Disclaimer: This post is sort of how I'm feeling right now, but not expressed perfectly, and not exactly what I want to say. If you have a grain of salt, take this with it.
The number one thing that was holding us back from fully deciding if we wanted to move to Tallahassee or stay in Cleveland was our church.
I'm certain I've written about it before, but we never hunted for a church in Cleveland. Before we moved from Spokane to Cleveland, we were living in intern housing at our Spokane church. Some of our best friends in Spokane, John and Rachel, lived in that building as well, one apartment over. Rachel, it turns out, is from northeast Ohio, and her older brother Evan, it turned out, had moved back to Cleveland a few months earlier. Evan was willing to give us pointers on where to live in Cleveland before we'd ever met... and one day he called Carson and asked if I'd like a job, which is how I got my job in Cleveland. He told us about his church, which sounded good, but we weren't sure about it.
Well, Carson went to church there on our first Sunday in Ohio (I was a loser and slept, since I was in a wedding that weekend, just two days after moving, and EXHAUSTED). He came back and told me that he'd found the church for us. I didn't believe him, since I assumed that would be one of the most difficult parts of settling in.
I was wrong, and we never shopped around for churches because we really found a home there. It was almost a year old at the time, full of life and breathing out the gospel. We couldn't wait to be a part of it. We joined Cory and Jasmine's community group and made great friends there. We were sad when they asked us to leave that to start our own, which grew both of us and also made our experience at Gateway Heights what it is. Through the church, we were ministered to, able to serve, built great friendships, and grew to love the city of Cleveland. I cried more leaving Cleveland after a year and ten months than I did leaving Spokane, our home of four years. We loved our people in Spokane, but we felt like we were a part of something in Cleveland.
We knew that "church shopping" was something we'd do in Tallahassee, and we have. With the exception of the Sunday that we moved here and the Sunday we went to church in Ocala, we've visited a different church each Sunday. And... it's difficult. Though we look the churches up online and even listen to sample sermons, it's not the same as visiting a church in person.
The church is not a building. It's people, individuals with struggles and joys and different personalities and strengths. Searching for a church here has honestly been a little frustrating. We were hoping to find a church that loved Jesus and talked about Him before all other things. Instead, we've gone to a few that sugarcoat the gospel or make the whole thing out to be about humans. The people we've come across have largely been very friendly, and the preaching has mostly been okay.
With a TON of churches left to check out, I'm sure we will find something that exemplifies Jesus and encourages us to run the race well. And for the record, the ones we've visited haven't been "bad", but they really haven't given us much to be excited for either.
But all in all, it makes us very thankful for what we had in both Spokane and Cleveland. We don't want to go to church because that's what's expected of "good Christians". We want to be a part of a church that is living in light of the gospel. I am thankful for church leaders, and those who follow them, who pursue Christ in a way that makes others want to follow him also.