It’s interesting to think through some of the implicit assumptions we pick up along the path of life. Like that weirdly glinting rock that you couldn’t take your eyes off of it, so you put it in your pocket and them promptly forgot the reason it attracted you in the first place. The Christian life is one of growth and change. We are not the same people we once were. Nor are we now who we are yet to become. What’s best for us in one season of life may or may not be the right fit years later. It is also possible that we might not have been ready for that season, had it dawned earlier in life.
Certain things become fixtures for certain seasons of life. A certain church family might be a good fit, providing you with the challenge and growth you need for a certain phase of life, but you can’t imagine going back to it years later. And that’s OK. Because the Christian life is about growth. And just like you may need a certain church’s emphasis during a particular phase of life, not every local church is for every person.
Every local church has, for lack of a better way to put it, a “personality.” And not every local church is the best fit for every person. This was an interesting conclusion to come to as a church planter. The implicit (and sometimes explicit) advice is to get as many people as you can as quickly as you can and hold on to them for as long as you can. Because that’s “success,” right? Pardon my sarcasm.
But if the goal is to get as many people as you can as quickly as you can and hold on to them for as long as you can, then you will, by necessity, water-down your own vision in order to please as many people as possible. Thus, we have many church planters now pastoring churches they themselves might not even be a member of if it were up to them. Every local church has its own culture. There ought to be certain things that are universal to Christian communities: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, sacrificial love for one another, etc. But there are also millions of possible contextual variables from that point forth.
You are not best friends with just anyone. In fact, if you’re like most people, there are only a handful of people that you really connect deeply with in your lifetime. And everyone gravitates towards different people and that’s a beautiful thing because it celebrates the uniqueness of the personalities God has given us. But it’s not just that deep-level connection that is selective and unique. Not everyone line dances. Not everyone likes football. Not everyone crochets. Not everyone yodels. Not everyone likes NASCAR or American Pickers. Some people like Bob Dylan and some people like Prince and some people like both. So we clump with those who share our peculiar particulars. And that’s OK as long as we remember that our peculiarities are no better or worse than someone else’s, so let’s celebrate all the weirdness instead of judging other people’s pop culture weaknesses.
So we need to learn to know ourselves. And we must find environments where we are encouraged to truly become sanctified versions ourselves rather than watered-down versions of someone else. And not every person is going to find that in every local church. That doesn’t mean that if you just don’t like any of the churches in your area that you can sacrifice Christian community because all of your preferences aren’t being met. That’s selfish consumerism. You may have to make compromises to be in Christian community, but remember, it’s most likely just for a season of your life. The day will come when you can’t imagine going back to be a part of that church because you’ve grown so different from that time in your life. But that day also dawns with the realization that you would not be the person you are now without that time in your life.
So be thankful now. And let’s all become sanctified versions of ourselves rather than watered-down versions of someone else.