Less than 20% of Americans attend church (according to one poll). Even if you disagree with this statistic you can't argue with the fact that all of the churches across America are declining in attendance.
I'm sure the reasons differ for people leaving, but this is where Rachel Held Evans' new book Searching for Sunday comes in. It's not an anecdote as to why, but, a personal journey of her own loving, leaving, and finding the church (just as the subtitle says).
Aren't we all looking for Sunday?
Searching for Sunday has been more than a book for me, it's been a confirmation of the tension I have felt within the church the last few years. Like Rachel, I have been searching for authenticity and a community of believers that desires to be grace-filled, trustworthy, and real. This isn't an easy task.
But I want to be a part of the church community, so I keep looking.
The journey back to the church is embracing the messiness of community and the power of grace.
In her grace-filled words found among the pages of her book Rachel reminds us that the people we'd rather avoid are the one's Jesus calls friend: The different, weird, drunk, gay, minority...
"Because we religious types are really good at building walls and retreating to temples. We're good at making mountains out of our ideologies, obstructions of our theologies, and hills out of our screwed-up notions of who's in and who's out, who's worthy and who's unworthy. We're good at getting in the way. Perhaps we're afraid if we move, God might use people and method's we do not approve of, that rules will be broken and theologies questioned. Perhaps we're afraid that if we get out of the way, this grace thing might get out of hand." (pg.39-40)Ah, yes, after reading the introduction I had a very good feeling I was going to enjoy this book.
Can love really change our communities? Our churches? Jesus seemed to think so.
I cringe when I hear stories of people not going back to church because of unfriendliness, judgemental looks and/or comments. If only we could see how this hurts those searching for more, searching for God, would we do better?
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24,25)Rachel does a wonderful job of laying out what causes people to leave the church and then what will bring them back: love, grace, scripture.
They need to feel close to God, the people in church need to be honest with themselves and others about their sin and put down their masks. We need church to be a congregation where hurting, seeking, broken people are ushered in and asked, how we can help? How can we pray? How can we meet you right where you are?
I like when she compares church to how an AA meeting is run, and I can't help but agree.
"Like the introductions of an AA meeting, they equalize us. They remind us that we all move through the world in the same state-broken and beloved-and that we're all in need of healing and grace, but also our fears, our doubts, our questions, our injuries, and our pain. They give us permission to start telling one another the truth, and to believe that this strange way of living is the only way to set one another free." (pg.69)
She goes onto ask why our churches feel more like "country clubs than AA?" We forget church is for the sick.
At our core we want a church that cares that we still struggle, that knows we aren't perfect but loves us anyways, that is happy we show up- baggage and all.
There is so much more I wanted to add to this, but it was already getting lengthy for a blog post. If you are on a spiritual journey and trying to find your way back to God, to church, please go find a copy of Rachel Held Evans book, Searching for Sunday.
(I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All words and opinions are my own.)
Linking up with, Holley-Coffee For Your Heart, Jenn-Soli Deo Gloria, and Jennifer-#TellHisStory