In my latest church adventure, I visited a church in Pasadena. Located inside of an elementary school, this church was an off-shoot of a larger church and had just opened its doors in March of this year. It was the first time in years that I’ve actually gone to a church and felt the presence of God. Those words carry some heavy weight but during worship, during the message and while listening to the pastor talk about how the church came to be started, I couldn’t help but feel that way.
The worship was great and the music was so lively. The audience and the band on stage were all very passionate. The message really inspired me. I also went to a class they had for visitors and I liked hearing about how the church came to be.
Lastly, I also got in touch with someone a few months ago about small groups and I’ve been assigned to one for a few months now. I just finished visiting another church so I haven’t gone to any of their meetings yet.
However, after my experience today, I don’t think I will be going back to this church either. I did my best to really get to know people and more about what the church’s culture is like. Everyone was friendly and made eye contact but I couldn’t feel a connection. It’s like they were just making conversation to give me some basic information, make some small talk and then on to the next.
My goal in every single conversation I had today was to really get a feel for this church and its people. I wanted to make a connection but it just kept fizzling out because I felt like they weren’t reciprocating. When I became the one asking questions and trying to move the conversation along, that’s when I knew that my church adventures would continue.
I expect this to happen at work of course and at the supermarket and anywhere else. You laugh, smile, make some awkward small talk, and then move on. But… in terms of a home church – which is TRULY what I am looking for , a place to serve and grow and build relationships with people – I’m looking for a place where I feel like I can build real friendships with people.
This is based off a church I used to go to when I was home-schooled. It was a small church but from the first meeting, I felt loved and welcomed. I fell in love with that church and at one point, I could say that my best friends were at that church. It’s a tall order and super hard to compare to – but that’s what I’m looking for and I’ve been searching for a church for years now and have yet to find one that has the same sense of connectivity.
What really confirmed my decision to move on and continue church-searching are two events:
Ophie in the Midst of Budding Romance
I met some of the people from my small group. Right when I walked in through the doors, I met both of the leaders, Girl A and Boy B.
Boy B: Hey, Ophelia! You’re here!
Boy B and I had been in contact via email about the meetings.
Me: Yeah! It’s so great to finally meet you :-)!
Girl A: [pauses]
I noticed a weird look on her face.
Girl A: Oh, have you guys been contacting each other?
Me: Yeah! :] He’s been giving me some information about meeting up. I haven’t been able to attend any of the meetings lately but hopefully soon! ^__^
Girl A: Ah… okay…
Me: [Thinking: hmm, why does she look like that? Is there something going between them two?]
I shrugged it off the first time but my suspicions of jealousy and budding romance were confirmed after the service. I end up talking to Girl A again one-on-one after service while I was looking for their 1st Steps Class. Boy A joins us and then he says, “Oh yeah, I’m only attending these small group meetings so I can see [Girl A] more :)!” They smile glowingly at each other and a small uncomfortable smile grows on my face.
It was just really awkward to witness and so that kinda sealed the decision for me to find another church.
2.) The pastor kept forgetting my name. That WOULD be forgivable.. if I weren’t WEARING A NECKLACE WITH MY NAME WRITTEN ON IT. Yes, I had a personalized gold necklace made that said OPHIE. And I introduced myself as Ophie. (?#?#?#??#?#?#?##?##??#)
First he called me, “What was your name again?”
Then he called me, “Sophelia”
Then he called me, “Olivia”
By the time he got it right, I left their 1st Steps class early and knew that it was time to move on.
Although I did not feel a connection to the people there, I still really enjoyed the worship service and the message. I’m planning on attending a church on my dad’s side of town next Sunday so that’ll be fun!
Anyway, as a last note, I’ve started getting flashbacks of how I was like a few years ago. I think there was a point in time where I got used to others liking me that I forgot that there were many, many moments when others would underestimate me. For example, in 2015, I attended mock interviews for my school’s accounting club on campus where we could get interviewed by actual accounting recruiters and professionals.
My first choice was for the firm that I have an offer with now. Instead of giving me someone from that firm, the people who were in charge of the event gave me mock interviews with mid-tier and local firms. Now that I think back on it, they probably didn’t think I was Big 4 material.
Surprise surprise! I got my offer for the SLP, the internship and then full-time. And out of everyone who applied for a certain office, I was the only one who got an offer.
However, I will never forget to give glory to God for whatever I accomplish or do. Even if I didn’t have a job offer, I would still be grateful for everything He does.
Although things didn’t work out the way I thought they would, I’m still going to pray for this church because I feel like God is really moving there. Regardless of whether or not they remember my name, it doesn’t change the fact that they are doing their best to follow Jesus and glorify Him. I don’t have any ill-will to any of the churches I’ve visited for the past few years and I will always value the work that they are doing in the name of Christ. It really inspires me.
Call it ambitious, but I’m looking for a church where I feel a real connection.