After a year of disappointments in presidential candidates, political parties, social movements, religious denominations, and generational leadership, a feeling has swept over me that I have not felt in a long time. Where do I belong? This is the same feeling that began to emerge when I realized the beliefs and drives of a certain political party and a certain religious denomination were no longer a part of me. I struggled then, and I struggle now. We all need community, but when one feels isolated from others where should they turn?
Now, I do know one thing about myself. I know where I don’t belong. I don’t belong in movements swept away with power, exclusion, and a desire to dominate. When these movement read Paul’s words about running the race to win it, they think he means winning at all cost no matter the collateral damage. When they rail about a Pauline understanding of freedom, what they truly mean is “freedom for me but not thee.” Finally, they are more interested in doctrinal and political conformity than being challenged to think and act progressively.
Therefore, if I know where I don’t belong, where do I belong? There seems to be one constant in my life where I can always land in a soft place…the local church. Now, don’t get me wrong, the local church is not a perfect environment either and I know some situations are like the ones I described previously. However, for me, the local church has been a family where I can find belonging, disagreements, acceptance, struggles, hope, heartache, grace, fellow-sojourners, fellow-sinners, fellow-saints, and above else, I can find love.
As the world moves further apart, the local church seems to be the place where diversity can be celebrated. It’s the one place in my experiences where differences can be set aside in order for relationships to emerge, foster, and grow. Again, the local church is not perfect, but it is the only organization that Jesus said he had come to establish. When celebrating Peter’s answer about his identity in Matthew 16, Jesus indicated he would use Peter’s faith to build his church…not a denomination…not a political party…not anything else other than his church.
It is true that local churches work together in order to conduct larger ministries, but let us never forget that the local church is the heartbeat of Christianity. The local church is the place for me to participate in family. The local church is the place where I can belong, where I can love and be loved, and where I can find the deepest levels of community. The local church is where my theological conviction are lived out on a daily basis. In a time in my life when I feel isolated from larger movements, it feels nice to have a local church that I love and loves me back.
Thanks NorthHaven Church!