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Chapter 62: Church, Community, Christ

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Matthew 18:20

I want to begin this with an admission, I care what others think of me.  I fear being misunderstood, I desire to be heard.  It is enough to give me pause and, honestly, this has stopped me from writing A LOT over the last 6 years.  We are not who we were when we began this long journey and it is far from over. Lord forgive me.

Everything has changed.

Nothing has changed.

Church

Before Poland, we attended Life Church in Oklahoma City.  I served on the hospitality team and we had a Life Group we were actively attending.  When we moved, I missed it.  I craved big church and our small church wasn’t cutting it.  After our contract ended with our initial sending church, we co-created a house church with our friends (Tony and Rhonda rocked it!).  It became our family and the greater missionary presence in the city became our Church.  When we returned to the States and arrived in Portland, we realized it was not a weight station to pass through but a safe haven for recovery (more on that another day).  Our pursuit to find our local Church began, our transition was not so smooth.  Stepping into event centers, we were getting lost in the crowd.  When we made first contact we were met with little response to the question, “where do you place a family of 6?”  If a small group is 6-12 people, our family was a square peg in a round hole.

It’s hard for us to really connect in this season of our life.  How can you connect with so many people in meaningful community?  Sitting in a sanctuary I find myself asking, ‘Is this the best use of a groups resources (staff, rent, electric, etc)?  Why does every church have  2-4 songs, announcements and prayer, a sermon and then end?’

This last year was hard enough working in a different city than I lived in for the first half of the year, adjusting to Charlie (lack of sleep, four kids, time management), finding a church in our area that we resonated with….and lets not get into such a young large family attempting to attend a church!

But let’s…Here is a sample Sunday for our family:

-Make sure everyone is dressed

-Ask if anyone needs a bathroom break

-Double check all are dressed and confirm no needs for the bathroom

-Get everyone strapped into the car, triple check for bathroom requirements, double check diaper bag is prepped

-Get to Church Parking Lot

-Get into Church(recheck bathroom needs)

-Get all four kids checked in before service starts(inevitably at least 2 of 4 Sunday’s, the Service has already begun)

-Hear worship music and attempt to find a place where we can sit (easy access to get children, almost always a priority)

-2-4 Songs, Prayer, Message, Dismissal

-Attempt to quickly make eye contact with someone, get halfway into a good conversation and then excuse one or both parents to then go get kids so that volunteers can be relieved of duties

-Lose initial people you were talking to, attempt to make small talk once more only to run after children so they don’t raid the snack bar or run into the street.

 

Community

You ever argue with someone, only to realize you were for or against the same thing?  That was Michelle and I.  We both sat down and attempted to share our feelings of dissonance with the American/Western Church model.  We both argued our cases with much frustration (Example…is it a red apple or is the apple red? Same statement just worded differently).  I felt fruitless in my attempts to sway the conversation and with seemingly no forward motion happening, I stomped off(as any mature adult would do!).    God prompted, so Michelle purposed that we loop our kids into the conversation and hear their thoughts on the topic.

Bracing for the impact of what we expect is a return to the rigorous grind of Sunday Services, we asked Loralie and Jack to tell us what they thought God would like us to do for church.  No prompting, leading, or swaying. We briefly mentioned that we understand that we all missed Poland, we want to follow God’s leading and direction, and we desire good spiritual health for all of us.

Then we listened.

Loralie suggested we invite our friends over to have church in our home.  We could talk about Jesus, maybe eat food or snacks, and she could take the kids downstairs and be in charge so the adults could talk.  Jack excitedly added that we could share Jesus with all our friends and invite them over to our house, a church like we had with the Adams family in Poland.  Michelle and I looked at each other at the same moment both exclaiming, “this is what I was talking about!!!”  All of us are on the same page.

We also believe that God has established our roots with local mission minded believers here in Portland, to help us connect to the Church(big C!).  This network of believers is constructed of a diverse group from multiple backgrounds and affiliations.

Christ

I struggle with sharing where we are right now and the calling we hear because we are not where we were supposed to be, according to the plan.  We are clearly not in Vancouver (Canada or Washington).  What if God moves us again?  What if I fail?  What if… The list goes on.

But God.

He has called my family on a journey that takes my family outside the realm of “normal.”  Nothing about the path we have taken easily labels us as such.  Our Van, the house we live in, the job I have, any of our kids being alive (Michelle wasn’t supposed to be able to have children, that Doctor was sure proven wrong!), going to Poland, leaving Poland…nothing normal.  Here we are again, another branch off of normal.

We believe God is leading us to start a small group and to begin more actively seeking out partners for this.  We will not be actively seeking financial support, fund raising, or a partnership with a non-profit.  If God prompts, reach out so we can talk.  At this time we feel that a certain level of disconnect is necessary.  We believe that God has given our family a unique path to help us connect with those placed in our lives.  He has given our family countless testimonies of His goodness, His provision, and His faithfulness.  This is our family’s journey, our own story.  If this resonates with you, lets connect!

This means we will not be active members of a “Church.”   I know that as an American, if I am “abroad” then I am on the right track.   However, if I am “home” and back in the States, some will view our family as back sliding out of the church.  And that is OK!  Our main concern is following God on this adventure that is life.

Prayer

For the creation of our small group.  That we would find the right families to partner with and to know our identity for this group. (who we are, what we are for, whom do we serve)

For financial peace.  We are no longer connected with our past sending churches, so our income has decreased.  The government shut down will have an unknown impact on our food stamps that we receive.  It is not a question of IF/WILL God provide, but wisdom in how to handle our finances.

For our children.  Loralie as a leader in her classroom and friends group, Jack with attitude and social interactions, Dottie as she learns to play with others, and Charlie as she has been teething A LOT lately.

For parenting.  For wisdom, strategy, and discernment in parenting our children.

For Michelle.  Being a stay at home mom is no easy feat.  She is a true champion.  For peace, strength and energy.

For Brad.    Balancing home/work/life and better managing time after work.

 

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