Dishwashers in the Revolution

Actively bringing about much needed change in our communities and hope to the broken and disheartened.

Is the church really my family?

I view the church as my family. I don’t think the feelings are mutual.

I have wrestled with this concept for quite some time now and it’s not an easy topic for me to broach, but I’m going to give it my best shot. I come from a large extended family. My dad has 8 siblings who all are from the Syracuse area. My mom has 2 siblings from the NE area. My family consists of me, my sister, and my parents.
When I was growing up I would say I saw my extended family pretty often – whether it was a family reunion or a holiday, I feel like as I grew up I was close with my relatives. But over time there was a separation that occured…I don’t know what caused it, but my family stopped getting together with our relatives on holidays and I don’t remember many family gatherings in my adolescent years. My immediate family was relatively close-knit, but I was losing that connection I had with all my extended family.
When I was 16 my parents separated and my immediate family began losing that bond. My sister moved away to college, my dad moved out of the house, and it shrunk down to my mother and I. I was losing my family connections left and right and had a gaping hole in my life that I desperately needed filled.
I turned to my church to fill that hole. I was attending Northside Baptist at this point in my life and was dating a girl who’s family attended there. I began to look to the men in my life as father-type figures to help guide and direct me during this time. Men like Chuck Klinger, Dan Studt, and Chris Wilcken all were very important relationships to me. I felt cared about and loved by these men who seemed to go out of their way to help me.
I knew the church was a safe place to turn during this time of turmoil in my life, and felt the warm embrace of my church in return. I grew in my love for God and my love for the Church and knew that I wanted to go into ministry to have the same kind of impact on others like my church had on me. As I left for college I was passionate for my church and was excited to start my ministry journey.
I went away to college and that connection I had with my church diminished. I was gone for so long that I grew apart from the relationships that had been built and even when I came home it didn’t feel like things were the same. After my freshman summer I was diligent in trying to find other alternatives for my summer, instead of going home. Nothing felt the same.
By the time I graduated I didn’t have a church home anymore. The hole in my life for a family was no longer being filled by a church. It wasn’t really filled by anything. I had built different relationships with different people over my college career, people I could look up to, but couldn’t hold on to any of those relationships for long. So I came home and started working at a new church, Baldwinsville Alliance Church.
My connections there were shallow at best, but I followed God faithfully there and began building relationships with the people who attended there. It didn’t take long for me to form a bond with many of them and start to feel like I had regained that family again. The church gave me some people to invest in, and who would invest in me. They were people who were passionate about the same things I was passionate about – as well as people who I could share life with and who would share life with me in return. I was being invited over for dinner – had an open door policy in many homes and was able to find accountability and transparency with some of the men.

But somewhere along the line, there’s been a disconnect.

I view the whole body as a family. My family. Every person plays a role in the family. Each person is valuable to me and a vital part of the family. But I’ve come to realize that not everyone feels that way. Not that there isn’t a love for one another, or a care for one another…but the relationships aren’t viewed with the same amount of depth that I view them with. A lot of them are surface level. I’m interested in deep relationships – where we share our life, pain, joy…everything. But I can’t force others to feel that way too.
It was immensely upsetting to me to realize this fact. I was crushed. It felt like my family wasn’t what I thought it was…that people had other relationships that were more important and more vital than their relationships in the church…which is ok. But it’s not my reality. I have very few close family-like relationships, and the church IS my extended family…and I don’t think that I’m viewing it incorrectly either.

When Jesus told his disciples in Mark 10:29-30 that
“…no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.”
I believe that he was talking about the church. The church in the first century WAS a family. They HAD to be. These people were leaving their families when they chose to follow Christ. Jesus told them that the Church would become their family – full of mothers and brothers and fathers and sisters to offer support and to share life with. The book of Acts says that the early church met DAILY to break bread together…just like a family. No one had a need…because they were a family who cared for each other and looked out for each other.

