You know the feeling when you walk into a room and immediately feel like you belong? Not because you have on the right clothes, or even believe the same things. You just belong. Everyone is excited you’re there, and you immediately feel at ease.
This isn’t the case for most people in my generation when it comes to church. If you don’t have the right flannel, play guitar, and have a killer testimony – how are you supposed to fit in? What happened to the church that accepts the broken – not the already whole?
Growing up, I went through the motions of being part of a church community. Vacation Bible Study, Youth Group, mission trips, and singing in the church choir – I did every single activity, prayer, and action according to what my church told me to do. With an exception of getting in an argument with my youth group leader about whether or not our pets go to heaven (they totally do) – I was a golden child. Looking back, it’s so easy for me to see that I went through these actions and tasks, and lived my way in a life that pleased the congregation. I can say with clear vision that I did these things to be the person the people around me wanted me to be, not because I was compelled by the love of Christ. I was trying to fit this mold about the person I was supposed to be. I still admire and respect the church I grew up in, but there is one main way in which it let me down: I was raised believing that there was only one mold to make a Christian.
When I went to college, I drifted away from the church but never too far from God. I didn’t want to accept this singular mold of Christianity for the rest of my life – but asking questions never seemed to bode well in any church body I’d been a part of. Somewhere along the line, I looked at going to church more like an exclusive club. I didn’t know if that was a club I wanted to be part of when I only saw buttoned up men and women who all nodded and raised their hands in synchronicity. I didn’t want to be looked at as judgmental, self-righteous, or closed minded. I also knew that I didn’t have it all together and I was still trying desperately to find myself.
As years passed, my faith grew outside of the church. I found individuals I admired who lived their life in a way I believed to be genuine and in Christ’s light. We all had something in common – the typical church wasn’t a place we wanted to be, somewhere with hushed tones, strict judgment and rules, and an exclusive feel that we never felt we belonged in.
Now I’m proud to belong to a church that goes against the status quo and that loves every person who walks through their doors. It welcomes the broken – because that’s what we all truly are without Christ’s love. If I could give one simple piece of advice to churches across the world it would be this: accept, welcome, and love people no matter where they are in their walk.
Brooke Jensen is the Operations Manager at opendorse, as well as the Mentor Director for the Penguin Project in Lincoln, Nebraska. Brooke spends her free time traveling, renovating her house, and at the lake with her fiancé, family, and puppy.