Written by Everett Kirkman.
I don’t want things to go back to normal, and I don’t think they should. The old “normal” was shallow, ostentatious and chauvinistic. Many of the routines I found myself in were not gratifying to me or God or anyone — they were simply tradition.
Of course, I want us all to be able to move on from the season we’re in. And there truly was a lot of good in our old routines. But I want us to be able to find a new normal — as the church — but broader than that. I think something has to change for the church to survive. As the world progresses, the church will change, too, whether we accept it or not.
The church is a people, not a place. The church is not confined to a building or to a denomination. The church should not be limited to a certain number of people, or to people who look or act a certain way. Jesus did not limit his ministry to a certain group of people. He went out of his way to pay attention to and speak life into the marginalized members of his community — even people so marginalized by society that they were not even considered a part of the community.
The church we are used to has pushed people out. It has harmed the marginalized. That church has looked too much like criticism and not enough like love.
I’ve been in a church building less this year than I ever have before, yet I feel more confident in my faith than I ever have. This year propelled my deconstruction and helped me realize the start of reconstruction of my personal faith. The world has seen so much hurt this year — so much heartache. And yet, through it all, there has been hope. I have seen individuals living out the gospel every day. I have seen neighbors loving neighbors. But the typical “church” I know has not led that movement. The hope that I have found has come from unexpected places.
Through being quiet and listening, I have learned more about other worldviews. Through good conversations, I have learned more about my neighbors. Through prayer and meditation on scripture, I have learned more about the God that we worship and his intricate creation.
I have been learning to abide in him –– accepting blessings and taking trials day by day. I am not the one in control –– none of us are — although it is easy to forget that. To truly improve, to truly move past this season we are in as a church, as a nation and as a world, I think we should go back to the basics, for so many traditions and complexities have gotten in the way of pure faith.
I have hope for the church. I want it to be better, and I truly believe it can be better. The events of the past year have been a wake-up call. To move forward, we have to be willing to work together. We need to love without bounds and extend grace to each other and to ourselves. We are called to love God, love our neighbors –– all of our neighbors — and to remember to love ourselves, too. We have the Holy Spirit living in us — what are we waiting for?