It seems my post about bonding over brokenness versus beliefs hit home for many of you (and set a new record on my blog—thank you!). It also raised the question: So what could the church do better to create connection and community?
I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Let’s agree that many churches do work hard to provide the kind of openness and safety that invite intimate fellowship.
And of course, beliefs and brokenness aren’t mutually exclusive; you can embrace both, and most Christians I know try to do this.
The point I hoped to raise in that post is that sometimes it seems like we Christians care more about what people believe than we do about loving them. And when “right beliefs” become the basis for inclusion in our fellowships, some of the most broken among us don’t feel welcome.
Maybe this is part of why the church Dave and I go to now has no official creed. In fact, when our pastor baptizes babies, in addition to the traditional things you’d expect to hear, he says, “We will not presume to tell you what you have to believe…”
The first time we heard this, we glanced at each other in alarm. What on earth? Isn’t that the purpose of church—to make sure we believe all the right things—and all the same things—about all the important things?
Up to now, we hadn’t realized Christ-centered churches like this one existed. Churches that welcome everyone. That care about tradition but don’t double check your doctrine at the door. That have enough faith to believe that God is present and at work in everyone’s journey.
It was a lot to take in. Yet we also found comfort in knowing that if we decided to stay, we wouldn’t have to agree with anyone’s theological, social, or political leanings in order to worship together, or to be accepted and loved.
We knew we had finally found home there the first time we celebrated Communion. When the pastor held up the loaf of bread and invited us to the Table, something in the way he spoke about Jesus being broken and given brought tears to our eyes.
I’m not saying my church is perfect or even the best. But years later, we’re still there and more involved than ever. Recently, Dave and I got to facilitate a month of adult Sunday school classes around the topic of addiction, recovery, and faith.
The first Sunday, I shared my journey from out-of-control drinking into recovery. Another Sunday, Dave shared his side of the story. We looked at the (dismaying) statistics about the prevalence of addiction. We looked at Scripture (Paul had a thing or two to say about doing—over and over again—the very thing he hated.)
But given the topic, it was such a relief to know no one was evaluating our spiritual correctness or critiquing our theology. We got to be vulnerable about our mistakes and weaknesses, and people responded in kind.
It got me wondering what might happen if we did this kind of thing in church more often. Maybe sharing our actual stories—what life was like, what happened, what life’s like now, and what doesn’t look like it’s freaking ever going to get better even though we’re following Jesus—would help to foster the kind of rich community so many find in recovery.
The power of truth telling to free us and change us can’t be overestimated. And hearing one another’s stories is how we realize we’re not alone, and that it’s okay to be human.
Mysteriously, when we share our shattered and less shiny parts with each other, our differences disappear. Healing happens. Community blossoms. We become a little more whole—and a lot more beautiful.