Disclosure: Family Christian provided me a copy of this book in order to facilitate a review. All opinions are my own.
The past few months have been rough on my faith.
After being at our current church for about 6 years, I was just starting to get more heavily involved than I ever had been before…I was asked to serve on the council, I helped start a new intergenerational faith formation program, and I was teaching kids in Sunday School. Sometimes I would spend half my Sundays at church, and plenty more hours on other days of the week, and I loved every minute of it.
I finally felt like my faith was growing at a good pace, and I absorbed every word of every sermon, liturgy, and hymn like they were oxygen. Being at church was so filling for my soul.
Then my husband volunteered to be on a new team that was supposed to discern where the Holy Spirit is calling us as a congregation. They worked out a plan to survey everybody for a few weeks. At first, the discussions they had in their meetings were productive and hopeful, but when the surveys started to come in, things didn’t look so good.
Hope in Searching for Sunday
The new book Searching for Sunday came along at the right time for me. The story of her own struggle with faith and the Church, writer Rachel Held Evans, the author of A Year of Biblical Womanhood (another awesomely good book on faith), tells of how she became discouraged in her faith after she came to realize that the evangelical church of her youth seemed to focus more on how fun their worship services were and how big their buildings could be instead of following what Jesus called the greatest commandments: loving God and loving the neighbor as ourselves.
Using the 7 sacraments found in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, Rachel describes where we can find God in the ordinary (water, bread, friendship, forgiveness, among others). She delves deeply into these basic Christian practices, which helped me to really think again about them, and what the kingdom of God really looks like.
And even still, the kingdom remains a mystery just beyond our grasp. It is here, and not yet, present and still to come…All we have are imperfect people in an imperfect world doing their best to produce outward signs of grace and stumbling all along the way.
–Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday
When my husband shared some of our church’s survey responses with me, I was in a state of shock. I couldn’t believe what I was reading…many, many people wrote about how they considered people who hold my same viewpoints as “nuts,” stating that those kind of people were their enemies for whom they needed to pray. I was sad that people whom I looked up to and respected deeply suddenly seemed like mean-spirited bullies…and they hated people like me.
All this time I had held onto this unspoken assumption that church-goers were perfect people with Christ-like behavior who never hurt anybody, especially the ones whom I worshipped with every week…the ones with the smiley faces who were always willing to open their wallets to support a good cause.
But then they hurt me, and the result was doubly painful. These “perfect Christians” that I had looked up to were actually broken humans, just like me, with all kinds of prejudices and wrong assumptions in their hearts. When I realized their brokenness, it made my faith in the Church sort of crumble away. I mean, who wants to be around people that secretly hate you in their hearts?
In Searching for Sunday, I found other stories of people who had also been hurt by the church….heart-wrenching and terrible stories that made my heart hurt for those people. It’s no wonder that people are leaving the Church in droves! The stories also made me realize that my own little problems were meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
But the thing about the book that really brought me comfort was Rachel’s conclusion that the Church is just really a great big group of humans with all their faults, trying to worship and serve their God in a completely imperfect way. In their humanity, the Church is never going to get everything perfect. I realized that these “perfect” people at my church were never perfect, and will never be perfect, until Christ comes again, and I needed to forgive and accept them as broken humans…just they way that I am broken too.
As a member of the Church, I have the ability to make it look appealing or unattractive to others based on my behaviors. If I want others to know God’s love, I can be welcoming, forgiving and helpful. Being unfriendly, judgmental or downright hateful will turn people off from the Church…and unfortunately, many people in the past few decades have experienced this type of behavior from Christians. Hopefully this new book will help others see that and begin to change other hearts.
Searching for Your Own Sunday
If you are personally struggling with church or faith, I would highly recommend reading Searching for Sunday, no matter what denomination you identify with or even if you haven’t been to church in many years. Rachel admits that she doesn’t have all the answers, and that she is still on her own journey, but this book is so wonderful at making you think, that it will help you get started making sense of everything. It has already helped me start picking up the pieces of my faith.
Family Christian would like to give a copy of Searching for Sunday to one lucky reader! To enter, you must be 18 years of age or older, and a U.S. resident.
Simply enter below:
This giveaway ends on Sunday, May 31, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time. The winner will be notified by email and has 24 hours to respond with their mailing address. If I do not hear from the winner withing 24 hours, I will have to choose another winner.
Good luck to all of you!