Two nights ago my roommate, Anna, came into my bathroom while I was brushing my teeth and announced that she was taking a long break from Connect, our Thursday night young adults group. Standing there in my pajamas, I felt panicky and sad—we met at Connect, and it's always been a good time for us and our other close friends to be together. Plus, more church is always a good thing . . . and less church is always a bad thing. Right?
I asked why she was making that decision—except I still had my toothbrush in my mouth, so it was more like, "Eye are ooh baking dat debidon ?"
"Well," she began, "you know how every now and then, I rock climb on Thursday nights instead?"
"Yeth." I still had toothpaste in my mouth.
"It's just . . . been really good. I met a group of people who climb together. And I finally have one night a week where I spend time with nonChristians. I talk to them about my faith—and I have to know what I'm defending. So I've been reading my Bible more. I think I forgot how important it was not to be with Christians all the time. I mean, you and I lead Bible study together on Tuesdays, I go to church on Sundays, and lead junior high students on Sunday afternoons. I spend all my free time with our Christian friends. I just need one night where I'm not surrounded. One night where I'm challenged instead."
I was surprised. A little worried too. I've had friends decide to spend more time "in the world," and as a result they've ended up subtly slipping away from their faith altogether. But as her words sank in, it dawned on me that this could be a wise decision. As a matter of fact, it was convicting. What Anna said rang true for me too. I feel as though I've spent the last few years playing house with my faith. No danger. No effort. No real change.
Anna and I also have similarly church-filled schedules. On Sundays I'm at church all day. On Mondays I have movie night with my Christian friends. On Tuesdays my small group comes over to my place. On Wednesdays I'm discipled. On Thursdays I attend the young adults group. And every other Friday I co-lead worship for the over 40 singles ministry.
On top of all this, we live in the Jesus capital of suburbia, Illinois—a Christian college town. I drive behind minivans that have Jesus-fish glued to their behinds. The stores have cleverly disguised Bible references in their names, such as Icthus Photography. I'm sitting in a Starbucks right now, and I can hear three conversations taking place out different Christian organizations and churches. There are several men sporting the "seminary goatee" (am I the only one who has noticed that trend?) within eight feet of me and my latte.
Oh, and I work at a Christian nonprofit organization.
What scares me is this: If someone asked me why I spend my Tuesdays and Fridays serving for church, my dry reply would be, "Because that's what I do on Tuesdays and Fridays." Something's not right here.
With all the Jesus love that surrounds me, you'd think I'd have the spiritual life of Billy Graham. But I've found that the busier I am with church events and Christian "activities," the less time I have for God. And the less hunger I have for his Word. I've been frustrated recently with how surface-y my relationship with Christ has become.
Growing up I attended public school. I was surrounded by people who didn't know that Jesus had died for them. These friends challenged me and asked me why I prayed, what my church was like, and why I never drank on the weekends. They also asked me why I seemed different from them. Their questions made me grateful for my faith, and made me want to explore and enjoy my relationship with Christ more and more. I loved my lost friends, and the conversations we had about faith always left me feeling excited and alive. Witnessing to them, both with words and with good friendship, was what I lived for. It's a beautiful thing to be the vehicle God uses to draw people to him .
But since high school, the scale has shifted further and further in the direction of "church folk." The kinds of conversations I once had with secular friends are nothing more than nostalgia. I'm all but completely removed from that. I live 40 minutes from Chicago, a city with millions of lost people, all of them searching. And I know none of them.
I think I need a little less "church" and a little more "world" in my life.
It's a dangerous decision. I don't want to wander out and lose myself, as several of my friends have. And I'm certainly not giving up on church or my much needed Christian friends and church family who act as my encouragers and accountability partners. But in my anxious fear of becoming another 20somethings leaver, I've spent years simply hiding out. I've become spoiled, fat, lazy, burned out, apathetic, and scared.
Anna's words were a wakeup call. They made me recognize just how out of hand things have become.
I'm going to step back and start building friendships with those who are still wandering: the lost, the prodigals, and the hopeless. I can no longer surround myself with only believers—while it is a good way to have my faith spoon-fed to me, it is doing nothing for the Kingdom. And I don't think this change will be as scary as it seems. After all, God never asks us to have a faith that can't stand up to the world he created.
Do you think it's healthy to (at times) step back from becoming too involved in the church? From spending time with other believers, even? Is it wise to do so? Do you have any advice?