We’ve recently moved across the country and a source of constant stress and worry has been finding the right church. When we began this blog, we didn’t know we would be moving to another location so soon. Yet, here we are: new state, new city, new neighborhood, new home, no church.
Now, this is silly because we are part of the universal church. Kat and I, as Christians, belong to the world community of saints and believers that have placed their trust in Jesus Christ and God’s grace. Knowing this, we are also never alone for we have communion with the Holy Spirit and the Word of God; however, I am a “church man,” and not having a new home church has been a source of concern in the back of my mind.
The Holy Spirit spoke to me a few mornings ago, while reading Psalm 40, specifically verses 9 through 11, which read:
“Go up on a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.”
This passage is a prophecy from Isaiah to the Hebrews, threatened with conquest at the hands of the Assyrians. The Hebrews faced doom, war, destruction, and the conquest of their homeland. Yet, Isaiah proclaims “behold your God!”
Kat and I aren’t facing the same situation the Hebrews and the Kingdom of Judah faced at the hands of the Assyrians. Not remotely close. However, we have had to leave our home and come to a new land, a new context, and we’ve had to leave behind our church, community, and friends.
As someone who was raised in the church, I don’t enjoy this phase of being church-less. Once again, I highlight that we are never without a church in the sense of the community of believers and that the Holy Spirit is with us; however, sainthood was meant to be lived in community. Kat and I have each other, but we have always thoroughly enjoyed being in the presence of brothers and sisters, being part of small groups and life groups, feeling at home in a church, and leading whenever we are called to lead. We share a strong conviction, depicted in the Gospel and New Testament, that fellowship is at the core of the Christian life, and that even though God is there for Christians without fellowship, we are called to seek and enjoy fellowship centered on the Gospel and the Holy Spirit.
However, we haven’t found that community yet. We have attended two awesome churches, and we even volunteered at a local food distribution center with one of them. We attended a small, non-denominational church-plant that meets at a local school. We also attended an Anglican congregation that is in the process of planting an inner-city church. At both of these congregations, we were welcomed with incredible love. The preaching at the small church plant was excellent and the liturgy at the Anglican church was truly fantastic. This weekend, we plan to attend a church that congregates at the local university—we are excited to experience their form of worship and learn of their work in this city. We hunger for community and fellowship.
The passage in Isaiah spoke to me because it reminded me that God is sovereign, regardless of our condition. Yes, we don’t yet have a local church, but God is looking out for us. Yes, we don’t have a solid community that we can plug into, and yet the Holy Spirit is constantly here ready to have fellowship with us. In the midst of my quiet time reading Isaiah, the LORD said to me: “You are set on finding the right church, but remember that I am at work throughout this whole city. I am not bound to one church or one building, for my passion is for this whole city. You are set on finding the right church, but I tell you to focus on being salt and light and understanding how much this city needs the Good News. Seek first my passion, my desire, and will for this city, and you will find fellowship when the time is right.”
I don’t claim to have the gift of prophecy, but I am certain that the words that were spoken to me were the Holy Spirit intervening. I was convicted of fixating too much on finding the right church, prior to setting my heart on learning the work of God that needs to take place throughout this whole city, across all churches, congregations, urban villages, neighborhoods, and communities. This conviction is mighty yet comforting, because I immediately felt all the anxiety and worry exit my soul. I understood, once more, that God cares more about Kat and me understanding His heart passion for this city and its people, more than the limited and often short-sighted goal of finding the right church.
If you are in the same place we are, church-less or seeking a church, be comforted by the fact that you aren’t alone. I would love to run a nationwide survey of Christians. I think we would be amazed by the thousands (if not millions) of Christians that don’t have a current local church. Additionally, I’d encourage you to look beyond the objective of finding the “right church,” and instead focus on understanding God’s passion for your city, town, community, and region. Today, I have to walk to the bank and then to the local FedEx store and my hope is to walk in prayer, seeking to learn God’s heart for this polis.
The end of Isaiah chapter 40 states that they who wait for the LORD “shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (v.31). I know that the prophecy here is context-specific—we aren’t the Hebrews facing conquest. However, take faith that God is ready to engage with us in fellowship whenever we are ready to sit down and listen. He will renew our strength and we shall not faint. Seek first His kingdom here, and all else will be added.