I’ve heard via the always-reliable Interwebz that as many as 7,000 people have leftMars Hill Church in Seattle in recent months. The implosion in a church doesn’t have to be as painfully dramatic and public as the one in Seattle for a person to leave a broken congregation with a lovely parting gift: at least one piece of new baggage.
What’s inside that baggage? Hurt, anger, sadness, disillusionment, grief, damaged trust, traumatized faith, and fractured relationships. And you know what? Even a small overnight bag can carry its volume in spiritual kryptonite and weigh as much as a broken heart.
Sometimes, people take their suitcases and keep on walking. They check out of participation in the life of a local church. They may maintain connection with some Christian friends, which can function as a form of church in many ways. Or in seeking to get rid of their luggage – because who needs to go through life schlepping a bunch of useless baggage with them? – they may simply hit the “delete” button on any sort of connection with a local church.
Many of us choose to find another congregation. My husband and I have certainly picked up a few pieces of luggage over the years, and carried them with us as we sought refuge and healing in a new church. (This post talks about the gifts some of those new churches have given us. The sad reality is that some of those new churches added to our baggage collection, rather than helping us unpack the suitcases we were already schlepping.) Though the church is a collection of disparate sinners who each have their own set of baggage they’re lugging with them into corporate gatherings, I’ve noticed that those carrying baggage from previous bad church experiences deal with that baggage once they’re in a new church in some unhealthy ways: [Read more]