This past week, I had the amazing opportunity of going to Pray Chicago where Christians from all 77 neighborhoods of the city came together to pray for the city of Chicago. Pray Chicago is part of a larger ministry called “Heart for the City”. Its vision is “to ignite a movement of locally-focused, globally-minded churches and organizations that serve their communities in healthy and sustainable ways”.
It was a really great experience and in all honesty, it felt like going “home”.
I should probably make it clear that I am from Chicago, go to school in Chicago, and thus, rarely, if ever, get homesick. However, there I was, standing amongst a few friends but mostly strangers in a mega church and it finally felt like I was home.
The songs that the choir sang were songs that I remember my church singing since I was little. There was no powerpoint, no hymnal, just the choir director singing out the words right before the choir and audience were expected to sing back. It was the obvious call and response style of worship that I don’t get too often at my campus fellowship. The structural familiarity of the night was so familiar that even in this new space it felt like “home”.
But as good as it is to come “home”, we as followers of Christ are called to leave safety and comfortableness of “home” as well. Though it’s good to have a community where you will be understood, affirmed, lifted up, and allowed to feel comfortable being vulnerable with, Christians – myself included – need to challenge ourselves to be uncomfortable and go to those places that may never really feel like home.
“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23
Sometimes being part of my campus fellowship feels very isolating. There are those who immediately feel at home there. I wasn’t one of those people and sometimes I still don’t feel like one of those people. Before coming to college I thought every Christian person my age knew at least who Kirk Franklin is (I was sadly mistaken…repeatedly). I had never heard of Hillsong before college. As a first year in college, the idea of not having a mass choir backing up the main singer was somewhat foreign to me. Worship was just so different and it didn’t feel anything like home at all…
Fast-forward to now as a fourth year and yeah, there’s Hillsong now residing on my i-Pod, some All Sons and Daughters, Newsboys, David Crowder, and Chris Tomlin but MaryMary, Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, Cece Winans, and Hezekiah Walker still overpower my Christian playlist. And that’s fine. Though Christian Contemporary Music wasn’t what I grew up with and some days I really have to stop myself from taking the hands of a brother or sister clapping on the wrong beat, forcing myself to be uncomfortable, to not feel at home, has really drawn me closer to Jesus and a closer reliance on him to aid any “homesickness” I have.
Because of differences from worship styles to prayer styles to conflict styles, I have been forced to rely more on Jesus in these times of uncomfortable foreignness. Being comfortable is really easy, but it’s not what Jesus calls us to. Just because something is comfortable does not mean it is good or Christ-centered.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
We live in a society that teaches us to fear the uncomfortable, to fear what is not “home”. But honestly, for me when I think about it, what in my life is more uncomfortable on this earth than being left to hang nailed to a cross? Not much and therefore I really don’t have that much to be uncomfortable with.
I used music as an example that has both made me feel at “home” and “without a home” but there are so many things that we forgo reconciling because of the fear of being uncomfortable like issues dealing with race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc. However, like music, instead of just sticking with what we know, we need to branch out, try things that at first may not be what we’re used to (like CCM) and see the beauty of God’s creation in it, making “homes away from home” along the way. Who knows, maybe Kirk Franklin and Hillsong will record something together one day.
Anyway, it was really great to go to Pray Chicago. It was like going home. But, I realized as I drove away from the church that was both new but still so achingly familiar, back towards my campus where my still somewhat foreign and not-quite-home fellowship was that I didn’t want to stay “home”. That it was a nice break, but I needed – no, wanted – to leave. An already built home is nice but there’s something beautiful about seeing something that once hardly resembled a home become a “home away from home”…