Do You Feel Like You've Lost Your Church?
Over the past year of being a part of the CCC family, most of the conversations I have with people in our church have been very positive. Generally speaking, it seems like people who have been at CCC for a long time are excited about the change, and look forward to see what God will do. Newer people to the church seem to be attracted to the growing sense of mission and vision here, which is very exciting and promising as we lead and navigate through some challenging times in the life of the church, both at CCC, and at large in Western society. Through all of this change, though, it is natural that some would struggle with the changes they see at a very deep level. If you are one of these people, it is okay and completely normal to feel this way. Most of the time, those who have these struggles really have them because of a sense of loss over what was and why things are the way they are.
If you find yourself struggling with the sense that you are losing your church, here are 3 things to do:
3. Allow yourself to mourn and talk to leaders and friends at CCC about your sense of loss. It is okay. Possibly the worst thing to do is keep your emotions pent up. This can lead to a sense of loneliness and frustration. At worst, some people, because they don’t allow themselves to process these feelings, begin developing in their own minds a narrative about what is happening. Most of the time, this leads a person down a path toward bitterness, untruth, and conflict. It is better for everyone if you talk about things, ask questions, try to understand, and even express challenges you are having with things than to make assumptions. I, personally, welcome people coming to me to chat about their struggles with change, or ask genuine questions, except for when it becomes an attack, or one-way “conversation.” Leaders in any church are just always amazed at how much “concern” they hear 2nd and 3rd hand. I’m no exception to this. It’s kind of weird. Please come talk. Let’s grab coffee, chat about it a little after the service on Sunday, or invite one of the leaders to one of your small groups or circles to get to know us and ask questions.
2. Don’t miss out on what God is doing. There have been significant gains, but when there is corresponding sense of loss, they are really hard to see. The day of my grandmother’s funeral was also the day Carol and I announced that Carol was pregnant with our first daughter. When we announced it at my grandmother’s funeral reception, there was only a very subdued “oh, congratulations.” While they were happy for us, because of their grief, people in mourning couldn’t express, or even enter into, the emotions of joy over the possibility of new life. If you have trouble seeing the good things among us, allow yourself to go through mourning. Don’t be afraid to talk about it, it’s okay. However, as time goes on, allow God to show you the good things that are happening in the midst of grief. Pay attention to new life at CCC! This is something so many have prayed for for some time, now. Notice what can be celebrated when things seem unusual or unfamiliar to you.
3. Continually remind yourself of the Good News. Jesus understands your loss. He has experienced more loss than you or I ever will, yet he stayed faithful to the Father and remains our gentle Shepherd through it all. He remembers those special times when you and He met in special ways at and through the ministry of CCC in the past. Those experiences still matter, and are essential memories that you must hold on to, not only for the sake of your own faith, but for the sake of encouraging a new generation to follow Jesus in their time and culture. If you have trouble remembering the Good News, and we all do at times, don’t ever feel like a burden to ask for one of our leaders and/or your friends at CCC to remind you. It’s okay. I ask my wife and friends to remind me of it all the time! The Good News of the Gospel is the best reminder we have of how much Jesus loves us and has our best interests in mind.
4. Recognize that CCC isn’t the only church experiencing significant change. Just about every church, both new and long-time established churches, are in need of dramatic change. If they aren’t experiencing it, yet, they will be, or they’ll likely not survive into the next couple decades. The change CCC is going through is indicative of a larger change the Church is experiencing worldwide. For a church like ours in Western Society, these are possibly the most challenging times ever to lead in because of societal change around us, and because of questions (most of which are very important) that are being raised within the Church. This is not a question only church plants or mission minded churches are having. They are questions that just about every leader I’ve come in contact with in the church is asking. Across America, church attendance is in rapid decline, younger generations have a very different value system and way of life than GenX and the Boomers had at their age. People are giving far less, and the measures of success for the church in a state of dramatic redefinition. For various reasons I’ll outline in a different post, this season in the life and history of the American Church is extremely difficult to lead in and navigate. I was talking to a friend from India the other day who had just spent some time in the US. He asked me, “I don’t understand why, with all of your resources and prosperity as a nation, the American church seems so dead.” Everyone is feeling and experiencing it here, but to end up in a better place and to continue to reach our culture with the unchanging message of the Gospel, we cannot miss the window of what God is doing through all of this. It is easy to see why this would feel like a loss, but remember the God we have! We know that he is victorious, so we can enter into unknown, confusing, and challenging times with that incredible hope.
Pastor John Alwood
John has planted multiple churches over the years, is the CEO and co-founder of Gospel Ventures, as well as co-pastor at Christ Community Church in Buena Park. He is married and has two beautiful daughters. For fun, he enjoys sailing on his boat and working with his hands crafting woodwork.