Am I Ready to Go Back to Church?

Tonight, I’m leading a wedding rehearsal. Tomorrow, I’m officiating a wedding. Sabbatical over.

And as the end of my Sabbatical has rapidly approached, I’ve had more people ask, “Are you ready to go back?” Truthfully, I haven’t really had a good answer, and so I’ve been ruminating a bit on it. But I’ve finally found the words, and here’s my answer: No, I’m not ready to go back to church, but I’m ready to begin churching again.

Maybe I ought to explain myself.

When I think about church, I do so through the lens of being a career pastor. While I had lots of odd jobs through high school, college and graduate school, being a pastor is the only real, adult job I know. So, for me, there’s a component of my thinking about church as the grind; setting my alarm, getting up every morning, punching the clock, preparing a talk, meeting with committees, giving a talk, staring over. Don’t get me wrong. I love my job. And actually, I tend to thrive in a certain level of routine. But, seriously, who misses setting the alarm and going to work? If you had 3 months where you weren’t required to be any specific place, at any specific time, and could stay in your pajama pants every morning reading and writing, would you want to go back to the grind? Of course not!

But I miss churching. I miss being with people, having meaningful conversations – whether one-on-one or in a group setting or even in the Sunday morning setting. I miss having bigger conversations about faith, life and meaning. And besides conversations with Jennifer, my life during Sabbatical has been devoid of those kinds of meaningful interactions, except for these highlights:

Talking yarn-spinning and Jesus and Ghandi with the owner of a haunted biker-bar/hotel in a small town in Nebraska. (post link)

Meeting the Rainbow Family in Southern Illinois and talking about how God loves us all. (post link)

Reading Psalms together on the trail and talking theology with Justin.

Talking to teammates late at night at the cafe attached to our hotel in Phnom Penh about spiritual journey and finding God’s love to be more expansive and inclusive than our upbringings taught us.

Gathering with other like-minded pastors at the OPEN Network Summit in Minneapolis last week, meaningful conversations over meals, meeting up with my friend Steve… (link)

This is what I’ve missed on Sabbatical: meaningful conversation. I can’t wait to get back into a routine where I meet people for coffee, breakfast, lunch, or beer and assist them in their spiritual journey, encourage them to keep searching, and to look for God everywhere. To quote a Facebook rant from Steve:

We are pastors, called to walk alongside people in all seasons of life, whether they are “growing” or dying (and whether we are growing or dying).

Yes, this is what I miss. This is what I’m anxious to get back to: walking alongside people in all seasons of life. I just noticed today, in the short bio in the sidebar, I describe myself like this:

I love to laugh (loudly), cook, drink good beer, run long distances, hang out with my family (4 boys!) and friends and read novels. More than anything, I love to sit with people and have meaningful conversations.

This is my calling. This is why I’m a pastor.

Am I ready to go back? Not necessarily to the “job,” but absolutely yes to the calling; no to church, yes to churching.

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