On divorce and remarriage for Christians, part 3: The full freedom to remarry

This is a three-part series about divorce and remarriage for Christians. I write from my background in Restoration Movement churches, which look to the Bible as the source for Christian authority. Part 1 explains in more detail.

In part 2 I explained why I think adultery, addiction, abuse, and abandonment — the four As — are all sins that can end a marriage, and that in those cases the act of divorce is merely a legal matter that ends the union’s legal benefits.

The next question is, when someone is divorced, are they allowed to remarry in God’s eyes? I say yes, under all circumstances.

Bibles in the pews

Many Christians say no, except under one circumstance. They interpret the Bible to say that only someone who divorces their partner for adultery may remarry. When my first wife and I were married, we were members of a Church of Christ congregation that held that belief. My wife had been married before. When the elders of that church found out about the circumstances of her divorce, they judged it to be un-Biblical and invalid. In God’s eyes, they said, she was still married to her previous husband — and our marriage was not valid before God.

Those elders believed that if you were divorced for an un-Biblical reason, you lived in a state of sin. The only way to end that state of sin was to return to the marriage they believed God still saw as valid. If you weren’t willing to do that, you were expected to live in celibacy.

I know of no sin that persists. You lied to your partner. You stole something from the store. You had sex with someone you weren’t married to. You embezzled funds. You murdered someone. When those acts are done, the sin has been committed. Its effects persist, but the sin itself is in the past.

Even living with someone you’re not married to isn’t a state of sin. Living together is not wise, as the temptation for sex will be be nearly impossible to resist. It’s the sex in cohabitation that is a sin — a thing that happens for a time and then is over.

You may be divorced because you or your partner destroyed your marriage through the sin of one or more of the four As: adultery, abuse, addiction, or abandonment. You may be divorced for some other reason, making the act of divorce the sin. Regardless, the marriage is over. The sin has been committed and you are divorced.

God loves it when we make amends for our sins. It sets back to right some of the damage we caused. A great way to make amends for the sin of destroying a marriage is to repent and reconcile, and then remarry your ex. But God does not require it. Moreover, if your ex-partner committed one of the four As against you and remains unrepentant, I can’t see how God, who loves you and wishes you not to come to harm, would want you to return to that partner. Your ex would still not be able to keep a vow of love to you and therefore honor a new marriage covenant. Finally, if some time has passed since your divorce and you have remarried, but then your previous partner repents and wishes to reconcile, you remain divorced from that partner and married to your current partner.

Broken marriage covenants and divorces grieve God. He still wants our marriages to last for life. He hopes that when we sin against our partner, even egregiously, that we repent, receive forgiveness, reconcile, and remain married. However, I believe he recognizes that marriages can and do end in divorce, and honors our next marriages should we have them.

I do not pretend to be an expert in these matters. I’m a sinner who tries to follow Jesus as best I can. Moreover, I write from my perspective as a Restoration Movement Christian (Christian Churches, Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ), whose beliefs may differ greatly from those of your branch of Christianity. I welcome reasonable discussion that might open my mind to arguments I have overlooked and facts I am missing. I welcome your comments on these posts especially if you have a different Christian background from me. I will enjoy hearing your perspective and learning from you. However, I want to remind you of my comment policy — let’s keep it pleasant, eh?

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!


On divorce and remarriage for Christians, part 2: The four As of divorce

This is a three-part series about divorce and remarriage for Christians. I write from my background in Restoration Movement churches, which look to the Bible as the source for Christian authority. Part 1 explains in more detail.

My faith tradition teaches that divorce is a sin, and is allowed only for adultery. But as I’ve studied it and sought God on it, I think that the sin that ends a marriage is sometimes not the act of divorce itself. Certain sins can destroy a marriage; adultery is one of them. After a such a sin ends a marriage, the act of divorce is a step that recognizes that the marriage is already over, and dissolves it in the eyes of the state.

Marriage is a covenant relationship in which we vow before God that we will love, honor, and cherish each other until one of us dies.

Some Christian groups, including many if not most Restoration Movement churches, believe that the marriage covenant is unconditional and permanent. The exception for adultery is only because of “the hardness of our hearts,” as Jesus said in Matthew 19:8.

Belleek ring holder

A covenant is like a contract in that it is an agreement between two parties. If you do this, I’ll do that, and vice versa. But a contract is a transactional exchange with protections for the parties should either one not live up to their end of the agreement. The parties are assumed to be on opposite sides. A covenant, however, is relational. It places the parties on the same side. Both parties agree to keep the covenant even when it’s not convenient, when another arrangement might be better, or when one of the parties isn’t living up to their end of the agreement.

