Leaving and Loving Your Church

Screen Shot 2016-12-27 at 10.57.34 AM 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.

Really, Truly, Deeply? Really?

I read a quote from two of my favorite people the other day: "In a gospel-centered marriage, we can be really, truly, deeply known and at the same time really, truly, deeply loved." I've learned more about the gospel from one of those people than anyone in my life so I'm reticent to push back on this idea, but it wouldn't be the first time I've given him a hard time, so here's my careful pushback to this common idea in the church. 1. Even within marriage you will never be wholly known by one another. 2. Outside of marriage you are still known and loved.

Within earthly marriage, which is a beautiful picture of the gospel, we are still clinging to these earthly tents. We can never be truly known inside any human relationship and indeed we are not meant to be. There is beautiful ahava, a give, a love within marriage. A selflessness, a caring, a joy, for sure. But there is not the elusive juxtaposition of being fully known/fully loved. This only exists within life in Christ. When we say this what we communicate to married people is they're missing something if they don't feel truly known by the other person. And we communicate to unmarried people they can never be really known outside of marriage.

The church should be the place that gently lifts the heads of two people in a less than perfect marriage (which is all of us) and sets their eyes on Christ as the one who knows and loves them fully now, so they can be set free to love and know one another as fully partially as they're able here on earth.

The church should be the place that gently lifts the heads of unmarried people and shows them how men like Paul and Jesus and women like Lydia and Mary were fully known and loved by their Father, but fully misunderstood by the men and women around them—and yet they still pressed forward in love doing amazing acts of church planting, bearing the Son of God, miracles, and writing more than half of the New Testament.

Neither married people, nor unmarried people will ever feel as really, truly, and deeply known as the ache in our hearts tells us we ought to feel. It is so easy to paint the picture within the Church that marriage can be the nirvana of earthly existence—but friends, if marriages quells all the longing inside of you for something more, than your marriage is not actually gospel-centered, but earthly-centered. Marriage should smack of a holy discontent and a fervent desire to be fully known and fully loved by Christ alone, who then empowers us to walk by the spirit in how we love and know others incompletely.

In the same vein, singleness should meet that holy discontent in the middle and know with full assurance that waiting for marriage to feel known and loved is foolish. Start now. First, Christ does it with more ardor than any spouse ever will. Second, the relationships you have in your life right now can be some of the richest you will ever know if you will submit yourself to being known and loved in them. It's an act of submission, to be sure, letting your weaknesses be seen, challenged, and pressed into, but Christ has set a good example for you in His submission to His Father on the cross.

Friend, you may be in the happiest marriage known to man or the hardest, you may be joyfully single for life or you may be limping through every day in your wait, but you are fully known and fully loved now. Go now, and love and know as truly as you're able—albeit imperfectly—knowing the gospel is no respecter of marital status even as it displays the perfect union of Christ and His bride.

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