For five years I served as pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. The church was located in the middle of a neighborhood that had seen better days. Eleven hundred square foot houses were lined up on lots that were 50 feet wide and 120 feet deep. Most of the people in the neighborhood and in the church had moved up from rural Kentucky during the great depression or moved in when they came home from World War II. They found work in the L&N Railroad shops, or at the Naval Ordinance Station, or at International Harvester. As soon as they could scratch together a down payment, they bought a house and raised a family. Often, four or five children were jammed into two tiny bedrooms, with everyone in the house sharing one bath. When I asked the parents about it years later, they said with enthusiasm, “Having indoor plumbing was a real upgrade from the outhouse back on the farm.”
By the time I came to the church, most of the people had put in their thirty or forty years. They got their gold watch and retired. They had sent their children off to college and were a little surprised their children didn’t move back into the old neighborhood.
When a pastor is new to a church, people want to know about you. I was asked, over and over, “Now where are you from?” I told them about being from Florida and growing up on a ranch. Before I could ask them a question back, they were quick to pick up the thread of “Where are you from?” by telling me “I’m from Campbell County.” Or “I’m from Barren County,” or “McCracken County.” They never referenced the name of a town or a city, always a county. When one man told me he was from “Bourbon County” I thought that must have been an interesting place to grow up. No one ever said they were from Louisville.
After they had established which county was their place of origin, I would ask them how long they had lived in Louisville. The most common answer: “Oh, about 45 years.” Many had lived in the same house, in the same neighborhood, going to the same church for 45 years, but they all wanted me to know that they were not Louisvillians; they were from the country.
In another sense, they were telling me that Louisville was not home. Whatever it meant for them to be from Campbell County, or Barren County, or even Bourbon County, they had not found it in Louisville. For those folks, home was a memory. Forty or fifty years after they left, they were still longing for home.
Everyone is hunting for a sense of home. We try to make a house a home, filling it with pictures and furniture. We hunt for a church that feels like family, where we can feel like home. But finding a home ends up not being so much about a place, but something our heart seeks.
The deepest longing of your heart is find a place of rest, a place of grace, a place of love. You will never find that in a building. You will, however, find it in the presence of an amazing Savior, Jesus.