They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
This description above is almost impossible to reconcile with the churches I have experienced. To be fair, I have not visited every church, but I simply cannot reconcile the above scripture with what I typically see.
What I typically see is that a church has devoted themselves to a charismatic leader, who sees the church as his family business, getting rich and building enormous buildings as a monument to his leadership er... as a monument to the blessings of God on his people. Sometimes, lacking such a leader, a church will devote themselves to the few scriptures they have pulled out and made an idol of. I also see a lot of making sure people don't have everything in common, because women are treated as though they are less and must have the blessing and permission of a man to do any kind of serving or ministry. The one part I usually do see is church people getting together for fellowship and meals. With other people. Who are just like them and who toe the line. So, basically, many churches I have experienced are nothing like the Acts 2 church.
I am well aware that my above statements show that I have some deep wounds and a train car full of baggage from my time spent attending church. I am also aware of the need to work through all of that. But what I have a very difficult time with is how to get past it when every time I turn around I am seeing something similar. I've tried visiting some churches. But what I see when I visit or what I hear when I talk to other people about their church, typically reflects at least a few of the things I've called out above. (Oh, and the last visit ended in total disaster, complete with having to quite disruptively leave an outdoor service in the middle because the gospel quartet singing the special music keep cranking up the speaker volume to the point that it was physically painful and one of my kids was covering his ears and crying at the top of his lungs that his eardrums were damaged. No lie. These are the kinds of things that happen to me. At least that one made for a good story.)
I just don't know where to go from here. Church "shopping" is exhausting and challenging to do with two kids who love routine. Plus, we live in a rural area and there are only four churches within a fifteen mile radius, two of which have the same pastor because individually they are too small to support a full-time minister. Once you start attending a church outside of your community, it is extremely difficult to fit in without making a lot of time commitments that require a lot of driving time. Then there is the whole issue that my husband and I have opposite work schedules and most church activities taking place during our designated family time.
I've given up. At least at this point. I don't want my boys growing up with the same baggage I have and I don't know how to find a church that seems to be striving toward what my Bible and my heart tell me a church should be.
If there is one thing I've learned over the past year it is that if you don't learn to own your faith, to truly understand what you believe and why, then you may as well not believe anything. When your faith is based only on what other people have told you that you should believe, you have to close yourself off from people who think differently from you, lest they ask you questions you can't answer or find gaps in your story. I don't want that and I don't want it for my kids.
For the past couple months, I've been getting up on Sunday mornings and curling up on my couch with a book of sermons by Barbara Brown Taylor. Her words cause me to think and they speak right to my heart. They give me different perspectives on stories I've heard a thousand times. I feel refreshed and challenged. I have some ideas churning in my head of what I should do next, but that is for another post.
After my own reading time, the boys and I talk about some questions we have about God or stories we've heard, then we find a scripture on that topic to discuss and memorize. Luke and I write the verse in our notebooks and Owen draws a picture of what he learned from it in his. We talk about what the verse has taught us about God or how we can apply it to our lives. They sometimes ask questions I don't have answers for and I tell them I don't know. I want them to own their faith, not memorize canned answers. There are a lot of things we just don't know. There's no sense in pretending otherwise.
I know all the stuff about the fellowship of believers and not giving up on meeting together, but this is working for us. For now. And didn't He say He would show up wherever two or three are gathered? There are three of us. I think that is enough. For now.