This is a great post in itself, and something Nate and I have been talking a lot about recently. One of the things I loved about it, though, is there is a sentence in it that I recognized immediately. I knew it from memory, and sure enough, it was linked back to the covenant membership document from my home church in Texas.
I loved that.
When I read the words in the link above and recognized them from memory, it's because I said them often, across tables from prospective members, in the membership gatherings, and to myself when I struggled with sin, fear, anger, or loneliness. The membership covenant at The Village Church was my visible and verbal reminder of a spiritual commitment to a messy myriad of mere humans. And it is good and right to miss them, to know that they can never be replaced, to know that God doesn't promise to give us another family like them, but to know also that church membership is more than just a social engagement, a check off list, and what you're just supposed to do as a Christian.
Leaving a church family should not be like leaving Exodus for the Israelites, yet I've heard many people compare it to such. Longing for yesterday. Longing for those people. Missing them deeply and dearly. It seems in church culture sometimes we work so hard on getting people to understand covenant membership, yet when they really do understand it, but God calls them away for a season or forever, we don't have patience for the excruciating pain of separating what was joined together. It ought to be painful. If it isn't, it wasn't really understood.
We miss The Village, and not, though many think, because of Matt's preaching. We both love Matt and the whole Chandler clan, but the gift of Matt's preaching is a tiny, tiny sliver of what we miss about our family there. We miss the community. We miss the culture of confession. We miss the corporate worship. We miss the familiar liturgy of the seasons and series. We miss our elders, men of age and wisdom. We miss our mothers, women of insight and leadership. We miss our counselors. We miss our messy living situations. We miss the many folks we each walked through church discipline with. We miss those we served alongside. We miss the collective page turning. We miss bleeding, crying, binding up, teaching, learning, serving, and submitting.
Missing your church family is not like missing Exodus, it's missing the taste of the promised land to come. If we have tasted the grapes of God's future kingdom, we ought to never stop longing for its wine.
If you miss your church, for whatever reason God has called you to another place for another season, feel free to mourn with hope, but mourn with reality too. God is building His church, scattered over every nation and full of every tongue, and you got a glimpse, however short, of it. Don't ever forget that, not ever. Hold onto it with hope.