The ONLY question I hate to answer
“Where do you go to church?” I am asked quite frequently. More, I think than anyone else I know – of course, I can’t quantify that, and it is only a guess – but it sure feels like I am asked a lot!
Before God put this ministry in my life, I bounced from church to church, looking for – but never finding a place to call my “church home”. I attended a few, and was never quite “filled up”, as I thought I should be. Perhaps one didn’t greet me right away. Maybe at another I felt as if I were just a number. I had a set of criteria that I used – indefinable and not biblical, yet real enough to me: It could not be too big. It could not focus on money. It had to be welcoming – everybody needed to introduce themselves to me (even though I had a BIG “Back Off” sign painted on my forehead). I was a skeptic. I needed proof – not about God, I totally believed in Him – I needed proof that the people were worthy of my effort, my presence and my time. Big ego, right? I leaned heavily on what I thought to be the “right way” to worship the Lord as it was represented by all the people who went to whatever church I happened to be attending. I was “indoctrinated” into the way that each church did God.
I settled into one church in particular. I even got baptized on November 17, 2012. My needs were being fulfilled – I was taking all I could get, and giving only what the church asked. If you know me, you know I really like being needed and I like being recognized for the individual need I fulfil for people (especially those I love). As my gifts were recognized and appreciated, my ego was fed. I had become needed.
In the process, I had become one of them; a person who talked a lot about loving others, but until God gave me Seeds of Grace, I had no idea exactly what that meant. I thought that loving others was really only required on the inside of the church. And only when people came into the building did I have an obligation to bless them. We did outreach – but it wasn’t really about much more than filling more seats. I understood that filling seats turns regular people into Christians eventually. Get them in for the coffee and treats, fill them up with Jesus’ food. It is a great strategy – especially for people who want to remain anonymous.
As time went on, I had become a cog in the wheel that kept the appearance of what a perfect church looked like running. The greeting at the beginning of the gathering, coffee, treats, the constant smile, the perfectly put together outfit, using the right vernacular (every church has it), and all of this gesticulation so that our church would get that new person to come back next week. My “obligation” became more to the church than to God. I often wondered if I could be seen as “holy enough” to ever be a part of the leadership team. My desire for recognition became so great that I frequently took on way too much, just so someone would give my ego a little stroke.
As God began building Seeds of Grace, He also began to show me what HE meant by CHURCH as He began drawing me away from “my” church. It was pretty blatant at first – even hurtful. The more I talked about this vision, the more I asked leadership for direction, the more I felt dismissed; to the point of actually telling me that “my” church would never fiscally support my ministry. Hindsight shows me how this was necessary because of my own perception. God needed to show me how all the churches I have attended fulfilled the needs they were required to fulfill by leading me into a deep relationship with Jesus.
In time, I began to realize these groups of people that come together once per week, were really just a group of people; meanness existed, hierarchy of righteousness was a grading tool for worthiness and gossip and lies are just as prevalent, if not more, than outside the walls of the structure. There is not any distinction between them and any other group, except their gathering occurred in a church building on a particular day. I began to realize through my ongoing study of scripture that God doesn’t not require us to go to church every Sunday – but we are to BE the CHURCH as we exist every day.
As Seeds of Grace has grown, I have removed myself from “church” (the building) and God has given me a greater presence in “Church” His community. He has given me insight that I would not have had, if I were still looking through the “church (the building)” lens. He has shown me the value of my gift when He is allowed to use it fully, and it is not restricted by vernacular, laid out roles and other people’s definitions. God has shown me that His Church is everywhere that I invite Him to be and that is my Church Home. Every conversation. Every interaction. Every time His Name is spoken in every conversation. “Where do you go to church?” I am asked… I simply say, “NOWHERE! ANYWHERE! EVERYWHERE!” But that always elicits a shocked look, a patronizing smile, a puzzled nod or a direct challenge to explain my perspective. And then God comforts me and let’s me know that I am exactly where HE wants me, doing His Church.
Where do I “go to church”? I don’t “go” to church at all! Wherever I am that God’s Seeds are being planted, that is my Church – and believe me, His Seeds are planted in more than just the ground. I get to “BE” Church ALL the time!