The marriage covenant’s condition, the vow we make on our wedding day, is love. Each partner fulfills the covenant by behaving in loving ways toward the other.

It is through this, by the way, that marriage has the effect of sanctifying us and making us holy. Sticking with your partner through the difficulties inherent in relationship will stretch and grow our minds and spirits. It makes us more mature and equips us better for God’s service.

Even then, because covenants have conditions, they can be broken. All of God’s covenants with his people had conditions and could be broken. One of the earliest of God’s covenants was that Abraham and his descendants would be God’s people. A condition was that all males must be circumcised. Verses 10 and 14 of Genesis 10 say that an uncircumcised male did not fulfill that condition broke the covenant and was not one of God’s people. Later, in Exodus 19:5, God promised Abraham’s descendants that they would be his people if they listened to his voice; that is, if they obeyed him. Anyone who disobeyed God broke the covenant and was not one of his people.

God won’t break his conditions. He keeps his promises, always and perfectly. But God knows our sinfulness. We can and do break the conditions of his covenants with us. But critically, he is fast — he is eager — to forgive us and restore us to his covenants when we repent; that is, with regret and humility return to fulfilling the covenant’s conditions.

The marriage covenant works the same way. A marriage covenant is not automatically null and void the first minute we fail to love our partner or our partner fails to love us. God asks us to forgive each other liberally, as he forgives us liberally.

Some Christians think that the marriage covenant is different because of what Jesus said in Matthew 19:6 about marriage: what God has joined let no man separate. They interpret this to mean that because God has joined them, it’s impossible to separate them. Rather, this is more of a plea: God has joined them, so please, don’t separate them! Either partner absolutely can fail to live up to the covenant and thus cause separation.

All of us who have been or are married have at times acted in unloving ways toward our partners. We unintentionally hurt each other. Sometimes we act out of our weaknesses and broken places and do damage to our relationship. Some of us have made huge mistakes, egregious acts that brought our marriages to the brink. In love, we try hard not to keep doing those things because we know they’re hurtful and destructive. In other words, we repent. In time, our partner forgives us and we reconcile. Repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation are essential for marriages to endure.

Sometimes, a partner doing something egregious won’t repent. Sometimes, egregiously unloving behaviors do so much damage that they shatter trust beyond repair. God has infinite patience and can endure anything. He will wait for us to repent right up until the day we die. But we humans aren’t so perfect. We can’t bear everything. There comes a point where we can’t take it anymore that our partner keeps egregiously mistreating us. Some sins against us are so bad that we’re not able to recover, and we can’t reconcile. I wrote about this at length in this article about forgiveness and this article about reconciliation.

When we marry, we say it is “for better or for worse.” This does not mean that if our partner keeps egregiously mistreating us we must suffer it for the rest of our lives. Rather, “for worse” speaks of external forces that stress or harm our marriage. The man loses his job and despite best efforts remains unemployed for a year? Covenant remains. The house burns down and everything is lost? Covenant remains. The wife is badly injured in an accident and will never walk again? Covenant remains.

The forces that break the covenant are egregiously unloving behaviors that come from within the marriage. I know of four, and all of these sins begin with the letter A: adultery, abuse, addiction, and abandonment.

Adultery is certainly on that list as the Bible calls it out specifically, and it destroys the core trust and intimacy of a marriage.

Abuse of any kind — physical, emotional, sexual — is on the list because it is one partner inflicting grave, direct harm that demeans and devalues the other’s very humanity.

Addiction is on the list because it places the object of addiction ahead of the spouse (and even of God) and because it creates intense harm in the home and in the relationship.

Abandonment is on the list because it is one partner’s choice to walk away from the other — to no longer participate in the relationship.

All of these four As inflict incredible pain and damage, destroy trust, and leave the partners’ lives in a shambles. There may be more sins that can destroy marriages, for all I know, but I know of these four.

My favorite sippin' glass

We’re imperfect people. The evening cocktail ritual can turn into dependence. One of the partners can find themselves drawn away by someone outside the marriage and have an affair. In the heat of an argument or in a fit of anger, one of the partners can inflict abuse. A partner can stop coming home — or even while home, fully withdraw. Sometimes, these things keep happening. Marriages can often survive these things and thrive again. It’s hard, but possible. God loves it when marriages so troubled are restored!

