What a big, messy, adoptive family needs from a church

Sometimes I'm afraid we've withdrawn too much from our grace account, that we've required too much support, or been loved more than we deserve already.

Time and time again my little family has been served and loved.

When you begin to live in  community with a group of people who genuinely love God and love people "church" becomes more to you than something on your weekly "to-do" list, or a place you go to worship.

The Church is people.

It is the redeemed people of God from the remotest corners of the world, from every tongue, tribe, and nation.  Regardless of where they are we are one big extended family.

On a local level "the church" is more intimate community.
We all need, as Christians, a local church to be plugged into.  We were created for community.

The local church for us, has been a lifeline these last couple years.

God used our community to walk through our recent adoptions with us,
to encourage us when we were despairing,
to challenge us when we grew apathetic,
to guide us when we needed wisdom,
and to correct us when we start to forget who we are in Christ.

They have reminded us what it is to be loved and served by such a generous God, so we can continue to love and serve others.

We aren't a family every church would appreciate.  We take up space, we're noisy, kind of messy and lately we've been pretty needy. We embrace chaos, leave a trail, and can't seem to get our act together.  Not even long enough to put on a good show for Sunday morning.

We come with special needs, hyper kids, sketchy attitudes, and stubborn sins.  Parenting is hard, special needs parenting is relentless, adoption is utterly draining, and the redemptive work that goes on in my living room is both incredible and terrifying.

The very nature of our family has the potential to make people feel uncomfortable, and I believe it is a rare thing for a church to be able to fully embrace that.  Keeping us at arms length, would be cleaner, easier to calculate, and less challenging.

 My kids have been known to show up at our Sunday morning gathering with patched jeans, mismatched socks, and bedhead.  My three year old has been known to run around wearing a tu-tu and fairy wings but we're there.  With bells on.  God knows we try but "put together" is sometimes just beyond the realm of possibility when we leave the house at 8a.m.

 The best part is no one cares how "put together" we seem, because they love us.
They see us with Jesus' eyes and we've got no one to impress.

We drive for an hour and a half each way to meet together with our church every Sunday because we love them.  We don't only go to be served and to drink from the gospel fire hose (which we are and we do) but we go also to serve, encourage, and welcome new people because it's not about us, our preferences and "our needs".  Not a bit.  There's something bigger and more transformative happening here.  It has everything to do with God's glory and nothing to do with ours.

When you get a whole group of people together who know that this mission is not about them, their preferences, their glory, and their needs, people are freed to truly serve each other and it's amazing to witness how those needs just naturally get met.

So, just when I think that we've been too needy already,
required too much grace,
needed too much support,
and taken too much patience
Jesus' people show up and prove to us once again that God's grace just doesn't run dry.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and tell you exactly what a family with young kids, adopted kids, foster kids, and kids with "special needs", need from a church.

It is not a flawless performance,
a long lists of programs,
a coffee shop in an impressive library,
or a wide variety of family based ministries,
but rather a church that keeps it's eyes on Jesus and his mission. Those things can be useful and nice but they aren't the main thing.

We need a church that is being what Jesus designed the Church to be.   A place we can be real with our struggles, our scars, and our fears, knowing that we are loved enough for people to speak truth into our lives, even truth that's hard to hear sometimes.

 Families like mine (the big messy ones with lots of kids)  need a "village" that is so saturated with the gospel,
so well fed,
so Holy Spirit empowered,
so committed to living in genuine community,
so intentionally discipled and living under the authority of the Word of God that they can't help but leak all that love, humility, gratitude, mercy, boldness, and grace all over each other's lives.

That, my friends, is the church that we need.

Living in community is messy, it requires effort, it is refining and sanctifying but it is a beautiful thing when people (who are so diverse that if it weren't for this ragtag little family called the Church would probably not even know each other) love each other deeply and sacrificially.

So when you hear the word "church"
I wish you could see what I see, the view from here.
I want you to know that we don't have to do this faith journey alone, in fact we're not supposed to do it alone.

For all the meals that have filled my freezer,
for all the offers of childcare during difficult times,
for every time a college student has taken time to sit and hear the stories of a 10 year old boy,
for every time a "grandma" has encouraged me, and reminded me how much my rowdy kids are loved,
for every time that our pastors have shown up to support, encourage, and make each one of my kids feel like they are valued,
for every time my oldest daughter is complimented, encouraged, and mentored by young godly women
for every time my son with a disability is not seen as a disability,
for all the countless little ways that we are shown genuine sacrificial love...

Thankyou Jesus' people both near and far.  Thankyou for letting God use you.

"The church is not an institution for perfect people. It is a sanctuary for sinners saved by grace, a nursery for God's sweet children to be nurtured and grow strong. It is the fold for Christ's sheep, the home for Christ's family. The church is the dearest place on earth."  
The Village Church.

A recent message from a series on "The Church" from my own pastor and home church.

2013-12-01 - The Church Scattered from Grace Fellowship on Vimeo.

Soli Deo Gloria,


Anonymous said...

I thought your post was perfect for non adoptive families too. We are all in a battle and we need each other. I shared your excerpt about "the church should be .." with several friends. We need this right now. Have you heard the song "Who will rise up?"

Alex Chase said...

Hi Carla! I'm loving your blog!!! I've looked at two of your posts and I can relate to both. Actually, we were at a great church before our children came home and they were psyched to embrace our children- until they (leadership) realized how needy they would be. The leadership couldn't handle the "ugliness" of our children's trauma. We're still trying to figure the church thing out and yet we are incredibly blessed to have an amazing Christian community who embrace all of our children and our whole family for what we are- a mess.I'm anonymous on blogger (that's why I feel free to share all of this). Thanks so much for sharing!!!