I don’t know about you, but I have found that I don’t feel settled in a new city until the Sunday routine is set. Usually that begins with looking for a new church, which is remarkably similar to dating—it’s awkward and self-conscious and you’re never quite sure if you’re dressed appropriately.
At first you check out a church anonymously, sitting in the back and adamantly not filling out the newcomer card or raising your hand when the emcee invites you to be recognized. You do not want to be recognized.
After a positive first impression, the church and you might grab a drink—a free coffee available in the lobby, next to the smiley volunteer passing out bulletins. The bulletins are also free, as are the smiles, so this church is basically a jackpot of generosity. You like this.
And because good Christians fall in love under the oversight of half a dozen chaperones, the next natural step in your relationship is regular attendance at a small group (also known as life/cell/connection group). This happens on weeknights at someone’s house around a coffee table where chips and salsa are all but guaranteed.
If things continue to go well, depending on the denomination, you attend a membership class. This is the promise ring of the relationship. It’s around this time that you start to tell your parents about the church. You tell them about the people whose names you have memorized and the pastor who teaches very well even though he begins too many sentences with, “On this journey called life. . .” Your parents are thrilled you are settling down with a church and starting to think about making babies. I mean disciples.
After a whirlwind romance and a few fights over doctrine, theology, and/or the loudness of the music, you decide that this is your church. You enter into a contract, become a member, and agree to open up your life and your free time and, terrifyingly, a portion of your bank account to a community of people who promise to become your family.
In my experience, church commitment is generally followed by a honeymoon period where all seems right and well. That is, until you realize that every human relationship, including those within the church, is imperfect and sort of weird. Sometimes even disappointing. Often, there are things you would change, some details about the service order or song choices that you wish more closely resembled the church you grew up in. But you realize that the only way to survive homesick Sundays is to find family in each place you are. In order to survive a life on the move, you must create a form of stability on Sundays. And the moment a church becomes this place, you upgrade its name with an important adjective, a moniker that makes all the difference.
You call it your home church, not because it’s perfect, but because it’s where you decide to become a regular on Sundays.
It seems to me that the good news of the gospel gets even better for those on the move, because God gave us family that traverses geography, a community of people that all call the same person Father. So now every place I go, I know that if I look hard enough I can find siblings nearby. Conveniently, many of them congregate at churches on Sundays. Church, then, becomes an orienting landmark to find the family I haven’t met yet on the day I need them most.
Keep reading Bekah Difelice’s new book Almost There. This is a book for those on the move and those who feel restless right where they are. It’s for those who struggle with not belonging, with feeling unsettled, with believing that home is out of their reach, at least for the moment…
Visit with Bekah on her blog at bekahdifelice.com