At the same time, God does not want us to keep presenting ourselves for bad treatment from others. Even though you are as ordinary as a grain of sand on the beach, you are still of infinite worth to God. He loves you and it pains him to see you harmed. If you are in a relationship where you are regularly harmed and your partner won’t repent, God wants better for you. God also knows that in some extreme cases, we humans can simply be too badly hurt and damaged to continue in a marriage.

Under these circumstances, the broken covenant means that marriage has already ended. A divorce is then just a legal action that dissolves the union in the eyes of the state, and removes any state-sanctioned benefits of the marriage. In such cases, the act of divorce was not the sin. The behavior that broke the covenant was.

In my final post in this series, I’ll explain why I think that after you’re divorced for any reason, you are free to remarry.

I do not pretend to be an expert in these matters. I’m a sinner who tries to follow Jesus as best I can. Moreover, I write from my perspective as a Restoration Movement Christian (Christian Churches, Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ), whose beliefs may differ greatly from those of your branch of Christianity. I welcome reasonable discussion that might open my mind to arguments I have overlooked and facts I am missing. I welcome your comments on these posts especially if you have a different Christian background from me. I will enjoy hearing your perspective and learning from you. However, I want to remind you of my comment policy — let’s keep it pleasant, eh?

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!


On divorce and remarriage for Christians, part 1: Introduction and background

I’m going to take a big risk and write about divorce and remarriage among Christians.

This a touchy topic because not only because it gets at the core of our personal lives, but also because the various branches of Christianity don’t all agree on what to believe and practice here.

Wedding day of the second marriage for both of us

My Christian foundation is in churches of the Restoration Movement — the Christian Churches, the Churches of Christ, and the Disciples of Christ. I know little about Catholicism or Presbyterianism or Seventh-Day Adventism or any other Christian -ism beyond what I can research on the Internet.

If you’re not in the Restoration Movement, it might help you to understand that like evangelicals and fundamentalists, our churches look to the Bible as the sole source of Christian authority. Our churches are autonomous; there is no central organization that normalizes our beliefs. Because of our common roots most of our congregations’ beliefs align, but you’ll find some differences from congregation to congregation.

Our churches believe that divorce is a sin, and is allowed only for adultery. Some go so far as to say that God does not recognize a divorce except for adultery — you are still married in God’s eyes. Therefore, if you remarry, it is a sin and God does not recognize that marriage. On the other hand, some of our churches accept divorce and remarriage. Some even encourage and embrace remarriage.

I care about this topic because I’m divorced and remarried. Neither my first wife nor I committed adultery. Rather, abuse and addiction destroyed trust and safety in the relationship, and damaged us past our ability to stay together. After a long time I met a woman who I came to love and believed would be a wonderful partner and companion for the rest of my life, and I married her.

I’ve studied divorce and remarriage and sought out God on it over the years and my thinking on it has evolved. I remain open to learning more and changing my thinking as necessary as I continue to build my relationship with God, gain more wisdom through living, and study my Bible. But I want to talk about what I believe today, which is: God very much wants us to marry in lifelong loving relationships, sin is always involved when a marriage ends, and divorce pains him greatly. But there are allowable reasons for divorce beyond adultery, and remarriage is allowed after any divorce.

I will explain my reasoning in posts over the next two Tuesdays. Let me emphasize that this is what I believe today based on my study and prayer, within the context of my particular Christian background. If you’re a Christian from a different background, what I will share with you may sound alien and wrong. That’s okay; I’m not here to change your mind. I just want to share my position and reasoning.

I do not pretend to be an expert in these matters. I’m a sinner who tries to follow Jesus as best I can. I welcome reasonable discussion that might open my mind to arguments I have overlooked and facts I am missing. I welcome your comments on these posts especially if you have a different Christian faith background from me. I will enjoy hearing your perspective and learning from you. However, I want to remind you of my comment policy — let’s keep it pleasant, eh?

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!


Christians need to attract people to our faith, not force people to live by our values

Aaron Renn writes about Christianity in the United States as it relates to American society. His position is that Christianity has been in a slow decline in the United States for more than 50 years, and that Christians have lately lost their cultural dominance and in that way are now a minority. The Christian worldview and values are no longer mainstream, he says; our society is increasingly hostile to traditional Christian values.

Lately I’ve tried out this viewpoint as a lens through which to view the world. It’s been illuminating.

