In previous posts, I revealed that Terri and I left our previous church home at the end of last year and began the arduous process of finding a new place to worship this year. We have invested considerable time in exploring what our next church home looks like especially in a world that continues to be heavily impacted by the pandemic. COVID-19 has not only influenced how people view gathering together, but transformed church life as we once knew it.
A friend recently asked me what our criteria is for finding a place to worship. Obviously, we want to attend a church that is biblically sound and Christ-centered. Familiar with our old church, my friend asked, “Wasn’t that true of your old church?” Valid point, I thought to myself. It certainly was true.
At our old church, I felt stifled, even though I was heavily involved at different degrees in several ministries. I had not always felt that way. I am not sure when I began feeling that way or if I even recognized this as an issue until recently. As years passed, Terri struggled to connect and make friends, in part because as a working woman it can be difficult to take part in church activities. At times, it was as if being a working wife impeded the opportunities that were presented to her. By the end of 2020, we had grown spiritually hungry, overcome with a sense that we were undernourished and depleted. A couple of key ministries we led no longer seemed to be as valued by the new pastoral regime as they were once upon a time under different leadership. From our vantage point, the ministry direction of our church had shifted, centering more on the immediate neighborhood and the nearby university. The church also increased its focus on young people with families. Older and married without kids, Terri and I certainly didn’t fit that demographic. To top it off, neither of us really connected with the new pastor and his family.
We get it. Seasons change. Sometimes God puts you somewhere for a time until He decides to show you that you are needed somewhere else. We are mature adults capable of feeding ourselves spiritually. And while community is a key element of todays church, we aren’t driven by a need to belong or to be part of something, perhaps because we already play significant roles in our work lives. After hours, we like hanging at home with our fur-legged menagerie, binging on a show, streaming music, or listening to a podcast.
The other night, I felt led to Google church and childless couples. Curious to see what my search would uncover, I typed the words “childless people church” into the search box and waited a nanosecond for the page to populate. The results were intriguing and cringeworthy.
Bearing and rearing children is seen as a blessing, not only in church, but globally and across cultures. Not having children garners the same response we get when we tell people we have cats. The opposite of a blessing is a curse. So if the church views the gift of children a blessing does it view those who do not have children as being cursed? Sensing rejection in church because you don’t have children is heart wrenching.
Yes, more people have children than don’t. At least, I think that’s true. It certainly appears to be true in church. As a result, sometimes it feels like church isn’t the place for you if you’re childless. Not in a obvious, overt way, but in a subversive, underhanded sort of way.
Apparently, this is not a new subject that I am broaching. The parent vs. non-parent war seemingly has been around awhile.
In the Old Testament, there are several mentions of women being barren and not having children. None of them are favorable. That aligns with the Jewish view that for a woman not to bear children was seen as a severe punishment from God. Even the New Testament reveals a sadness surrounding not birthing children. I’m convinced that this view has not changed much in our modern American church.
Don’t get me wrong. Terri and I love kids. We spent a dozen years encouraging people to pack shoebox gifts for millions of children around the world on behalf of Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child. Terri has taught in children ministry numerous times. We love children. We just don’t happen to have any of our own. We don’t believe that this is a judgement or a curse or anything else other than what it is…a common experience we don’t have in common with others.
Perhaps, if Terri and I had met earlier in our lives we would have had a bushel and a peck of kids. But remembering me back then, I doubt Terri would have picked me as the fatherly, husband type. I am, after all, the wretch that John Newton speaks of in his hymn, “Amazing Grace.”
As I shared with a friend the other day, it is simply a topic that the Holy Spirit has brought to the forefront of my mind lately as Terri and I try to answer the question of “What are y’all looking for in a church?”
Please understand and hear me: we did not leave our church because they did anything wrong or because anyone did something terrible. At the end of the year, we simply reached the conclusion that God was leading us elsewhere. It wasn’t something we woke up and decided. The decision came after a long period of prayer and soul-searching.
What are your thoughts, dear reader? Have you encountered similar experiences? As a Christian, how do you view childless people?
As they say in that old science fiction TV show, “Live long and prosper.”
As you walk forth into this week leading up to the Fourth Advent Sunday, I pray that the Lord would shower you with His favor and blessing.
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The Devotional Guy™