Hi, my name is Chelsey, and I’m a recovering church-hater.
(This is where you say, “Hi, Chelsey.”)
I was born and raised in the Texan Hill Country, where my family has lived for many generations. I grew up heavily involved in the church and in a very small conservative town before graduating and moving away to Austin, where I became a hippie.
I met my husband, Ted, in college and we got married right after I graduated. We moved to St. Louis for two years of his seminary training, Baton Rouge for a year of vicarage, and then back to St. Louis. These four years taught me many lessons (one of which was that I can pack up a house in two days or less), but the most important was the fact that ministry is not about me.
I have a degree as a Director of Christian Education (DCE) like Heather, but I’ve never used it in an official capacity. I managed to fulfill the internship requirement of my degree in St. Louis, so that maybe one day I could have an official rostered Call, but it was a difficult experience that left me sad and jaded.
When we moved for Ted’s vicarage, I tried to distance myself from everything related to professional ministry. I got a minimum wage job at a local coffee shop and turned my back on church. I disliked church songs, church culture, and church people. I hung out with people who smoked weed, drank too much, and didn’t know much of anything about Jesus. (My husband would like me to take a moment and let you know that I did not do these things.) I seriously considered joining my lesbian atheist co-worker’s roller derby team until I saw how much the equipment cost. I cursed a lot. I could barely walk into a church building without losing my temper or saying something stupid, so most of the time I played the part of the quiet vicar’s wife, even though I’m not. And sometimes I just skipped Sunday morning worship altogether.
I thought that doing all of these things would put distance between ministry and me.
I was wrong.
My work friends noticed that something was a little off about me, but when they found out I was a Christian, they were surprised because “I was so normal.” They were amazed that I didn’t hate them. They would dream up bizarre questions and throw them at me at 5 in the morning, before I’d had my coffee, and I would end up trying to calibrate the espresso machine and giving my Biblical opinion on reincarnation at the same time.
Then one day, one of my unchurched friends looked me in the eye during our morning shift together and said, “Chelsey, I feel like God is following me around. And I feel like it’s your fault.”
And it wasn’t until I started crying on my drive home that I realized that it probably was.
I had been broken by sin, anger, and betrayal; I had turned away to try to hide the cracks in my “church person” veneer. What I hadn’t realized was that Jesus had taken those shattered facets and redeemed them, His light refracting off of my rough edges to reach people who would have never had a conversation with “perfect” DCE Chelsey.
That was also when I realized that Jesus doesn’t need me to be a called DCE. Or a barista. Or a college admissions counselor.
Really, Jesus doesn’t need me at all.
But He chooses to use me anyway.
My friend who was being “God-stalked” wanted a church recommendation, but I had none to give him. I wanted to take him to church with me, but I knew one step inside the narthex would be too foreign. Instead, I halfheartedly recommended a few non-denominational places where people his own age might be. That was also when I committed myself to what will probably be a difficult life of church planting. Ted and I crave a church home filled with people of all ages, where the Gospel is taught simply and with strength, where forgiveness is received by Word and sacrament, and where we wouldn’t be embarrassed to bring our friends.
Church planting is hard. It feels as though nothing is happening, or as though you were trying to scramble your way up a tall cliff that only becomes more mountainous with each handhold you find. It is at these times that we have to stop and remind ourselves that God doesn’t really need us – He is choosing to use us. This isn’t our church. It’s His.
Maybe one day, we’ll be part of a growing, thriving congregation that matches all of our biggest, wildest dreams.
Or maybe we won’t.
Maybe one day, I’ll be a published author.
Or maybe I won’t.
Maybe one day, I’ll be in professional church ministry.
Or maybe I won’t.
For now, I have learned to be content in the valleys. I have learned to like church and church people again (especially because I am one), even when things get messy. I am content to be “the wife” rather than the career woman; content to minister quietly and without recognition. I am content to be the shattered light on a stand, to let the light of Jesus glance off of me in refracted ways, so that those who don’t know the Gospel may catch a glimpse they may not have before.
God’s plan and my plan probably won’t line up the exact way I want them to. But I do know that His plan is perfect, and no matter what my life looks like, He will use it to reach those who are far from Him.
I’m just here for the ride.
Chelsey and her husband Ted have been married for five years and live in Georgetown, TX.
She works as a transfer admissions counselor at Concordia University Texas, of which she is also an alumnus (like me!)
Connect with Chelsey
Now it’s your turn. When have your plans…well…not gone the way you thought they would? How were you blessed by that experience?