February 22, 2009 by

Square Peg


Categories: Rantings, whine-and-opine

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.


Musician. Composer. Recovering perfectionist. Minister-in-transition. Lover of puns. Hijacker of rock song references. Questioner of the status quo. I'm not really a rebel. Just a sincere Christ-follower with a thirst for significance that gets me into trouble. My quest has taken me over the fence of institutional Christianity. Here are some of my random thoughts along the way. Read along, join in the conversation. Just be nice.

11 Responses to Square Peg

  1. Amy

    Ahh…my brother. How I do truly understand and FEEL exactly how you do so, so often. Like a square peg in a sea of round ones…or the llama with a herd of horses.

    As you said, I believe one of the real true reasons, is that we, as the Church whole, is in a definite season of transition. And I think this season feels long.

    Like you, the best I do is to listen to Father’s comfort. I know that we may not experience “fitting in” this side of Heaven the way we hope. Yet, I have hope that we will more so, day-by-day. Yet, ultimately, what brings my heart peace and joy, is knowing that on His side of Heaven, when we are living in the New Eternal Earth/World, we WILL feel 100% belonging.

    I, truly, look forward to this.

    And in the meantime, do my best to enjoy the Kingdom of God, which has begun, and which we are now living in as much as we possibly can on this Earth…now.

    Blessings my friend,
    ~Amy 🙂

  2. Rainer

    “But for now…it would just be nice to feel like I belonged somewhere.”

    I know you know this… you’re not the only one feeling like this even though it often may seem like it.

    I know that feeling all too well!

  3. stacymichelle

    I hear that, I really do. Such a scary place to be & feel. Know that the Mcquilkans DO belong in the perfect mix of connectedness & un-belonging. Plus, you guys have a permanent residence im my heart.

  4. co_heir

    To paraphrase what God said to Elijah, “There are still many who have not bowed the knee to the idol of ‘church as we’ve always done it.'” You are not alone.

  5. Gary Delaney


    I certianly understand. I feel like that alot myself. I often feel like I don’t fit in anywhere either. I have a hard time relating to other christians sometimes because of the allegiance they still feel for the institution. While I still do attend an ic, I really can’t relate to anyone there. I’m just waiting for God to show me what’s next still.

    Other christians that I have talked to at work and so forth, have a hard time relating to me because of the allegiance I no longer hold toward the ic.

    All of that to say that I can really relate to where you are.


  6. Randi Jo :)

    I know what you mean. I am just starting out on this journey and breaking free with God's grace from the "religious spirit" as shelby humphreys puts it…. but I do get what you're saying here.

    I am so thankful for the internet and how God has used it for the good – for me to find mentors to learn from, friends to encourage me…. and just soo many people to learn from! 🙂

    I am just breaking out of the church walls and religious spirit and I feel so free, wild, passionate, on fire, yet a lot of my beliefs haven't changed…. just different numbers on the priority list and how to apply them to my life. I am not throwing out all the lessons GOd taught me while 'in the walls' — just figuring out how they all fit in to this new thing He's doign in me!

    ANYWAY!! 🙂 Love the blog & this entry… will be back 🙂

  7. Jeff McQ

    Since everyone so far has responded similarly, I’ll just leave a general response for all. Thanks to all of you for your words of encouragement. I know many of you feel the same way; and I’m not necessarily glad for that, because it’s a hard place for anyone to be in. But I am thankful, at least, that there are those who relate and understand. And I am glad if my ramblings here are able to make a connection. This is part of how we encourage each other along the road. Thanks.

  8. Kansas Bob

    I am echoing your thoughts about encouraging each other.. you do a good job of it here Jeff.. maybe that is what we in blogdom need the most.

  9. Sam

    Give it some time. It should get better. Leaving the IC is kinda like moving from a rural area in eastern Kentucky to a very liberal neighborhood in southern California. It’s called culture shock.

    Make new friends in the new “neighborhood”, and not just among “Christians”. Get involved in your literal neighborhood and community. You’ll discover there’s a whole world out there that the IC tries to shelter you from. Here’s an idea – Find some people in the community who are as far from Jesus as you can imagine, and serve them.

    We too left the IC, and can’t bear the thought of ever attending a single service at any IC ever again. When we run into some of these people at the store, they ask about why we don’t “go to church” any more. They do not listen to what we say. They say “if you ever decide to go to church again, come back to ours”.

    They do not understand why we will not support their candidates and political issues and give money to support their budgets and why we do not “go to worship” (Sunday morning services). As Charlie Brown would say – “Aargh!”

    That’s religion, so I guess we’re not religious – We’re followers of Jesus, trying to love God and our neighbors.

    The religious folks of Jesus’ day didn’t like Him, and the religious folks of our day don’t care for us either. Just get used to it and focus on those Jesus is sending you to. A little secret – You may very well end up liking them better than you ever liked those religious people, and may end up enjoying serving them. Isn’t that what life is all about – fulfilling God’s purpose for us?

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