How do you get to a book idea? For “Reason to Return,” it began with God’s leading my family to a small church home in Fishers, Indiana. This week, I got to share with my church family how they played a role in helping create this book.
Here’s the talk I gave and the written speech (not actually full transcript) below:
Six years ago I walked into Waterline Church with a 1-year-old on my hip, hoping to find a new home church in my somewhat new town. My husband and I had moved to Fishers, Indiana two weeks before our son, Jacob, was born and had been church hopping for the year. But I was ready to find a real church home.
Previously, we’d attended a megachurch in Washington, DC but we knew we wanted to a smaller place to call home. After posting in a mom’s Facebook group about church suggestions, I made a list of those that seemed appealing and started scheduling out when to go. We tried a few spots, but the buck stopped with Waterline.
I think I remember Janet welcoming us in that first day and everyone was so kind, welcoming and friendly. The first day our former pastor John Freed preached a sermon that was based on a book by our former pastor in DC, Mark Batterson. Mark’s preaching and books had made a big impact on Rick specifically and we really loved him.
A Sign From God
After church that day, we both said how friendly it was and thought it was a sign from God that John preached from Mark’s book. We pretty much settled on Waterline after that! It was soon after that that my first book, Leaving Cloud 9, was published and Waterline came behind Rick and I in prayer and support. I remember leaving a prayer request note to pray for the book’s publication and received a call from John later that afternoon – excited to pray over the process and support me however he could.
Since then, John and Danielle have been maybe my biggest supporters of that book as they continue to share it with pastors and congregations through their work now! But back to the story back then…
It was just after that time in 2018/2019 that I saw the great work the Freeds and Waterline were doing with church planting. I had been freelance writing a lot more and become really interested in how faith life plays a role in pushing back against depression, addiction and more. As I researched I became simultaneously fascinated by church planting. See, at first I didn’t get it. Weren’t there enough churches? But John and Danielle were SO committed to creating more. I wanted to know why. So I attended one of their church planting boot camps and started doing more research.
Church Planting Matters
What I discovered was that a church that plants another church within 5 years had a better chance of staying a live longer. I learned that new church plants are one of the best ways to reach unbelievers or those who are likely to come back to church.
And I began to learn about the incredible power of church community. That those who attend church regularly are far less likely to suffer from depression or suicide, that they are happier, have better relationships, significantly better mental AND physical health. This was for kids and adults. And I learned that kids who attend church regularly turn out to be healthier, happier adults. I was fascinated and wanted to tell everyone!
I had my first major piece published in the Wall Street Journal on this topic in 2019!
Why Women Leave
I knew I wanted to write my next book at this in some way. When I ran into some statistics about how women were leaving the church at a much faster rate than men – specifically in the last 10 years – I stopped in my tracks. Why was this happening?
At the same time, I discovered that women weren’t leaving church because they were done with God or faith but for a whole variety of reasons, from overwhelm and busyness to feeling shut down by their questions or doubts.
Still, studies showed they cared deeply about their relationships with God. It hit me – these women are the ones who desire faith community and maybe need any invitation back to something that works for them.
The phrase: The Church of your past doesn’t have to be the church of your future has stuck with me from day one. It was the original subtitle of my book, Reason to Return…and though we changed it, I still believe it’s true…that sometimes women need permission to try something new.
I also realized how little I had been taught growing up about why church community mattered. And when you don’t know they WHY it’s easy to stop seeing at as important. And so….this is how Reason to Return came to be.
Where the Foundation Was Laid
But really it started out many years ago, when as a little girl, my mom started taking us to church as kids. Since my memory begins, I’ve bee n going to church on Sundays. And though my Dad wasn’t really into it, my mom persisted and getting us three girls there each week. She created this foundation in my life, one that has sustained me for decades…so that every time I move somewhere new or am in an unfamiliar environment, the first thing I look for is the church.
I have vibrant memories of singing praise songs in Spanish under a hot, tin roof church in Venezuela. I remember the beautiful African voices that rang out as we sat singing together on raw cut wooden benches in Kenya. I sang next to elderly folks in a nursing home and an out of tune piano and worshiped outdoors at the beach in Charleston, SC with my church when i loved there. When I traveled to India alone, and was picked up by strangers int he middle of the night, I was terrified but when my host home had a picture of Jesus on the wall, my fears were quelled.
Wherever I went in the world, the church surrounded and calmed me and I found God there no matter where I was.And when I was seeking to find freedom from eating disorders, alcohol, depression….you have been there. Now, then and in the future.
God is the is the One who was, and is, and is to come. He is the eternal I AM. And for me, his Church as been that eternal structure. I’ve heard it said that the local church is like an embassy of Heaven on earth. When we walk into these spaces, we are experiencing a small bit of heaven. We’re not really here on earth anymore. And that is the coolest thing I’ve maybe ever heard.
So I’m thankful for Waterline and what you’ve been to me. And how God used you to lead me to this book that will hopefully bring more people back to Him and honor His name in a way that is truly glorifying.
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