I spent a couple of hours with Josh Packard yesterday, recording over 70 minutes of our conversation about his research into those who have given up on the congregational model of Christian community and yet continue with a vibrancy of faith that finds community with others and meaningful ways to touch the world. His book, Church Refugees will be out June 1 and our conversations will air in early May at The God Journey.
The way people come to that point are vast and varied. I always find it encouraging to see how people are navigating that reality and especially how couples work it out together. This is an encouraging story that Susan shared with me about the journey she and her husband are on. I share it with their permission:
My husband and I find ourselves in a place we never imagined, but somehow we are filled with such gratitude. You have played some part in that.
My husband, Kevin, had been feeling for some time something was missing at “church”. He felt a gnawing ache for more – more community, deeper intimacy, less programs and more relationships. One Sunday morning as I was getting ready for church, I noticed that he wasn’t getting dressed. When I asked him what he was doing, he responded, “I am taking a break to figure things out.” That break turned out to be a two year experience and continues today. To say it has been painful would be an understatement, but God is bringing beauty from broken places.
I, on the other hand, continued my church driven life, singing on the praise team, teaching Bible Study, being there whenever the doors were opened and even when they weren’t. I loved the “church” and couldn’t imagine my life apart from it. The idea was unfathomable. Doing church alone was difficult but watching the pain in my husband was even worse. That pain only intensified when no one from our church pursued him or even called for those two years.
Six months ago on one of our evening walks, Kevin said in passing, “I would hate for anyone to go through this. I wish I had it figured out. Perhaps it would be a little easier if I wasn’t doing it alone.” It was at that moment I heard his heart and made a decision to leave our church of 15 years to be with him.
Coincidentally (not), we had already pre-ordered a copy of Finding Church from your ministry. When it arrived, we went away for a couple of days to the mountains and read it to one another. We cried, we scratched our heads, and we laughed. But most of all, we felt hope.
Wayne, we are seeing more and more that life with Christ is organic, not clinical or institutional. It can’t be manufactured because it is living and breathing and it involves people. When we do try to sanitize or control it, it has no life.
We are still on the journey of finding the church that before us – our neighbors with the two precious little boys and a newborn, our grown children, our friends. We now have more time to be available for what is really important – people. I am happy to say that the greatest relationship that has developed is between Kevin and me. We have found a deeper love for one another and have enjoyed our weekends reading, hiking, drinking coffee, and sharing our hearts. Leaving church was one of the most painful things we have ever done, but the beauty of the life we are living blows me away. We are trusting God to lead us and are excited about our todays and our tomorrows.
Thank you for writing Finding Church and thank you for all the time you invest in people as you travel the country, allowing them to ask questions, being there for conversation not for a lecture. I have been the blessed recipient of your time when you visited Charlotte, NC
This is a real story of two people finding their way to greater life and light. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t smooth. Neither forced the other to do what wasn’t in their heart to do, but love and connection drew them into decisions that not only enhanced their relationship to each other, but also to a beauty of life they never knew existed. Following the road less traveled, is never easy and hardly ever without pain, but no one who has moved from being programmed in a system to connecting with God and people more relationally ever regrets the pain that was part of that journey. Living free, even though it takes some time to find our legs as we learn to live differently is always worth it!