My biggest problem with integrating into my new church has been that no one talks like me. I don't mean we don't all speak English. But here's the thing: We use different English words to describe the same things.
Rich is often referred to as "Pastor." He jokes that this is his first name.
In regard to other Christians, I hear "brother" and "sister."
In regard to helping out in a particular area of the church, someone says, "I'm gearing up for the new ministry."
When God's presence is felt, I hear "annointing on the service."
Because we live in a city where a lot of people are unsaved, I hear "there's darkness, heaviness, and oppression over the city."
Our small church community began 10 months ago, and is a conglomerate of individuals and families from all sorts of church backgrounds and cultures. One woman is here from South Africa. Another is American, but worked in misogynist Saudi Arabia for a few years. Our pastor's family did missionary work in Bangladesh for 11 years. Other's have been unchurched for long periods of time. One worship leader works security at a local hotel, and has his own pop/rock band on the side.
So, where do Mark and I fit in demographically? We're your run of the mill Gen-X midwesterners who of course, because we're Gen-X, don't like to think of ourselves as passe or boring. Also, we've given too much of our hearts and souls to past churches and past communities. Or: We gave the right amount and got hurt anyway.
We've come to this new community with chips on our shoulders. We are anti-institution. We are anti-the-tradition-of-the-last-three-decades of nondenominational charismatic churches. We harbour fear of hyperactive preachers. We're suspicious of anything other than plainspokenness. We wince and clench at slogans.
On Tuesday, during the housegroup we host in our home, our pastor's wife, C., was talking about how her sister came to know Jesus. She described how, many years before, she'd stifled her initial impulses to condemn her sister's pre-Christian lifestyle. Instead, she valued (and values) welcoming her sister, and extending kindness at every turn. As she described the scene of her sister's revelation of Jesus' kindness, C. began to cry.
There was something about the way she spoke, the way she cried, even, at the memory of Jesus intervening in her sister's life that I understood despite our different backgrounds.
Here is the insight I had on Tuesday night. I am aware how lacking in (and full of) profundity it is:
Her Jesus is my Jesus.
It was as if I understood it for the first time.