I currently love Wednesday. Not because it's the middle of the week. Not because kids eat free at some fast food chain. Not because it's laundry day and I like pulling the clean clothes from the dryer and pausing to smell the Bounce dryer sheet when it falls out of the machine (though I do like that a lot). No, I now have a big crush on Wednesdays because of missional community.
When Andy and I started going to the Austin Stone, I was impressed immediately. The teaching was challenging and seemed always to relate to what we were going through. It was truly food for hungry souls, and it continues to be. The music was really moving. To this day, I want to cry with emotion almost every Sunday worship service, and since it's happening on a weekly and not monthly basis, it must not be hormonal, right? I was on the edge of my seat when head pastor Matt Carter announced to the church that we as a church would not be going into debt to build a giant worship center, while we skimped on the not-for-profit community center currently being constructed in St. Johns. The money would go into the community center, and the worship would have to wait- actually, it was that our comfort during worship would have to wait. We'd still worship- but it would be packed in like sardines at the high school we meet at or in the smaller worship center in the new building. Community over comfort. Gospel over goodness. This is the Stone. And I love it.
But even after all of those impressive things, I found myself challenged and impressed further by a phrase I kept hearing at every worship service- "missional community." Curious about what we were hearing, Andy and I went to an after-service class called "Discovery" one Sunday. It was there that we discovered that "missional community" was how Austin Stoners say "small group." We learned how to use the Austin Stone's handy-dandy website to find a missional community near our apartment. That's how we found the Starnes' Missional community.
I remember driving up to Anthony and Katy Starnes house back in June and semi-dreading the idea of having to rub elbows with "church" people. Like a lot of people, I have had a few rather unpleasant experiences with Christians. So it was with trepidation that I sat on Katy's couch sipping water, guard way, way up, cautious to even hope that this experience could be the real deal.
Three months later, we had the folks from the Starnes Missional Community over to our apartment last night. Caution was long ago thrown to the wind because, even on that first night, I realized that these are not people who are trying to make themselves look good and make you feel bad. They are the real deal. They are people, each very different in their gifts, who love the Lord and love each other, who are really just living life together, trying to make an impact for Christ wherever they go. And every week since that first night, I have seen a deeper, more beautiful glimpse of what it means to be a "family" in Christ.
It's not that I haven't seen this before. My parents church when I was growing up was very much a "family." But I was a child in that family. And it's not that those bonds were not meaningful. I love some of my church family "mommas" (Mrs. Haley, Mrs. Howard, Kinsey) with a love no one is ever going to touch. But ever since I grew up, I have not ever truly found a church "family" of my own. Last night, while Wesley shared the sweetest promise of Christ's unshakable love from Romans 8, I felt deeply comfortable, genuine and loved.
Because of the hurt that I have suffered in the past, I am comforted by these men and women who are open with one another, trusting one another with their weaknesses, their trials, their worries, their prayers, their joys and their victories. It's a precious thing, and a reminder that my God is a God who comforts me, who meets every need, even if it is in an unexpected way.
This is a really remarkable revelation in my life because I have really begun to struggle with Biblical commands concerning unity among believers, the body of Christ, the family of God. When individual members from God's family make you feel like there is no place for you, then it becomes difficult to see the family the way that God sees it. And, unfortunately, I have seen this face of some members of God's family more clearly than I have seen the equality of worth that Christ intended. But there is no guilt on Wednesdays, no rejection, no humiliation- rather there is humility, vulnerability and love.
So I love Wednesday. Because the guard is down. The need to impress is off. Acceptance is in the air. And Christ is on our tongues. So, Starnes Missional Community, I love you guys. Deeply. And from the heart.