It’s been four months since my sons and I left North Liberty Christian Church to find a new place to be a part of the Christian family. I haven’t been enjoying the process. I’m introverted, and meeting lots of new people drains me. I have to admit, a couple Sundays when my sons were with their mother the thought of smiling and being friendly with strangers was unpleasant enough that I just stayed home.
For 15 years I’ve been a member of congregations with Restoration Movement roots – Churches of Christ, Christian Churches, Disciples of Christ. I had begun to feel stale in their worship experience, so I visited churches from many other faith traditions. This reminded me why the high ritual of some traditions and the high emotionalism of others don’t work for me, and led me right back to the Restoration Movement with renewed vigor. I’m a practical and intellectual man, and the Restoration Movement’s plain, reasoned, passionate faith resonates deeply with me.
This dramatically limited my choices, as there are only so many Restoration Movement churches near me. Many of those congregations lack a strong youth program for my sons. By process of elimination one congregation stood out: North Central Church of Christ.
Restoration Movement churches are fairly conservative within Christendom’s broad spectrum. Legalism is a real and shameful problem in this fellowship’s most conservative wing, which is populated by certain Churches of Christ. My family worshiped with one such Church of Christ for several years when my faith was new. That’s where learned our lesson the hard way about why legalism isn’t God’s plan. The elders there found out about the circumstances of my wife’s prior divorce, and with support from certain verses from the Bible told us we had no right to be married. The stress of it caused us to start attending North Liberty Christian Church. The elders then sent us a letter declaring us apostate. Suddenly, members we had considered to be friends could not speak to us anymore. This was an extremely painful experience that was difficult to forgive.
Archconservative Churches of Christ are a shrinking minority, and everything I’d heard and read about North Central Church of Christ suggested that they were never in that group. But I still felt considerable trepidation simply because of the Church of Christ name. I attended by myself one Sunday, and heard a sermon that would have been at home in the Christian Church from which I came. I was also delighted to sing a cappella in four part harmony in worship, a distinctive practice of many Churches of Christ that I have missed terribly. So I visited again the next Sunday with my sons, and we’ve returned almost every Sunday since. I still have some niggling fear, but every week we worship there I feel more comfortable.
The congregation numbers about 500 – not too big, not too small. They have an active and vital youth group that I hope will provide encouragement and friendship for my sons. Adults in the congregation break into smaller groups to form the close relationships so necessary to strong Christian fellowship and encouragement in the faith. I was invited to a small group meeting a few weeks ago, and while logistical challenges make that group a poor fit for me I can see how much they care for each other and encourage each other in the faith. I hope that I can find a group I can attend regularly. I worked hard with the other elders at North Liberty to keep that shrinking congregation afloat, and I burned out. I am ready to simply be a member again and give and receive encouragement and love from my fellow Christians.
I’ve been approached about joining the congregation, and I attended their membership class not long ago. We’ll keep visiting North Central for a while yet until we feel fully comfortable. But so far, this looks promising.
Christians do more than anyone else to harm the cause of Christianity. Love heals the damage. Read my story about a loving Christian attracted me to the faith.