When my church site closed its doors in March of 2021, I wanted to point an angry finger at just about everyone.
This includes friends who were offended and left when our pastor said the word “penis” twice in one service, several members who wanted to go to another church where they didn’t have to sacrifice as much, and leaders who made the decision to shut down the site.
But the truth is, they aren’t my enemies. I was just hurt and more focused on the speck in their eye than the plank in mine.
Furthermore, that building wasn’t the point of church - and I wasn’t the point of church. When that clicked for me, it changed my walk with God and how I approach church.
But just like any grief process, along the way was hurt, anger, bargaining with God and leadership, some swearing, denial, and prayer. In the midst, I was reminded that where people are gathered in God’s name, there he is. And that’s made all the difference.
Planting and Growing Roots
It started in 2008, in the exciting yet nerve-wracking time when you move and have to plant roots all over again (and a church can be a great place to start that process). We occasionally attended Crossroads church in Lexington, Kentucky, but it wasn’t until 2013, after that church opened a campus in a nearby town called Richmond, that our family found our fit.
It was a small community of people who set up chairs, volunteered their hearts out, and broke down the entire thing to do it again the following week. And when the size of that campus grew to justify meeting in a new building, those friends and families raised walls, built furniture, stocked kids’ rooms, and opened doors so we could give everything to our local area.
In the following years, we saw those friends grow into a true, interdependent family. It’s where we met our closest friends and Jesus.
Babies were born, loved ones were lost, and many weddings, graduations, hospital visits, and baptisms were experienced. We led groups, volunteered, sacrificed financially, and prayed at the campus. We cleaned toilets, brewed coffee, transformed our tiny atrium for big events, and invited our neighbors to join. I even witnessed my son give his life to Christ and be baptized while watching my husband become a man who raised his hands in worship after a camp for men. Our members grilled burgers, filled backpacks, delivered coffee to schools, and opened doors for years.
That is - until we didn’t.
The Death of My Church
Like every church in the nation in the spring of 2020, Crossroads Richmond closed our doors during COVID. But once we could reopen, our already-small campus never rebuilt momentum. And so, the Crossroads leadership team made the very complicated and difficult decision to close the doors permanently. It was painful, but it was the right choice.
The loss of our local Crossroads was really tough - and is still really tough. A lot of us now have shifted to call Crossroads Lexington home. We’ve seen friends move to new churches and several come back, but sadly, we’ve also seen friends walk away from church altogether. It feels hard some Sundays to make the drive to Lexington, knowing most ministry effort is focused within that part of the city and not where we live in Richmond.
Initially, we chose to attend the Richmond campus so we could invite our neighbors, so our kids could invite friends from school, and so that we could invest in our local community. But now, instead of driving five or ten minutes for volunteering or events, it’s 30-40 minutes on a good day with no traffic, which makes weekday events almost impossible.
Nothing has come easy. Not as ‘easy’ as it felt when our church campus was only minutes away.
At times, I’ve let bitterness get the best of me. I’ve wondered why I’m giving to a church site that invests in a community that’s not mine, one that’s too inconveniently located to invite my friends and neighbors, and that hosts groups I can’t attend because I wouldn’t get off work in time to make the meetings.
I’ve considered throwing in the towel to try out another church in Richmond, where some of my friends have chosen to go. Or just using Sundays to sleep in or work around the house.
But through this journey, God has continuously reminded me of several truths that have kept me, not just in the Crossroads community but the church community in general. One of them is: We are the church.
We Are The Church
The church is not a building. A building can help facilitate a church, but the people are what make a church. The original Greek word for ‘church’ is ekklēsia, and in all of the New Testament references to ekklēsia, it is referred to as a body of people, not where they meet.
“And he (God) put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:22-23).
Our setup with the Richmond site was amazing in almost every way. So when that site ceased, I was tempted to throw away church altogether. But God showed me that he was not confined to that building; he never was, and his church exists where I and other believers are.
Little about our family’s involvement in Crossroads Lexington makes practical sense. But when I realized that what made Richmond special wasn’t the location or gas money saved (though those were great perks) but instead the people and the common pursuit of Jesus, I surrendered my bitter heart. I admitted if I’m waiting for the perfect church, I’ll never find it.
I also realized I wasn’t letting myself fully appreciate the positives and fruit that I saw at the Lexington site. It is much bigger, can reach many more people, and can offer the full expression of things that make our church great - LED screens, sound, and video allow for an immersive experience that we couldn’t pull off in our small auditorium at Richmond. The sheer number of people raising their hands to volunteer means that the load is shared and more people are reached. At a smaller site, everyone does everything, which is a recipe for burnout.
This discovery unlocked another bit of truth from God for me that was a bit tougher to swallow. While the church is “me” and “us,” that doesn’t mean the church is “about” me. The friendships we’ve made, stories we’ve heard, and opportunities to hear more about what God is doing in and through the new campus taught us much in that space.
The Church is Not About Me
Yes, sigh, I’m admitting I don’t think church is about me. It’s not about me having a convenient five-minute drive to a site where I get the perfect message with the perfect milk and honey flowing into my complimentary coffee or tea, with the most fantastic brunch spot right around the corner for after-service. Those things are great, but I found if they were my end-all-be-all, I would not be doing what the church was made to do…which is to give my life away.
God calls me to love others before myself and be more concerned with their interests than mine. Jesus’ words affirm this in the gospel of John:
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13).
Our family runs toward adventure, challenge, hard truth, and authenticity. And that’s only ever been my experience at Crossroads. My husband and I continue to volunteer as a part of the Welcome Team at Lexington so we can meet more people, learn more names and stories, and remind ourselves that rebuilding community takes work - work that we want to do, work that God’s called us to do.
And work that’s not solely for Crossroads Richmond, Crossroads Lexington, or Crossroads at all, but for God’s kingdom.
My old church building is dead. But my perception of the larger Church is continuing to be reborn. If, at any time, I feel like giving up or tapping out, I’m reminded that what the enemy meant for evil in the closing of Richmond, God has meant for good in growing the community differently (Genesis 50:20). And that’s some good I want to be around for and celebrate. There is still so much good to come.
I’ve learned if I want to grow spiritually outside of a Sunday morning, I need to lead and attend groups, which means I need to attend Lexington on Sundays to stay connected with everyone. I still see the need to invite friends who don’t know Jesus to something other than a Sunday service in Lexington. And so some of us plan Friday beers, occasional simple Sunday services in our local brewery, and serve locally. I know that if I want to attend camps with my local friends, I must raise my hand to lead and invite them.
As I’ve said, It’s been really tough, but it’s helped me to understand my faith and growth aren’t dictated by where Crossroads has a building. And while I still don’t fully know what God is doing through the closing of a building, I do trust that his Spirit is moving and am reminded through these words from Paul, writing to the church of Ephesus:
“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:14-20).
I’m ready for more, God. No matter where that building is.
Disclaimer: This article is 100% human-generated.