Church plants are weird creatures. In the beginning, most everyone is new and has to do the awkward dance of forming relationships while at the same time trying to see a fledgling church survive. It takes a unique person to really be a part of a church plant, that’s for sure. You mostly have to be self-motivated and spiritually self-sustaining, because the usual church structures that motivate, support and counsel just aren’t there in the early days of a church.
Over time, during these early days, your relationships slowly develop. They are usually borne out from the fiery flames of awkwardness and uncertainty, and having to force yourself into social situations you would not normally put on yourself, but this difficulty forges these relationships deeply. You get to know one another very deeply very quickly and love each other through it. This creates a very deep bond, however unspoken it may be.
I’m finding that this is both good and bad, especially at my current church, though I’ve seen it at the other church plants I’ve been a part of. It’s good because it makes our core community really tight, but it can be bad because it makes our core community really tight. This super tight-knit community is both attractive and seemingly inaccessible to the “newcomers” that come into our midst. Inevitably (especially if the Lord is with you in your endeavors), those that are hurting and isolated and alone come your way. They are not the self-motivated and spiritually self-sustaining believers that this core Church group is used to. They have baggage. They have hurts. They have insecurities. And they want and long for and need community. Real community.
But humans are complicated and groups of humans even more so, and so the point of this post is not to yell at guests and say “be less needy!” or to yell at church folk and say “be more welcoming!” It’s simply to encourage us.
Church community is amazing. And for those out there that feel disconnected from it, let me encourage you: the Church is a group of people who are broken and struggling; who will hurt you and insult you and will be snarky and sarcastic and you will not get it so you will think they are just being mean; who will not invite you to things when you are free and will seem to only invite you to things when you are busy; who will make you feel isolated and alone and unloved; who will judge you and gossip about you and will assume you are “in sin” even when you’re not; who are graceless and far more interested in you not bothering them anymore rather than being the messy screwed-up person we all are.
And though we inflict these pains on one another daily, we still live life deeply with one another both inside and outside our church walls. We gather on our Sundays and sit next to people who have either hurt us deeply just the day before, or people we hope would talk to us at some point during the service, but never will.
We do this because we have tasted of something glorious and beautiful even in the midst of all that is fractured. It’s in our relational need that we have Christ the most. And so, I guess my only hope in writing this post is this:
I pray that as we wound each other as the broken members of the body of Christ, we might more truly taste, grasp, and take hold of the true Body of Christ, broken and wounded for us.