In the Tension Between Church and God

>I’m living in the tension between the Church and God.

I’m not angry with the Church. I’m not hurt. I don’t have any personal vendetta against the organized Church. I’m not jaded. I’m just kind of . . . done. But not really. It’s hard to explain.

A couple weeks back I had a conversation with some friends that are living in this same tension. They feel what I’m feeling; they understood me, they empathized. I’ve had similar conversations with others on many occasions in past months (probably close to a year now) with ever-increasing frequency and intensity like a mother asking after her lost child. I’m looking for anyone and everyone that can relate and help me in this place I find myself. I want answers. I want suggestions. I want to converse and have dialogue that really speaks to where I’m at.

In this conversation a phrase came up that makes universal sense: graduating from Church. It makes universal sense in that most people understand graduating from school and moving on, beginning the next stage. School is, or at least should be, the preparation for the rest of your life. And the rest of your life is about putting into practice and building on the information and skills you acquired in school. Graduating from Church is that same concept, it’s just “church” instead of “school.” Get it?

In my mind, this is the role of the Church for followers of Christ. Like school, Church provides the information and skill-training to live successfully as Christ-followers for the rest of our lives, away from the strictures and boundaries of the Church-yard. Church is supposed to be the place where we learn about freedom in Him and how we are to walk in that freedom from here-on-out. It’s where we ask the hard questions and wrestle with the mysteries. It’s in the seasons of Church that we begin to identify our spiritual identities and develop our unique gifts, listening to the Holy Spirit and responding to His subtle ways. Church is the training grounds.

But here’s where the tension lies. The church, the people of God, are living the majority of their lives in and around the Church-yard. I’m ready to leave the Church and step out in faith, because of my Faith, and those in the Church don’t know what to do with me. They beckon me back in. They fear for me. They fear of me. They ignore me or even warn others of me.

We, as Christians, aren’t in the habit of graduating or promoting people into life outside the Church. We are, however, in the habit of promoting people within the organization for gifts well used, fruits well grown, and sinful habits fully discarded. We understand that progression. We do that well. But releasing people to fully live and serve and fellowship outside the church as graduated members of the Church; are you kidding me?

I’m not a false prophet. I’m not being rebellious nor do I have problems with authority. I’m not trying to lead people astray. I simply want to GRADUATE, to explore the rest of life outside the yard, armed with all the rules, suggestions, and teachings that have taught me how to play fair, help others, learn humbly, and rejoice whole-heartedly. I am ready to put it all into practice, and I am inviting others to join me on my journey.

But I’m kind of lost. Not really lost, because I know where I am–I’m standing outside, outside the safety-zone. I say I’m lost because I don’t know where to go from here. I’m standing in a place of tension. I feel it most acutely.

Do I go back to the Church-yard and take part in the activities that no longer hold much challenge and joy for me because that’s where all my friends are and it’s a system I know well? Or do I kind of grope around in the dark, not knowing what I’m doing or who I might run into or offend along the way, just so that I might express a freedom that few understand and many misinterpret? Do I ignore those who stand within the Church pointing fingers or holding prayer meetings out of misunderstanding, fear, and judgment, or is it my responsibility to convince them to step outside and experience this same freedom?

And what about my kids? Do they need the Church, safety-zone and all, or is my freedom in Christ, as a simple member of the general church (i.e. the body of Christ), the best classroom I can provide?

How do I stay connected and yet run Free?


3 Responses to “In the Tension Between Church and God”
  1. Robin says:

    Just a few thoughts…isn't church more family than school? Do we ever "graduate" from our families? Yes, we go out from our families and live what we've been taught…some further out than others…maybe you're being called to be a missionary(think broader, but not necessarily logistically,than the traditional sense).

  2. Amanda O'Tremba Oster says:

    Robin–I think we can find our spiritual family in church, but in my experience I've haven't connected intimately with a lot of people that I've attended church with. But that's just my experience and of some others I know, but I certainly can't speak on behalf of all.

    No, we never "graduate" from our families, but if a person graduates from church, their family (the people they've bonded closely with and have shared their lives with) continues to journey with them whether their zip codes remain the same or not. I think our relationship is a perfect example of this. YOU are my church, and I met you at church. But I have a friend Megan who is my church, and it wasn't until after we were close friends that we went to church together.

  3. Judy says:

    A Christians walk is a shared journey.This was from church on Sunday and I instantly thought of you. So I had to share it! Yep God said I needed to… I don't believe, no matter how wonderful I think you are, that you can be all things for your kids… it takes a Church to raise a child…I am sure there is more I wanted to say… but for now that sums it up. Love ya! Judy
    I just read your comment back to Robin, I don't connect intimately with a lot of people I attend church with either. I am not sure what that means. But I need to go. Perhaps you are more of a leader… ha ha, that is an understatement it I ever heard one! I think kids need church. I think adults need church, for bearing each others burdens and sharing each others blessings… can you tell what my church message was on this last Sunday? Luke 18:1.

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