In Aaron’s July newsletter he remarks that because we are a minority now, we should start to act like one. But because we were the majority for so long, we have little idea how to do that. He believes we can learn from historical American minorities such as African Americans and Jews. We can even learn from Catholics, who have been a minority within American Christianity. These groups have historically done concrete things to sustain their communities and uphold their values. He urges Christians to do the same kinds of things so we can hold fast to what we hold dear in a world that woos us away.

Church event
Christians in community

There are arguments on both sides of whether the United States was founded as a Christian nation. Either way, we have functioned as a nation whose way of life was strongly informed by Christianity and Judeo-Christian values. As a result, it has felt like we were a Christian nation.

But now with Christians in the minority, values incompatible with classic Christianity are becoming mainstream. I think this is causing a lot of confusion, fear, and anger among many American Christians. We feel alien in a land we still think of as ours.

This is driving some Christians to fight for our worldview and values. They speak stridently about it, and they organize politically to try to make sure they endure, and restore them where they’ve eroded.

I think we should back off.

We Christians were are not here to win. We are not meant to force non-Christians to live up to Christian values no matter how much we are convinced our values are right. Andy Stanley, a pastor of a megachurch in the Atlanta area, preached a two-sermon series about this in May this year that was really good. Watch it here.

As I’ve written before, it’s not a Christian’s job to tell any non-Christian how to live. As I wrote then:

The Christian has three major jobs:

  1. Be the conduit for God’s love into the world
  2. Introduce people to God through Jesus Christ
  3. Encourage other Christians to become better disciples

There’s so much work to do in just these three jobs that we should be too busy to pronounce condemnation on anyone*. There will never be a shortage of people in need: sick, poor, addicted, grieving, lonely, incarcerated. Go and do for them.

* Or insist that they adopt our values and live according to them.

Christianity is meant to be a faith of attraction — we attract people to our faith through giving our witness and doing good and helpful things for people in God’s name. These things express our values and worldview in a compelling way because it shows that we are living them. That makes people curious and draws them in. It is here that we can begin to share why we hold these values, which leads us to sharing the Gospel. Those whose hearts are ready will join us. And that’s the thing God wants to win — hearts, because that’s the beginning of securing their souls.

When we insist that others live our values, especially by forcing them through legislation, we drive people away from the faith. We need to cut it out right now.


How you live your faith can change with time

If you look at my writing about my faith you’ll see a recurring theme: I’m trying to figure out how to express it in the way I live my life. I want my faith to be far more than just going to church, reading my Bible, and praying. Those things are necessary, but far from sufficient.

Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” And James 2:17 says, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” From these passages I conclude that I need to be doing good, loving things in the world. This is not about earning my salvation, as it was a gift freely given. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rather, this is about responding gratefully to that salvation and the enduring love that God expressed through it.

But what would that look like?

When I was a new Christian, I began by serving in my church. I used my technical skills to build a Web site for the church I attended then. I passed out communion and counted the offering. Eventually I taught Bible study to preteens, and later to senior citizens. But that wasn’t exactly doing loving works in the world.

One day while driving I saw someone pulled over with some sort of car trouble. I had the time, so I stopped. Turned out they had a flat tire, but had never put on a spare before and didn’t know what to do. I did it for them.

Then I said to God, “Maybe this is something I can do in the world. If you send me more flat tires, I will stop and help.”

I changed a dozen flats over the next year or so. I just kept coming across people with them.

Then one day I couldn’t be late. Sure enough, I came upon someone pulled over, struggling to pull their spare out of the trunk. I passed them by. It has been easily 20 years since that day, and I’ve never come upon another motorist with a flat tire.

I learned a couple key lessons. First, if you aren’t doing the work God puts in front of you, he’ll give it to someone else. Also, all ministries end.

In 2004, just as my first wife told me she wanted a separation, I was asked to go on a mission trip to Mexico. I went because it would be a new experience in serving God, but also because the trip would let me set aside my sadness and anger for a while.

The trip was to Piedras Negras, a town on the Texas border in the state of Coahuila. A flood had wiped out a number of houses, and we were one of several successive crews who were building new houses for people there. I knew nothing about construction so I was taught to apply stucco, and then with a small crew stuccoed a just-built house. I have one photograph of me doing this work, shown here.

The people in that neighborhood were trying hard to come back from staggering loss. And here we were just giving time and effort to try to restore some of the people there to normal life. This was doing loving works in the world.

I went back to Piedras Negras the next two years. In 2005 I built teacher’s desks for a preschool, and in 2006 I installed computers in that same preschool. (To read much more about these three mission trips, click here.) Each year, I came home feeling like I’d really lived out what I believed God was calling his people to do — go out into the world and help meet their needs, in the name of love and in the name of God.

