All the while I was studying Acts, I was struggling in other areas too. I still didn't know hardly a soul at my church. I started Thursday night discipleship with 5 girls in my small group, which turned into 3, which turned into 2-me and the girl I was coming with from my school. I was really desperate, so I asked if we could join forces with another group. I know they had good hearts, but they didn't want to disrupt groups that had really taken off and started opening up to each other. The first time it was a no. Eventually, my friend stopped coming on Thursdays and so they let me join with another group.
I was placed in a group with 3 freshmen and a sophomore in college. Not ideal, but I figured it was a starting place. But they really couldn't get how lonely I was and how hard I was seeking to connect. Every answer I got was super spiritual and true, but not helpful or practical. Every Sunday, I would still almost always end up sitting by myself and would often leave without making any meaningful connection with anyone.
Towards the end of the study, I was at a meeting where leaders and students were talking about what changes they would like to see in the upcoming studies. One girl voiced that she would like to have more time to get to meet other people. This was met with an immediate response. Thursday night discipleship was just for discipleship. Not for meeting people. If you wanted to meet people, you could go to one of the age appropriate house churches. I was so upset by that response, as if trying to meet other people in the church and getting to know the church body was of lesser value than learning to studying the Bible . It was as if the girl had said, "Who cares about studying the Bible? I'm just here to find a nice, Christian boy to date." But I wasn't boy crazy, I was relationship starved.
Up until that point, I had not been able to go on Wednesday nights to the young adults house church. And by the time I was, I was terrified of going by myself. It was held at a group of guys' house, and I didn't know any of them. Those were my excuses. Then I randomly met one of the guys who lived there, and he seemed welcoming enough. Then I met a girl who had been going there, and both of my excuses were shot. So I called up the girl who had been going and asked if we could go together. And we did.
It only worked out that she could come that one time, so I spent the next few months awkwardly going by myself. People did not come very consistently to house church, and apparently most people already had friends that they came with. And the main church had 3 services, so I only saw some of those people on Sundays. It was not very conducive to developing deep relationships, and I was exhausted every time I left. Still, I went to every event I was invited to for house church.
Invitation #1: Contra dancing on a Friday night. I had made friends with a girl who was only in Atlanta on a six week rotation at Emory (my luck), and I decided to go, since she would at least be there. There were only five people who went, and I really enjoyed it. But it did kinda feel like an awkward group, like we were the reject group from house church going to some uncool country hick dance. And there were 2 guys to 3 girls, which made dancing awkward.
Invitation #2: Fun at O'Somethings pub after house church. This was where everyone went after house church. I just had to wait a month to be invited. In fact, more people showed up for food and drinks there than were at house church. I went into culture shock for a bit when I realized I was the only one at the table not ordering a drink with alcohol in it. (We didn't typically go out drinking after my Southern Baptist church get togethers.) We had fun, played a few games, and I was outta there before things got crazy.
Invitation#3 The Braves game. I even went to the cookout before the game. But somehow, at the game I got stuck on the end. Behind me were obnoxious people cheering for the other team. Beside me were some girls flirting with one of the boys and bragging about all of the spiritual stuff they had been doing, saving orphans and quoting Scripture and such. Thank goodness I brought a friend with me.
There were a couple of other things I went to, but overall my experience wasn't very positive.There were some who made me feel like an outcast and others who were inviting and friendly. But all of my trying was falling flat.
House church was growing, so they decided to do a split. I was placed in a group with none of the people I knew. They also decided we would read a book together, so we would all be studying the same thing. Read a book? In what time? I have 5 million other books I am reading. My group was also meeting far away from where I was working on Wednesdays, so if I made it, I would be late. I just quit.
At the same time the main church was growing and needed to find a new place for us. We were packing 400 in a room that comfortably sat 250. The fire marshall would come lock the front doors when we reached capacity. And we had a growing overflow room. So when a place opened up for us to rent on Sundays that sat 1,000, the leadership jumped. They combined some of the services, so instead of coming to a service with 300-400 people sitting in a pew I was going to a service with 600-800 and dark, stadium seating. You couldn't see or talk to anyone there.
I had been at the church for a year and a half. I had hardly a thing to show for it.
This is what was leading up to that rainy night last November...