So am I wrong to want the church to be my family? I don’t think so…but maybe I’m in the wrong context. No one here is being persecuted. No one here needs the church to be their family like me because they have those relationships elsewhere…We are willing to have surface level relationships with people and to share life with a select few perhaps, but genuine relationships are lacking across the board. Perhaps my ideals are too high? Especially in an unpersecuted church…maybe there isn’t enough at stake to force us to pull together, to force us to rely on each other…

How do we find genuine community?
I will continue to hold out hope that it can be accomplished. I love my church. I know they love me. I just want more depth.

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4 comments on “Is the church really my family?

  1. Noelle G McLaughlin
    May 28, 2011

    I think you’re right. The church is suppose to be our community. I know for me, even though I have great close relationships outside of church, church is my community. That’s where I grow the most, those are the people I need to be able to be transparent with and trust. I think that community becomes crucial at some point, and it’s sad to see people just going to church out of obligation but not really making any investment in the kingdom…or a very surface-y one. How much can you really be invested in your community and ministry if you keep everything shallow?

  2. Abigail
    May 28, 2011

    I’ve notice that teens and college students and “young singles” (stupid term but anyway) tend to want deep connections in general and if they do not have that “friend group” living right with them we often look to our churches to find people who we can be close to. (Because let’s face it, work isn’t usually the best place.) But the people at our churches are busy: they have kids, grandkids, jobs, school, vacations, duties, hobbies. Unless you’re dating someone in their family, or best best buds with one of their kids…you’re just that nice young man or sweet girl. They really are glad you’re there…but they don’t have time or room for you in their lives. I’ve seen this in small churches, when people are just overwhelmed with life, or from very different backgrounds. I’ve seen this in large churches, where people live all over the place and don’t know very much about each other. I’m not sure there is an answer that helps people our age, except to ask God to bring us people and to make sure that when we are older and busier we still make community a priority. I don’t think persecution is the only answer…but it would make relationships more necessary, definitely.

  3. Shane Michael Sanders Marcus
    June 14, 2011

    I totally feel you, Ryan. I’m married, which offsets some of the loneliness and isolation you describe, but in a lot of other ways I’m right there with you. Especially when it comes to looking to the church for a sense of family. But I’ve noticed – and perhaps I’m in a unique situation, where most of the people even resembling my age are in graduate school (also I live in New England) – that friendship seems to be a phenomenon that occurs once a month, if that. The other couples and the individuals that make up my circle of friends are always busy (and so am I / we) but it is incredibly rare that I see any one person socially more than once in any given four weeks. It’s frustrating and lonely.

    In the time I’ve had to myself, I’ve thought a lot about some of the regrets I have in my life. One is that I came so quickly to graduate school, when so many of my friends made the decision to stay in the WNY area and find work there. More each year I regret the decision to chase an opportunity, a career, an achievement instead of staying rooted and connected to the family and the community of friends that I had in that area.

    Do you think it is possible at all that sometimes the church encourages this sort of individualistic, achievement based thinking because it is too quick to push people towards “following their dreams” and “being fulfilled” instead of teaching us to dream dreams in community, and to find our fulfillment in small groups instead of careers?

    • ryjohn
      June 16, 2011

      Shane, I’m not sure that even if you had stayed in the area it would have been the same community feel that we all had back in college.

      I feel like college sets us up for disappointment in this particular realm in general. Where else can you experience community like you do in college? Certainly not the “real world.” Once work starts it begins a cycle of making money as our final aim in life…something we strive for…forever.

      Ultimately I think this feeling of lack of community stems from a couple of things:
      First I think it’s our culture in general, not just our churches, that encourage young people to leave everything and everyone behind to pursue dreams and aspirations rather than staying close to home to enjoy the community life.
      But secondly I think that it’s our fallen state as human beings that causes this inability for the kind of authentic community we really desire. God created us to be in relationships – but because of our fallen state we end up isolating ourselves from God, the source of all love (a fundamental cornerstone for true and real relationships) and subsequently isolating ourselves from others as well. We pursue authentic community through many avenues, but more often then not our sin follows us and it turns into something scary (think…Waco, TX).

      I think it’s a longing that God has allowed us to feel, and when we identify Him as the source of the authentic relationships that we desire it makes us long for a day when all things will be reconciled to God and we as Christ-followers will experience the true community we were made for.

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This entry was posted on May 28, 2011 by in Ryan's Posts and tagged , , , .
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