When I was five my family moved from the suburbs of Dallas, Texas to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Once we got here my mom only knew a rural Baptist church culture and Willie George’s ministry. So we began going to Church on the move where Willie George was the pastor, and I don’t remember the details but there was a service at the time that my mom was used to in the Baptist church community either Wednesday night, Sunday mornings, or Sunday nights where they did not have a service at that time, this was in the early 90’s. So because of her upbringing she looked for a church that offered service at this time.
My mom eventually found a larger church that offered all of the service times that her upbringing had made her comfortable with, and because of the size of the church many programs were offered for kids and families. For many people that know me you will know what church I then attended for the next 20 something years. And this is the struggle that I face in 2019. I currently work as a contractor for this same very large church. But publicity and respect for the investment they made in my upbringing will keep the church nameless in this post. I grew up in a class on Wednesday nights that was focused on the outdoors and adventure. On Sunday mornings as I grew older the culture was for older kids to volunteer and serve younger kids in the ministry programs they held for each age group.
I likely was not supposed to, but I grew up roaming the halls of this massive church complex, I would befriend media workers and children’s pastors, outreach leaders, camp counselors and missionaries. I was always around these influential people. I’m not sure how I seemed in their eyes, but one thing I know is that I seemed to always be there. Through middle-school, high-school, and a few years after high-school I spent countless hours at this Church, school, and ministry complex. I traveled on missions trips and outreach trips to several churches in the USA and probably 20 cities and countries around the world. The opportunities that were available for church service and ministry service seemed endless.
Sometime in my 20’s I began to feel some distance with my spiritual walk and the church ministry focus, they still seemed to preach the same mission, vision, and purpose that I had grown up around, but something felt lacking in my heart, much was likely to my own blame, and not directly connected with what they were doing or not doing, but many of the friends and pastors that I grew up around as hero’s of mine were leaving the Church. I was in college at this time and focused on keeping my grades up and connecting with the outreaches and ministry that the University offered and ended up distancing myself from the church for a season of my life. Adjustments and changes in the church occurred, Some were unforeseen circumstances, and others were changes made for the best interest of the new vision and focus of the church, but on the weekends that I was able to escape from my studies and return to church for a Sunday morning service or Wednesday night gathering, something seemed distant and different.
What I found that I was lacking was relationship with Jesus, apart from service to the Church. The foundation I grew up on was Salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection. This I hold dear to my heart as the strongest truth of the Biblical gospel, yet in the background of my mind and heart, what I felt as the strongest disappointment in the season of being in College was that, my lack of service to the church resulted in the loneliest season of church engagement I had felt in over twenty years.
If I am being brutally honest and as transparent as glass, my Heart and Soul felt that if I was not serving the Church with outreach every week, serving in each service, and going on Missions trips as a leader for church members, then I was not doing enough and did not have time in the busy schedules of the pastors and leaders that I had grown up around. They still had their ministry events and schedules to maintain and If I could not serve and be around them during these outreaches and events then the friendship could not be as deep cause they needed committed volunteers to continue their ministry endeavors.
This was and is my one sided opinion and view, I have had some heartfelt conversations with some of these pastors and leaders, and it appears that was not the intent, but I can’t seem to shake the loneliness and solitude I felt in that season of my late 20’s. The programs and events that formed me as a child seemed to be breaking me apart in my young adult life. This is the struggle I encounter once again it seems as I have been working almost daily for the church the last two months, I am valued because of what I am doing. But am I valuable to the church if I am simply there, not to give, not to receive, but simply to be and to exist in that place. Do I simply have value to the Church for what I do, or am I valuable because I am Brian, and I am a person that Loves Jesus, and wants to know more about Jesus, around other people who know Jesus.
This is my journey and my struggle at the moment as I attend a smaller church down the street, where I am just Brian who loves Jesus, and not Brian who serves the church. Is it possible to be both the Brian that just is, and the Brian that serves. So far in my life it has felt that I have to choose, either one or the other and never both.