By Brittney Westin —
If you’ve been a faithful reader of the blog ministry of Redeemer, you may have noticed that we haven’t had a new one since August. As the editor, that falls on me. While I realize nobody is casting blame or even asking for an explanation, I feel one would be healthy for me to give and is actually the inspiration for this (finally!) new blog entry. You see, for a while now, I’ve struggled with church. I first started noticing it last spring but really felt the shift in my emotions over the summer. Because I’m naturally a very introspective person, I don’t like to go too long without assessing why I’m feeling (or not feeling) a certain way.
And so, through prayer and self-reflection, I came to understand why I was struggling and what, exactly, the struggle was. I’ll begin with the latter. The struggle was in feeling like a newcomer within my own church of over a decade. Over five years ago, our church went through a major and traumatic challenge with the sudden dismissal of one of our pastors due to what the evangelical world unfortunately now has a name for: a moral failure. This caught most of us by surprise although the seeds of this sinfulness were deep and widespread; I doubt very much that there was a soul from Redeemer untouched by this tragedy. Thus, our church began a season of mourning which led, in time, to a season of healing. But this healing process has been marked with more loss and sadness of its own as we’ve seen (in my mind) virtually all the former members of our church leave. While I know that each person has his or her own reasons for leaving, many of which are completely understandable, to lose a member for any reason is still a loss. To lose many transforms the makeup of the church.
Suffice it to say, I began to look around and know very few faces within my own church family. While I logically knew this to be a blessing from God and part of His healing plan for Redeemer, emotionally it has been very difficult. This answers the question of why I was struggling: I had to start over getting to know people. As I saw it, I had already put in the hard work of forming friendships. I had already put myself out there, already spent time going to the things and doing the stuff. In other words, I had put in my dues and now I should be reaping the benefits of a church environment full of friends and comfort. But that was not the case and as a result, I began to withdraw.
As He often does with His children, God will allow us to go places for a season to teach us truths that will ultimately grow and change us to be more like His son. Often times (but not always) that season will last only as long as I wallow in it (Psalm 30:5). But even as I wallow, He refuses to leave my side and pulls me gently, incrementally, to a place of emotional healing and stability (Psalm 40:2). My job in this is to acknowledge the state I’m in and to grab ahold of Him. Once I’ve done that, even in my incredible weakness and inability, He begins to pull and I begin to ascend.
As I’ve been slowly dealing with my emotions surrounding church, I was reminded of a quote from Martyn Lloyd-Jones: “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?” And so, I began making a list of everything I knew to be true of Redeemer, everything I loved, as a way of talking to myself and not just listening to the way I felt. I’d like to share my list with you:
What I Love About Redeemer
The word of God is honored, upheld, and taught week after week, even if it steps on toes or rubs someone the wrong way. God’s word is never compromised.
Our little band of faithful warriors who meet together to study and pray on Tuesday mornings. We are few but we are faithful and are one connection that has been so dear to my soul from the time I began attending RBC eleven years ago.
The genuineness of the people. With most I’ve met, what you see is what you get and it’s comforting. There’s no pretense there, just real people who love God.
The joy of rediscovering old relationships. I’ve recently been reminded of what gems people like Tammy and Evedna are, and I wonder if this would have happened if I were still completely comfortable.
The way Pastor Jason loves his wife, Karen. I’ve been attached now to the moral downfall of three area pastors. I’m so grateful that my pastor loves and honors his wife publicly.
Our leadership who has walked our church through some seriously murky waters. The way they have handled attacks from outside the church has been a model of grace.
Jason and Christa Harrison. I didn’t know it then, but I grew up with a youth pastor who wasn’t a Christian and only became one through His ministry to us, the youth. That I know these two people are solid lovers of the Lord and lovers of my kids is a blessing I can’t explain.
Our youth. When my oldest first started attending youth group, I was astonished that it didn’t seem to be cliquish. They all just melded together which is pretty amazing.
The wealth of talent and biblical knowledge from the women of Redeemer. From Betty, to Patti, to Michelle, I’ve sat under and learned from some gifted teachers who have poured hours upon hours of themselves into study partly for my benefit.
My lifegroup. Andrea and Sara have loved me through some seriously ugly admissions. Never once have I felt judgment, only true love that I am extremely grateful for.
The way our church loved Mary and Jocelyn into eternity.
The fact that we allow time during a Sunday morning service for both baptisms and the welcoming of new members into our fellowship says a lot about the importance of both.
Children are welcomed and encouraged to participate in service with us and can also be dedicated publicly to the Lord. It wasn’t always the case where importance was given to the smallest among us. Thank the Lord for that change.
It may sound trite, but the size of Redeemer. We’ve never made numbers the endgame and I’m grateful I can’t hide in obscurity when I’m feeling low.
This blog and its writers. I’ve learned so much from some very gifted writers within our body: Josh has helped me with the fear and pain of loss, Mike has helped me see the importance of God’s glory, Andy has helped me see the beauty in unexpectedness, Elaine has set before me practical ways to love people. There is much more I could say here.
The more I wrote (the more I “talked to myself”) the more I realized the treasure that is Redeemer Bible Church. It’s true, we’ve been through some hard stuff that most of the current congregation hasn’t felt firsthand. It’s true that the makeup of the church has dramatically changed within a relatively short amount of time. But it’s also true that the church is Christ’s bride and He has sought to both renew and strengthen us (Isaiah 40:31). And I’m a part of that, so I need to hang on because I will be pulled onto solid ground again. This church is my faith family and, like any family, there will be death and sorrow, weeping and mourning. But there will also be life and joy, singing and dancing. And we, the old and the new, will experience it all together.