I don’t remember a time in my life when we didn’t go to church. Growing up, it was always a Baptist church until high school when my parents decided it was time to move on from where we were for reasons that I never quite knew because I was in high school and what did I care?

They chose a small church with the word “evangelical” in the name. When I told one of my girlfriends from the Baptist church that we were now going to an evangelical church down the road, her eyes got big but she didn’t say anything.

I later learned she didn’t know what the word “evangelical” meant and assumed our entire family had joined a cult.

My husband and I have been married over 12 years and for all of that time, he’s been a pastor at two different non-denominational churches.

I’m thankful the churches we’ve worked at are both churches we would have probably gone to anyway.

But I’ve recently become aware that we’ve never chosen a church as a married couple the way most people choose churches. We’ve basically been paid to go to church.

That sounds harsh, but I don’t mean it to be so. I simply mean to tell you that my idea of church – both as an organization and as a body of people – is seen through the filter of being married to a man who works at one.

Just like any other job, it can be both delightful and maddening. Sometimes both at the same time.

This past year, my husband and I have done a lot of thinking and praying about church – what it means, why we love it, and why we sometimes don’t.

Here are some of the artists and influencers who are teaching me about church these days:

1. Sarah Bessey.

I’ve never met Sarah, but the more I read of her, the more I want to. She writes of a time when she was “a mega-church refugee, a burned out ministry wife, a doubter, a questioner, a people-pleaser, a tired performer, a new seeker all over again.”

In her own words:

“I needed Lectio Divina, a labyrinth, liturgy, and the Jesus Prayer, I needed my Bible, and my friend Tez in Australia, and I needed the Book of Common Prayer. I needed the established theologians, and poets, and the up-and-coming bold bloggers, I needed the emerging church, and now I need my little community Vineyard.

I need happy-clappy Jesus music, and I need the old hymns I sing into the cavern of the bathtub while I wash these small tiny souls in my care, and I need Mumford and Sons, too . . . I need it all, still, always, I hold it all inside.”

She is teaching me on new levels what I have always strongly suspected is true: there isn’t only one exactly right way to be a Christian. There isn’t one right way to be a woman. And there isn’t only one right way to have church.

There is the Church, the body of Christ. And he is

“…bigger and bolder, more lovely, in the wilderness, than I’d ever known or expected if I’d remained only in my one little camp. It was my crossing camp lines through reading, conversation, friendship, showing up to listen, that kept me. I’m all of it, I think it’s mismatched and holy and beautiful.”

These excerpts are from a post Sarah wrote for Prodigal Magazine: In Defense of the Cafeteria.

2. Dr. Larry Crabb.

Remember when I went away for a week back in October during my Hush series? And remember how I didn’t tell you where I was going?

I went to Colorado Springs to take a week long course with Dr. Larry Crabb. Now you know.

I’m reading one of his books now called Real Church: Does it exist? Can I find it? In it, he admits he doesn’t like going to church. But he isn’t without hope, and so he casts vision for the direction in which he heads.

“I’m not always convinced I’ve done the right thing, but I’ve pretty much jumped ship, and with a few friends (actually quite a few, a growing number) I’m paddling a small lifeboat in what I think is a different direction from where most churches are heading.

I think I’m moving now in a direction more in line with where the Spirit is heading, toward eternal truth that spiritually forms and relationally connects and culturally engages, all as part of a wonderful love story.”

Spiritual formation.

Relational connection.

Cultural engagement.

A compelling love story.

And the Spirit within me is moved with life and hope and longing for this.

3. Our small group.

Our small group time is one of the places we have the kinds of conversations filled with half-ideas and whole hearted questions. My husband and I have had arguments right there in the middle of small group. They’ve seen me cry like a crazy woman, and I’ve seen them do it, too. We’ve grieved together over miscarriages and adoptions, celebrated babies and new houses, and lived the everyday kind of faith.

These two couples are the real. We all have kids and our time together isn’t as consistent as any of us want it to be. But when we get together, we lean in close to Christ and to each other, and we listen to how the Spirit might be moving.

Those two couples are teaching me about church.

4. Peter and John.

I’ve been spending some time in the book of Acts:

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”  –Acts 4:13

Do I have this kind of courage, the kind that doesn’t come from me? Have we, as a church, been with Jesus? Can anybody tell?

I could think on this verse for a very long time.


This is a post in a series called Artists & Influencers. Here are the other posts in the series so far:

I’m linking up this post with Christine over at Grace Covers Me as she releases her new book, The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart

From January 30 – February 4, she’ll be collecting heart stories from women about church planting and ministry.

Maybe you’ll want to share your own, or at least check out some of the stories women are sharing over at Christine’s place. If you are in ministry, I’m sure they will be encouraging reads!

Who is teaching you about church?