Sometimes being outside the walls of institutional church feels exciting to me, even hopeful. It’s like there’s a whole new way of looking at church, ministry, and Christ-following, and when you remove the typical parameters of “churchiness” from these, it’s like whole new realms of possibility open up–because there aren’t nearly as many requirements as to what ministry can look like. You can potentially get very creative about it, and still keep the heart of what the Scriptures intended, maybe even more so. The possibilities seem endless. And when I think of this, sometimes I get excited. Hopeful, even.
But this isn’t one of those times.
This is one of those times when I just feel like I don’t fit anywhere.
All the circles I used to run in, as a leader in the church, seem foreign to me now. I have a hard time mingling with church pastors, because I no longer feel driven to grow a church or to be seen as successful in those circles, and thus I lose interest in talking about the kinds of things pastors regularly talk about when they get together. Plus, when one of those pastors figures out I am doing a house church, either I become a threat, or not really “one of them”.
Even among my friendships that aren’t threatened by this journey of mine, even among those who share my heart for worship–while I love them and appreciate them (and they love me), I don’t always feel like I relate. Many of these believe in me, but I don’t always feel like they “get” me. I feel they tolerate and accept me as best they can; but you can just tell when someone’s not marching to the same drum beat as you are.
I’m learning a lot from some of the emergent and missional streams. A couple of years ago, I didn’t even know this stuff existed. I resonate with a lot of the thoughts and ideas, and a lot of the ministry concepts, because they reflect a lot of what I’ve already been thinking and feeling about church and ministry, and where the church needs to go from here. But the fact is, I don’t buy into a lot of the liberal theology often associated with this camp. And with all the books and conferences now coming down the pike, I’m concerned that this trend is already getting over-packaged. I am weary of chasing movements; I’m not too keen on lunging into another. So while I’m finding a kindred spirit and learning a lot…I guess I don’t really feel like I fit there, either. At least not at the moment. Definitely not ready to wear the label, anyway.
So where does that leave me? On one side, I’ve got people still within the institutional church–the place I once felt most comfortable–now looking at me cross-eyed, or in some cases reacting with open hostility. On the other side, outside the walls, while I’m embraced by a more diverse community, I haven’t yet found a niche or a comfort zone. And then somewhere in between, there is this friendly, tolerant group of people who love me, but many of whom do not understand my dissatisfaction with the status quo.
Remember that picture I posted of the llama standing in the field of horses? For me, it’s worse than that. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only llama in the world.
Don’t worry; I’m not inviting you to my pity party, and I’m not fishing for pats on the back. This is a good road I’m on. I know God is taking me on a great adventure; I have made lots of new friends, and rekindled friendships with some wonderful old(er) friends. I know many of you who read this blog do relate, because you feel the same way. You all are not chopped liver; I appreciate your presence here, and your interaction. It’s just that right now, it feels like I’m alone in this chaos and uncertainty. And I realize that a lot of why I (and others like me) feel this way is simply because this is a transition season. The church is shifting, slowly, into something we haven’t experienced in many centuries, and many of us are in that in-between time when nothing makes sense.
I’ll regain my perspective about all this soon, and my excitement and hope will return. And I’ll get back to dreaming about what could be. But for now…it would just be nice to feel like I belonged somewhere.