Even when I was twelve years old, I realized that there was something different about how people acted at church. About that time, I began to take responsibility for my own faith journey. Others might say that I got saved, but that's never how I have described it.
My life had always been in the church. Baptized as an infant, my family was in church every Sunday except perhaps when we had out of town company or went on a trip. Otherwise, we were there on Sunday and every other day that the church doors were open. I can remember church potlucks, mother-daughter banquets, and hoagie sales (that's "subs" to those not from NJ). I even remember riding the mower with my father while he cut the grass at the church. Our family social life was embedded in the church. My parents' closest friends were fellow church members.
When I was twelve, we moved to a new town and a new church. I was confirmed and began to grow into this faith that I had received from my parents--realizing that my faith should influence how I lived each day of my life. The path would be narrow and the way difficult for those who chose to follow Jesus, so I decided that perhaps this journey might be just a little easier if I was ALWAYS in the church.
Embarrassed to say it now, but that was the beginning of my call to ministry--because I saw the church as a "safe" place to hide out! What I understood even then was that the world is different outside the walls of the church. It was more dangerous and filled with temptations outside of "Church World."
I had forgotten this. Having spent nearly all of my adult years working inside the church, I had become insulated from what happens outside of the confines of the church. **
So for many years, I have walled myself within the church and taken refuge there. I like the "Church World." I know the rules of this world and it is where I feel comfortable and at home. I have been cloistered away from much of the behavior outside of this "church world."
But, recently, I have had a few experiences that have brought all this home to me. The outside world has come to me in new forms, and with new choices. So, now I find myself learning again how to navigate in a world that seems so foreign to me.
I know that Jesus calls us to be IN the world, though not OF the world, but most days, I'd rather hide out in "church world"!
**This is not to say that nothing bad or immoral happens inside the church walls. Rather, within the church it tends to be hidden; people are not as open with their failings--which perahps in many ways can be more dangerous. That is a topic for another post (coming soon).