But surely, I wondered, I didn’t have to go to some distant place to do this. Were there not people in need everywhere? Couldn’t I do this right where I lived?

It was at about this time I was asked to become an elder in my church. In my faith tradition, elders are the church’s leaders. (They’re supposed to be, anyway — in my faith tradition we’re seeing more and more pastor-led churches.) I quickly learned that the church was in dire financial straits, as the offering didn’t cover expenses and our reserve was spent. We were plunged into the intensely stressful work of trying to save our congregation from extinction. We managed to sell the building and with the proceeds begin building a much smaller one on a new site. I chronicled the whole thing in these posts; when you click that link, scroll to the bottom and read the posts in reverse order.

I thought being an elder would be much more about caring for the spiritual and physical needs of our congregation than it actually turned out to be. Primarily, it turned out to be about figuring out how to pay bills, sell a large church building, secure temporary worship space, purchase land, and negotiate construction contracts. The main area of caring we attended to was to guide a grieving congregation through the loss of not just a building, but of land that had belonged to the church for 170 years.

Occasionally, a family in deep need would find us, and we’d try to help them. It usually led to us letting them live in a house the church owned. This always blew up in our faces, and we learned some lessons from that that I ought to write about someday.

But the congregation almost never came to us with their needs so that we could walk alongside them in love and service. I think this is in part a failure of we elders to create the deep trust and safety that would have enabled them to do so. This is hard work that requires constant maintenance. We were so consumed with our immediate practical problems that we couldn’t devote the energy to it. But our members were of at least middle-class means and had the resources to take care of their problems on their own.

Before we finished building our new building it became clear that I should move on from that church, which I wrote about here. In time I landed at an urban church in a severely disadvantaged Indianapolis neighborhood. I had known the pastor there for years. I went just to visit, but felt so welcomed that I stayed. Soon I saw that this could be the very situation I had been looking for.

People in poverty, I learned, are very willing to tell you just what’s going on in their lives, and to ask for help. They all have challenging circumstances. One stroke of bad luck, such as their beater car breaking down, or an illness that makes them miss work for a week, can throw their entire lives into disarray.

There was plenty to do for them. Some things were obvious, such as running a food and clothing pantry out of the church. We also connected our people to social services, helping them find the right ones and guiding them through the complicated and confusing approval processes.

There were also plenty of spot needs to meet – paying a bill so the electric didn’t get turned off, filling up a gas tank so someone could get to an interview, buying a few days of groceries for a family out of food until the next paycheck. Sometimes the church paid for these things, sometimes we did it out of our own pockets.


We also listened to them talk about their troubles. So often their relationships were unhealthy, and they had nobody they could really trust to talk things out with. Most of the time, just listening to them with compassion was all they needed. Knowing that we’d keep it confidential really helped them open up. Occasionally we had some wisdom and experience to share that helped them navigate whatever they were facing.

But it all wasn’t enough. The congregation’s troubles were never ending. And then the church itself ran into troubles. Our offering was covering expenses, but then the pandemic hit and the offering fell off dramatically. We burned through savings at a frightening rate.

But more than that, we elders were running on fumes. We were reeling from the failure of a daycare we had started (I touched on that here), and from the exit of a pastor we had hired who turned out not to be the right fit for us. We elders took turns preaching for several months, until we got connected to a preacher who had a regular job but was willing to preach for us on a freelance basis.

In the end, we went looking for a larger church or parachurch organization that was well funded, aligned with our beliefs, had urban mission on their mind, and would be willing to take over. We finally found one, a church that wanted to operate a satellite location, or plant a new church, in the inner city. As we finalized the details to transfer our property to them, I decided to exit, as I was burned out. Also, as my wife and I had talked it over, it had become clear to us that for me to be a truly effective elder, we would need to live in that church’s neighborhood. I have never really wanted to do that, and thankfully I wasn’t feeling called to it.

My life had changed radically since I joined that church. I had been a divorced dad when I started, with time on my hands for the church — my kids were with their mom half the time. I had since become a married man again taking on four additional children. Most of our seven kids were in their late teens and early 20s, all trying to launch into independent adulthood. A few of them were struggling with the transition and were leaning on us. We also had parents near the end of their lives who needed our help. It was clear to me that my family needed my time and energy now.

