Five years ago, after moving to “The ATL” from the Northeast I announced “We will NEVER attend a mega church or a church led by high-profile pastors!”
The short version of that story is we began attending a mega church within a week of moving here.
Just as recently as last year we tried to leave for various reasons.
*The short version of THAT story is that we came BACK to OUR mega church.
Andy Stanley may be the Lead Pastor – a well-known Pastor of Northpoint Ministries – but this weekend’s Walking Wisely middle school retreat for all our church campuses is a reminder that HE is not our church. He is a part of a wheel. He isn’t THE WHEEL. Andy is loved-but there are so many people and hidden parts that are honestly the more MAJOR PARTS that help it all work. It’s a HUGE network of volunteers LOVING their communities that makes our massive church feel homey and intimate. To me, there may be no greater evidence of a trustworthy faith system than how the masses of people following it respond to others. OTHERS.
And really, let’s be honest, loving someone else’s middle school punk=THE TRUEST DEVOTION TO OTHERING EVER. Ever.
This weekend, 100’s of volunteers will sacrifice time, money, and sanity for the sake of connecting with 1000’s of smelly, awkward, often-ungrateful middle school students. They will be the hands and feet of Jesus as they speak hope and encouragement into these kids lives. THEY will be the pastors and the influencers. THEY are our church. THEY are the wheel.
Churches understandably get a bad rap. I’ve grown up in church and have spent the majority of my adult life attending various churches and have seen and felt when things are going terribly wrong. It’s not good. That damage is hard to recover from, however you CAN and SHOUD because the good that comes from connections inside a church family are worth discovering and searching for. Youth Ministry-SO WORTH IT. There is unmeasurable value in finding a community of people that will love your rotten kids for no reason. They aren’t your friends and aren’t related so they don’t HAVE to tolerate your kids. I still keep in contact with youth leaders that patiently loved me during my unlovely times. Youth NEED more than their parents and family pouring truth into them.
Yes, this is a shameless plug for my church. Its a shameless plug for youth ministry. Yep. Not gonna pretend it’s not. It’s shameless because I believe you can find a unique community and hope inside its walls.
Woodstock City Church and Northpoint Ministries is huge and visible but we’ve found ways to make it small. On Sundays we meet with six other couples and we hash out the hard stuff of life. Currently we’re discussing parenting because HELLO!!! We cuss (actually I cuss) and cry, and laugh, and pray and remind each other of “the point”. We admit things and take deep breaths and have committed to working past awkward first encounters in order to grow as couples, and as women and men who want to love people and Jesus better. On Fridays for the last couple of years, I’ve meet with 5-7 other women. I’m always challenged with time to block out Friday mornings but always so thankful I did so. They challenge me and make fun of me; as we share pieces of our heart we are constantly encouraging each other to live in a way that’s intentional. AND THEN Yesterday afternoon I had lunch with a new friend from church-we had our own little service-right in the middle of Taco Mac as we talked about our families and our heart for ministry. Wings, Jesus, and a new friend. #winning
These people are our church. Yes, Andy Stanley has created a model that’s helped forge these relationships but it’s the people in my circles I want holding my hand when I’m celebrating and mourning all that life offers. It’s not the lead Pastors or even the campus Pastors that we call, it’s the people pouring in the doors of the church each week that we rely on. When we are in our circles we none are concerned about the measured success or “growth” of NPM. My kids don’t care or have any idea about our leaders who have written books or speak and lead super-sized conferences. What they know is that THEIR leaders affectionately nicknamed “Cash”, “Money Bags”, and “The Cori’s” show up week after week and offer their ears to listen. What THEY love about our church is the smallness and intimacy of their circles. What I love about my church is the smallness and intimacy of MY circles. These people are OUR Church within THE Church.
Haters gonna hate-and I get it. The difficulty of finding a church to attend and the maturity of understanding that no church is without flaws is worth every ounce of time it takes to figure it out. We need our friends that we’ve known since pre-k but we also need a community of people that are digging at your heart spiritually in a way no one else may want to. We need a multitude of different relationships in our years and a spiritually focused community of friends can be the piece of you and your children’s puzzle that makes all the difference in your life.
Go to church this weekend and remember to say THANKS to the people that make it happen.
We love you WOODSTOCK CITY CHURCH? Woodstock City Church
Photograph taken by Blenco & Co. Photographic Arts
#circlesarebetterthanrows #transit #walkingwiselyweekend