Updated: Jul 15, 2020
I grew up hearing stories of my great grandfather and great grandmother.
I would sit on the floor and look up at my grandma as she told me the stories of our past. She told me about how her dad, my great grandfather, had once been a monk. She told me that he left the monastery after getting his hands on the Epistles of Paul (which he wasn’t allowed to read). Within those forbidden books of the Bible he discovered freedom from the law that the monastery had forbidden them to read, let alone practice. He started asking questions.
He then escaped from the monastery at threat to his life and went through South America on horseback, sharing the good news of the gospel.
My great grandma was a revolutionary in her own right. At the time and place that my great grandma grew up, girls were not allowed to go to school. That didn’t stop her, though. She went every day with her brothers until those that ran the school told her that if she came one more time, they would tie her up in the basement.
She came the next day – and they tied her up in the basement (scary right?!). And yet, there was a stubborn streak within her that they knew they weren’t going to kick. So, they let her go to school.
I also listened to stories about my grandma’s own life. She had the most beautiful faith in God – she was fearless in her belief and incredibly frank with her questions and pain. She would tell me stories of how she shared God with others or when she was upset and confronted God with her questions and fears.
My grandma was short and full of fire and she had a lot of opinions and a heck of a lot of gumption. She wasn’t afraid to disagree with pastors and share with them when she thought they were missing the mark. Big, tall men who would lock her out of the sanctuary because my grandma was a force.
At least, that’s how my seven-year-old brain saw it. I may not remember every single detail accurately – but this is how these stories exist in my mind today. And they’ve shaped me over the course of my lifetime.
You see, the desire for revolution runs in my blood.
In light of my family’s story, is it any surprise I turned out like this?
A relentless wonderer.
Always wondering: “What if?” “Is there a better way?” “Are we doing this right?”
For much of my early life I sat in chairs within churches and listened to sermons that felt like they only ran skin deep. I would leave these sermons parched for the water of life and a hunch that it was out there. I just couldn’t find it in the pamphlet of papers they handed out at the door.
I grew up to find God was so much bigger and wilder and wonderful than I imagined. And God loved BIG. God loved me big. God loved my neighbor big. And, God wasn’t interested in making my life better. The great “I AM” wanted to give me an entirely new life centered in Christ.
As a young adult, I experienced God in the context of ministry within church. A ministry that lit my heart on fire for being on mission for God. And yet, at the same time, left me with a whole lot of questions about the organization and structure of church. I wondered what church is, what community is, and a big new question:
“Are we doing church right?”
In light of my history and my roots, the fact that I began asking this question isn’t a surprise.
It was inevitable.
I can’t help but believe that our questions are holy. The Bible is filled with them from Genesis to Revelation. Humanity is always asking questions.
God asks them, too. When Jesus was on the cross, minutes from his death, he looked toward heaven and asked: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
In the depth of his great pain, Jesus asks a question. What a human and holy thing to do.
There’s something about asking a question that has notes of eternity within it. It releases the tension of not knowing. It invites light. It expresses pain or hope or sheer curiosity. More than anything, questions can be a gateway to connection.
Questions open us to new insight and revelation, and reconciliation with one another. They open the door to new understanding and light up new ideas we may have overlooked or couldn’t see.
So, I don’t have any answers for you today. Just a single question.
“Are we doing church right?”
I’d love to know what you think. Email me. Message me. Comment below.
And, if there’s another question that’s been on your heart like a song you can’t get out of your head, I’d love to know that, too.
I can tell you that I will continue to explore this question and bring my insights right here to you.
I hope you’ll join the journey with me.
From right to left: my great grandmother, grandma, great aunt, great grandfather and great uncle.