Update: The Mission, doubt, and lawn chairs

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

(Note: Views expressed by me do not necessarily reflect those of everyone at The Mission. We’re a diverse group, and that’s a good thing!) 

So as it turns out, starting a new church is hard

There are relationships to maintain, money problems to solve, rumors to diffuse, and a surprising amount of paperwork to fill out. And just when we were starting to pick up some momentum after Easter, summer happened and our numbers (and funding) plateued. 

But though it all, our bonds as a community have strengthened. Already we’ve celebrated a baptism, two weddings, and a baby on the way! We’ve been volunteering at a local health clinic in an attempt to be a blessing to the community and we’ve been observing the church calendar in order to stay grounded in the great tradition of the universal Church. 

The Mission recently took a big step forward when we found a little space of our own to rent in downtown Dayton. At 14-feet-by-100-feet, the place looks more like a one-lane bowling alley than a church! The air-conditioning doesn’t work. Water randomly spews out of the toilets and sinks. And until recently, the walls were covered with ugly pegboard. (Now we’ve got some nice exposed brick to show off.) 

On Sunday nights it’s bring-your-own-lawn-chair.

The pastor: 


The pulpit: 


The sound system: 


The church: 


(For more photos, find us on Facebook. For info about meeting times, check out our Web site. To help us live to see another day, donate online.) 

It’s a strange and beautiful thing to be this involved in the life of a church as a consummate doubter and cynic.  

I’ve never been good at asking God for help or trusting him for resources. I balk at our Western notions of “need.” It both exhilarates and frightens me to see fellow skeptics walk through the door, willing to give the church one last try. I wonder sometimes if we’re wasting their time…wasting our time… wasting the world’s time.

I get defensive when people criticize us for starting yet another church in the Bible Belt. I feel guilty when I hear that some are skeptical because “that girl who believes in evolution” is a part of it. I worry when my pastor and his family struggle to make ends meet.  Most of allI fear the disillusionment that awaits if this thing doesn’t work out after all

And yet something about the risk of The Mission makes my faith seem much more real.

Theoretical notions of “church” and “community,” “commitment” and “sacrifice” are tested every day, providing constant opportunities for me to deliberately choose faith (or something quite like it) over doubt. The rhythm of the church calendar and the poetry of the liturgy push me along where I might otherwise stall. Knowing that I am actually needed makes me show up even when I don’t want to. 

I still doubt, but The Mission has forced me into a habit of obeying in spite of it

And sometimes obedience precedes belief. 


Do you have something in your life that pushes you through doubt? A spiritual discipline? A project? A community? A routine? 

Got any questions about The Mission? (I’ll be on hand to answer today, and maybe my pastor will weigh in.) 

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