loss and more grief. Goodness, now that I’m 43, I wonder how they survived during the those years. It makes me admire them even more.
I made it through high school as the odd ball. I went to a private Christian high school, but again, it was more religious than having an intimate–alive–personal relationship with Jesus. My faith was still feeling the effects of being a part of that ‘Alive’ Church.
When I was 18, my personal relationship with Jesus started to Thrive. I mean, in high school my nick name was ‘Rev Raitz’ and people thought I was this spiritual giant. But, honestly, I wasn’t. Something clicked and my passion for Jesus just catapulted.
I started an internship with that first ‘Alive’ Church. It was unreal. The Pastor was my hero. MY FREAKING HERO! I wrote down everything he said! I played in the worship team. I felt alive. I transferred to Bible College! It was an awesome time. Then at Bible College I saw an ad for a part time youth pastor and I applied. No experience (except that internship), no degree, no nothing. Just buckets of passion. Just me being me. Well, that Church hired me. No joke. The crazy thing is, they were an extremely traditional church. And, they were a different tribe of theology from the ‘Alive Church’. It was wild times!
My faith grew. My love for the Church grew. My love to share Jesus grew.
Then honestly, I got burned out at 23 years old.
How does that even happen? It started off so great. The youth group doubled and then tripled and there was so much energy and excitement. Then, I experienced first hand how amazingly awful Christians can be to each other. I can still remember sitting in my office when one of the parents ripped me a part. People yelled at me. They yelled at me for reaching the wrong kinds of kids. They yelled for so many reasons. I could tell a hundred stories, but I couldn’t stay. So, at 23, I left. I was so hurt.
The problem was, I still LOVED the Church. I still had the dream of being a part of a healthy Church that was reaching the Least, the Lost and the Last.
But, I wanted to RUN and FLEE and GIVE up on the Church.
I experienced first hand the kind of hurt my parents had experienced and it sucked. I mean, I loved those kids. I loved the neighborhood. I loved my Pastor. I loved that Church. But, I couldn’t deal with the pain. I didn’t have the emotional intelligence to deal with the pain.
So, I took a day job and continued to work on my degree.
Why didn’t I give up on the Church right then and there? I mean, I could have gone back to school. I could have gotten a job in a different field.
But, I didn’t. I stayed committed and continued to sacrifice.
Maybe I went about Church the wrong way? Maybe I should have become more skeptical about the Church or lashed out in criticism. Maybe I shouldn’t have given everything to the Church all these years.
Or maybe, just maybe…I have should have.
Part two will be posted soon.