On Sunday morning, Alistair and I stayed home from church. He had developed his first “real” cold complete with a drippy, clogged nose and an adorably sad, little cough. So I bundled him up and went for a walk, in hopes that the cool air and bouncing buggy would help clear his stuffy nasal passages.
Surrounded by high density apartments, it’s not uncommon to cross paths with moving vans and stacks of brown, cardboard boxes. Today, I noticed more than the usual share of real estate yard signs advertising an “open house.” As I passed the third sign, a startling train of thought emerged. “For the first time in my life, I’m homeless.”
Obviously, this is a curious sentence for one who has never been without shelter.
I’m nowhere close to homeless. We live in abundance; we have four walls and a roof to keep out the rain, and cupboards stocked with food. However, each Sunday morning, it quickly becomes apparent that we’re missing our usual spot amongst a community of believers. We’re short a church. Homeless.
We’ve been in transition for two months now. We’re on the hunt for a new place to meet, learn and worship. This quest is for more than just a building – we’re searching for a family, a stable place to put down roots.
And while, any one of the churches we’ve visited thus far could be called home – we’re learning that actually finding the right fit can be a challenging and somewhat daunting process. Once a week we sit down and, much like buying an apartment, quietly critique all aspects of the Sunday morning service. Size, friendliness, music, preaching, nursery, coffee… the list goes on… Once a week we leave feeling (hopefully) refreshed and challenged. And yet, we remain unsure of whether we’ll simply be one of the many weekly visitors that flow through or return to become something more permanent.
We flit from one sanctuary to another in hopes that a word will be softly pressed against our hearts, “stay”.
And while I’ve always rolled my eyes at the habitual hoppers who can’t seem to settle down and commit, I’ve discovered that this brief period of hopping is not all bad. I admit that it’s been refreshing to appear on a Sunday morning as the service begins and quietly ease away after the concluding prayer and introductory chit chat with our pew neighbours. There are weeks where we’re thankful for the anonymity, the ability to blend in and simply be a number without responsibility. It’s nice to be able to sit beside my husband (until the baby starts fussing and I get to check out the nursery) and avoid worrying about the logistics behind making the service flow smoothly.
I have been excited by the opportunity to rejoice alongside such diverse congregations. When you’re attending a different church each week, the uniqueness of individual groups quickly becomes apparent. Gathering together, grounded in foundational truth, there is beauty amongst the assorted worship styles. It is yet impossible for the entire body to gather as a whole, but where we do meet, we come with open hands and humble hearts. We bow before the throne, not as a thousand individual churches, but one body.
Too often we begin to compare “our church” versus “all the others.” We vainly search for a church body that meets our impossible standards and when a community differs in personal music preference, they are deemed inferior. We fail to understand that the Church is not confined to one building or style but rather, a global group of messy, imperfect believers who have been united under a costly grace.
I’m encouraged by these few weeks of church hopping. As our family has walked from one service to another, God has allowed us to uncover a glimpse of His bride, the big Church. A Church scattered across every nation, composed of millions of believers, brought together with a common purpose, to glorify Him.
This church hopping won’t last forever, it would not be healthy to do so. Already, one begins to yearn for deeper roots. One desires commitment to a specific group of believers. One asks for a home. But we’re thankful for this opportunity to see firsthand, the fresh works that God is doing across our city. We wait patiently for Him to speak, all the while resting in Him, finding joy in the hop.
And in the end, it doesn’t matter where we land because this search is not about us. It’s about Him. While personal preference obviously weighs into this decision, our ultimate desire is to heed His call. We will go where He asks.