(Two months ago I announced our family’s church planting journey. Check out this post for specifics, I will be putting up a tab on all of this soon. Many readers from twitter and facebook have said they would like to follow along on all of this. So, I will writing about church planting once a week, usually Saturdays, for the immediate future so you can see what it’s like to start a church (or restart one) from scratch. Some of these posts will be “this is how it’s going” and some of them will be more “this is how it feels.”)
In six weeks Kel will have his first day of work as the Lead pastor of the a church restart on Plainfield in downtown Grand Rapids. No, we don’t have a name for it yet, yes I will be writing about that, yes it’s driving me crazy.
Before we get started on all this, I need to fill you in on foundational secret of mine.
Sometimes, when I tell people we’re starting a church or that I’m a pastor’s wife I feel shame. Yes, shame.
Because sometimes, it feels like I’m working for the enemy.
Which is terribly awful when you follow the church back to the beginning. It started as revolutionary good news, and it still is, it’s just buried under centuries of painful human error.
One of the more recent ones has been turning Jesus-following into a cardboard way of life, flat and plastered with easy answers and cheap clichés.
I have more than a few friends who have walked away from church since high school because they’ve been burned, hurt, clichéd and cast out. And I ache for them, I hate what they went through.
It’s hard to tell them that we’re starting a church after they pour out their hearts about how one certain church has nearly ruined them for God. Sometimes I’m tempted to lie about Kel’s new job, because I get it and I don’t want to associate with the places that caused their pain.
The places that made something so deeply real and organic feel like a cheap, plastic chotchkie.
Because I know that clichés don’t help you when it all falls apart and eventually, it always, always does. If the church isn’t somewhere we can go with our broken anger, if it’s not a place that can welcome us with our worst mistakes… then I understand why they left.
I hear their sighs when I tell them we’re planting a church, I worry they’ll walk away from me because of what someone else did in their lives.
This is when I feel like I’m working for the enemy, when I want to grab their hands and assure them that OUR church won’t be like that.
It will be a place to come and be less alone in the struggle, to breathe a bit of heaven in the fray.
No, our church won’t be cliché.
our church will be a healing place
and it will never hurt people, I will personally make sure of it.
There will be space for your pain and people interested in meeting you exactly there.
It will be okay to come to church messy
It will be preferred that you come broken
It will okay to cry in worship, (I will be doing so nearly every Sunday per usual)
And if it’s not these things I will cry and I will break inside. I will make it my personal vendetta to shoo out everything that made you walk away from the church in the first place.
But this is flawed, Pollyanna thinking because although our church will be a lot of good things, it will have in it’s DNA the very flaw that has brought down every Church in history.
It will be full of human people, like me.
And something we do could bug you, something could feel like whatever caused you to leave the church before, a song, a verse, a word… and you’ll want to bolt for the doors.
All I can say is this: Will you find me? Can we talk? I don’t want to retain you or add you to our numbers. I just want to make sure that you feel heard and seen and even loved before you leave.
I can’t change everything that bothers you but I can grab a cup of coffee and give you my time and my ears. We can connect over the old rugged faith that has always been in there somewhere, under the stickers and bracelets and bumper stickers.
Even if you never come back I hope you leave feeling that we’re not the enemy. So many of us aren’t, but I get why you feel that way and for all the things the Church has done to you, I apologize.
On behalf of a God who has never been clichè for a second, I apologize and I want you to know that you have a standing invitation to sit in my pew and cry with me during worship. Because yes, life is that hard and yes God is that beautiful and yes let’s still together for this hour and breathe together what truly is.