Some Thoughts on Church

This past Sunday, two soldiers from our chapel congregation were baptized. As a pastor’s wife, I’ve had a front row seat to many baptisms over the years. There has never, ever, been one single baptism where I’ve kept my composure or dry eyes.

Seeing someone make the decision to outwardly express his/her decision to follow Christ is something that I hope my sensibilities never dull to witnessing. It’s a beautiful picture of the Christian faith, alive and vibrant; it’s a tug on my heart reminding me of the life-changing message and power of the Gospel.

Aside from my own decision and public profession of faith, three of the most meaningful baptisms I’ve seen have been the moments Ryan baptized our three children shortly after their personal decisions to trust in Jesus as their Savior.

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The thing is, I’ve been thinking a lot about the role that church is currently playing in my life.

My entire life, being at church has been a staple and hallmark of who I am. As we transitioned into military chaplaincy, what church looks like has evolved.  Ryan’s gifts and my gifts have evolved and changed as well. I’m learning there is no static view of ministry. While God himself is unchanging, he often uses circumstances of change to develop in us a trust in him.

Newsflash: I have had some pretty significant hiccups in adapting to the change from traditional church to the military chapel.

Ask any chaplain family and they will tell you that chapel IS NOT church. They serve two very different roles and it has taken me some time to process my feelings, my responsibility, my guilt, and my ideas of what church should look like.

We are currently serving in a chapel that is primarily geared toward soldiers who are just passing through our duty station. Most are here for only a few months of training. There aren’t really any families who attend our service; no children; a very short-lived “community” aspect. These soldiers don’t have free time to come to small groups or events. They come for our one hour service and that is where it ends. We set up for our service and tear it all down the minute it ends for the next worship service using our building.

In all honesty, Ryan and I have gone back and forth about how our family fits into this picture. On one hand, this chaplaincy ministry involves our entire family and we are committed; it’s not just a job, it’s a calling. We serve together. We attend service together. We worship together. But in that togetherness, there has been a questioning of where my role is and what opportunities our children have aside from sitting through the hour of our service.

I have felt the loneliness of not having an extended church family. I have felt the guilt of our three kids not having a dedicated children’s ministry or youth group. I have been STARVING for a place to serve. I’ve even taken to occasionally singing on the worship team despite nearly NO musical ability. I’ve also taken to the set up and take down of musical equipment, cords, music stands, returning music to folders, or making the donut run when necessary. There are even some Sundays when I can’t muster the energy to go to chapel. We are in a season where PWOC doesn’t fit into the equation and neither does attending an off post church regularly.

Which is to say, that right now, our chapel IS our church despite how I perceive its deficiencies.

After several recent (tearful) pow-wows with Ryan concerning my wistful feelings about chapel, I’ve sensed the Lord checking me. This past Sunday, seeing two young soldiers get baptized was my ‘AHA’ moment.

I’ve spent nearly two years measuring our chapel service against my own bulleted list of expectations. I’ve been trying to compare apples to oranges. I’ve been praying relentlessly for God to either give me an apple or help me to develop a love for oranges.

I’ve wanted a vibrant, perfect church but God has given me a quiet, imperfect chapel. I’ve wanted to know my role in serving only to be looking down at empty hands during our service. I’ve wanted to burn off my energy to dig in and do, but God is asking me to faithfully sit on our pew with my children and lean into worship and be a hearer and doer of his Word.

He is asking me to be faithful in the other work he’s called me to. He is asking me to continue building a firm foundation. Since when have I known what was best anyway?

It’s sometimes difficult to find our place in serving especially when the roles, jobs, or ministries aren’t clearly defined. But I have decided, I don’t need a job description. I don’t need a predictable list of what to expect as we walk through a life of ministry. I don’t necessarily need a Bible study, a small group, an opportunity to make casseroles, or lead some project. All those things can become idols in my heart as I often seek the approval of others based on my performance.

What I do need is the opportunity to have a front row seat, not to my own work or efforts, but to the life-changing power of Christ. God always has us right where he wants us. He always has a message he wants us to take to heart. One I can’t seem to shake is the idea that God wants me to live my life in full submission to him, no matter how that looks.

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“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20.

God has asked our family to Go! And I, for one, am grateful for the opportunities he’s given us to see his power manifested in a variety of settings.

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7 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Church

  1. GingerG says:

    I’ve been struggling a bit with our church situation too, in all honesty, so I can relate to your thoughts and feelings. But then I realize that God has us exactly where we need to be. Bill “found” God in a little Army chapel in Korea. So, take heart and be encouraged that what you’re all doing matters greatly!

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  2. Kathy says:

    Claire….I think, of all of your wonderful posts and writings, this may be my favorite! While we live under “performance anxiety” of what church should look like….I try to remind myself of that video we’ve all seen on FB of the children in China receiving Bibles for the first time….their tears of joy to just hold a Bible! And I think of the underground house churches where some have to come together in secret as to not be sent to prison….but they worship anyway! The powerful way they serve God….no youth programs, no music program, no children’s ministry with all the bells and whistles. (and there’s nothing wrong with it….but, sometimes I fear we worship our worship.) They just come together to worship God the only way they know how…and God is there!! Just like He is there in your chapel service….and He is anywhere His people worship Him in Spirit and in Truth! I think it is wonderful that your children are learning to know Him outside of the box that we western Christians put Him in! They will be better for it! I love the transparent way you share with us the things that God is teaching you….it’s so real…and beautiful! Love you and love how the Lord is using you and Ryan to speak into these soldiers’ lives!

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  3. TERESA ROBERSON says:

    I thoroughly enjoy the chapel services we’ve been able to attend. For one, we look forward to hearing RW preach any time we can, I was blessed to meet Aretha, your friend that always sits on the row right behind you. But, my favorite service, was when Communion was served to each of the soldiers. It is such a sacred time, but to watch each soldier come forward to partake, was so moving. Realizing after their time of training at Fort Gordon, each would be sent out for service to our country, and quite possibly or probably one or more would lose their life in service, and perhaps some return from service injured or handicapped for life. It certainly stirred within my heart and impressed upon me to pray for them as they went through the line. Also, an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the sacrifices each of you (yes, families included) make fo us to have freedom and feel safe in our world.
    So don’t ever underestimate the ministry God has called Ryan, you and the children to. Only God knows and heaven will reveal the fruit of your work!

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  4. momthompson says:

    Thank you for sharing, Claire. What a blessing to hear from a fellow ministry family. Yes, God’s plans are often not the ones we would have chosen for ourselves, in so many ways. Usually, it’s later before I’m grateful for that, but He is always good.

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