And so that’s where I am and what I’m doing. Margaret and I are attending a church in our faith tradition that’s a few minutes’ drive from our home. The teaching is good. We’re making easy connections with people there because Margaret has lived in this community for a long time and knows lots of people.

I still have a heart for the urban mission. But I don’t know whether my time with that is over, or it’s just on hiatus.

I am trying to be open to what God wants us to do, when the time comes. Until then, while I focus on my family I am also focusing on refreshing my faith. My service at my last church was exhausting and, frankly, at the end of it I felt distanced from God. This is a good time to get back to the fundamentals — attending worship, prayer, reading my Bible. These very things that I earlier called necessary but not sufficient will reestablish that connection.

Then I’ll be open to following the paths that God seems to be lighting in my life, wherever they may lead.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!

COVID-19, Faith

Church homeless

I haven’t set foot into my church since early March of last year, just before Indiana locked down for the pandemic. That level of lockdown ended after several weeks, and West Park Christian Church decided to reopen last July.


It was challenging to arrive at that decision. Some of our elders wanted to open sooner, saying that we shouldn’t live in fear, and that us staying closed was starving our members of Christian community.

I took offense to the first point — it’s prudent, not fearful, to avoid a disease that can kill you, or leave you with chronic health difficulties, or at least lay you up for a solid two weeks while it has its way with you. God won’t protect us from it simply because we gather to worship him. Anyone who thinks so has a gross misunderstanding of faith and the nature of God.

I conceded the second point. I’ll come back to that in a minute.

Other elders, including me, took the position that our first duty is to keep our congregation healthy, especially given how many of them are elderly or have health conditions that put them at serious COVID risk. I wasn’t eager to stand before God one day explaining the people who suffered or died because I voted to open too soon.

We reached a compromise: we would ask at-risk people to stay away, require masks for all who enter, and alter the service to limit physical proximity. I’m naturally drawn to compromise so I said yes, but soon after I felt a regret I’ve never shaken.

Margaret and I have not been willing to expose ourselves to COVID risk, so we’ve stayed away. Most Sunday mornings we take in the services of North Point Community Church on our TV via our Roku. We both value the teaching of North Point pastor Andy Stanley; even before this, we often listened to his sermons on long car trips.

But a sermon is not the complete church experience, and it is not the main reason to attend church. We go to church to be a part of a community where we can encourage each other in the faith. Hebrews 10:24-25 lay it out very well:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.

West Park CC Sanctuary

Sure, a sermon is part of the worship experience. So is singing, and praying, and giving — other Scripture provides for all of these practices. But the point of these verses in Hebrews is that we’re meant to be Christians in community. This is a faith we do with others, if for no other reason than we can help each other stay with it and keep growing in it. Classically, we find Christian community in church.

That’s what’s been missing for Margaret and me as we’ve watched Andy Stanley preach every week. I can’t write with certainty about Margaret’s experience, but I can about mine: I feel increasingly isolated in my faith. I’ve lost feeling connected to fellow Christians. In parallel, the habits of my faith have fallen off, or feel increasingly stale. I don’t pray as often. I’m not in the Bible as much, and when I do study it, the words often fail to connect with me. And I’m not doing very much that expresses my faith. My faith is action-oriented: what mission am I on and what am I doing to move that in service to him is critically important. I’m not doing anything related to God’s mission right now. Margaret and I have our hands full holding things together with some family challenges during a time when everything is more difficult anyway.

For a long time, I believed that God wanted me to be a part of my church’s urban mission. We did our best to meet our neighbors, most of whom know the problems of poverty, lift them up as best we could, and introduce them to Jesus. My ability to organize and run things helped my church execute on its mission more effectively.

Since the pandemic, I’ve become disconnected from that mission. What is right in front of me is my family, whose spiritual needs have been underserved and often unmet for months now. I feel compelled to give all of my attention to us.

It’s become clear to me over the last couple years that my church’s leaders need to live in its neighborhood. People like me who don’t live there just can’t be fully involved, and full involvement is needed. We live a good 30 minutes away. And we don’t feel at all led to move there.

Moreover, as an elder it’s my duty to minister to our people. But I and my family need ministering. We’re out of spiritual gas.

I think that my time at West Park is coming to an end. Margaret and I agree that when we think it’s safe for us to return to in-person worship, that we will choose a church together. (I was at West Park long before we met, and she is technically still a member at the megachurch she attended with her children for nearly 20 years.) We want to find a community of Christians where we can make friends and find mutual encouragement in life and in the faith.

As we contemplate and (soon) search for a new church home, we feel church homeless.