Check out Part 5 where I talk about how to find a good church, if you haven't already!
After we left YP's church, William and I wandered. We tried many many churches...but they all seemed the same. There seemed to be a lot of show and little heart. We tried large churches, tiny churches, medium churches...it felt like we tried them all! One of the memorable ones a pastor drew a bow...with an arrow (making it a loaded weapon) and pointed it at a person. This was DURING his sermon. That same sermon the pastor went over time. He said "You don't take cookies out of the oven before they are done!" and kept on talking...even chastising someone who got up to leave. William whispered "This cookie is burnt!" Do I even need to mention we never went back?
All of the churches seemed so empty. We weren't thrilled or moved by any of them. We finally settled on one and attended for probably 6-8 months. I had knee surgery and we stopped going. During that time we realized we didn't really miss it. We knew one other couple, but didn't have a lot in common with them. (I had tried...I attended several scrap booking parties. I hate glitter.) It was a larger church and we seemed to be on the failing end of getting involved. Some of it was laughable. For example, they had a "young marrieds" class. We finally decided to go - and that particular week we went was the last week they were holding it. We finally quit going to the church all together.
After some time, William and I wondered what happened with the church that called the police on us. So we went back and checked it out. Seemed dead to us. Then we went back and visited YP's church. The cold reception was more than enough reminder that we really didn't belong there.
I felt hopeless and lost. I didn't feel like I'd ever find a church family. I was even a little mad that I had lost mine. I mourned what YP's church was supposed to be.
The Lord began talking to me about preparations. He said to be patient, that He was preparing a place for us. I'd get impatient and He would whisper to be patient...that it wasn't ready yet. And He encouraged me that one day we would again have a church home.
William and I made a big plan to move south near his parents. We wanted to open up a local video store business down there - feeling that it would be a great market. They had no blockbuster at the time. William worked very hard putting together a business plan and doing research. I looked into what it would take to become a teacher down there, so we'd have steady income. Then a blockbuster opened up. The lack of a Blockbuster was central to our proposal. And so the whole idea died.
I had been certain that I was supposed to move south and start fresh. But those certainties weren't from God...I just didn't see how He'd possibly find us a new church home. After all, we had pretty much tried every church in town. I was pretty despondent when it looked like we weren't moving after all.
One day a coworker stopped by my cube. He had a freelance project that he wanted help with. So we went out to lunch to discuss it. I was newly pregnant with Rebekah. The project didn't pan out, but during one of the planning meetings (ok - the second...we had TWO!) he began discussing his church. As he talked about it - it sounded like it was built for William and I. He talked about how it was full of lost people...and that even many of them had had poor church experiences before ending up at that church. I was definitely lost. As he talked about the atmosphere, it just sounded like he was describing my ideal church.
I went home and eagerly told William about this new place that we had to try! He politely said "Sure!", but my guess is he was pretty sure it was simply another dead end. At this time, we had pretty well stopped trying places and hadn't been to a church in months.
The very next Sunday was Easter. So we decided to wait a week. Attending church on Easter after not attending for months just seemed...cliche. Plus, it is pretty hard to tell anything about what really goes on in a church on Easter. Everything is usually different for Easter celebrations.
I had been told the church met in a school gym. I had been to plenty of churches that did not have a building. I was not prepared for this church.
The first Sunday we attended, we received two apologies multiple times. The first was because their trailer had been stolen and things weren't "normal". William and I couldn't tell the difference. We were awstruck at the level of organization to begin with - nevermind that their trailer with all their stuff had been stolen. The second was for knowing my coworker. ;-)
And let me specifically say that this was God...the freelance project went nowhere. I have no idea why this coworker asked ME to help. I know that the subject of church would have NEVER come up without this project because we never talked! We weren't friends! I barely knew his name! The Lord moves. He had prepared a place for us, and it was finally ready.
I was amazed at the organization brought by a church that didn't have a permanent home. I was amazed at the size of the church. I was amazed at the amount of kids in the church. That first Sunday I counted 60! And I had counted about 100 total people. I was just shocked at the size. I had literally expected there to be like 20 people. And their ability to "move into" the gym and make it a home was just absolutely remarkable. It looked like they belonged there! You know...all the time!
We attended with caution. Our hopes were not up. We'd been down this road before and sometimes attending a church for awhile would show issues or things that bothered us. I wasn't looking for a perfect church - churches are made up of people and will never be perfect. And at this point, I really was just looking for a church that would be good enough. I had given up hope on a church home - a place that contained a true church family.
My early memories of this church are a bit spotty. I was pregnant! ;-) But there was ONE thing that bothered me and I really wanted to know more about it. On the church bulletin, it stated that the pastor was leading the youth group. After my previous experience, I was concerned that this was in fact another church where the pastor did everything. I was looking for a church with solid leadership. William kept telling me there was probably a reasonable explanation for it - but I just didn't see one.
It wasn't very long until another couple were announced as the new youth leaders. I don't really know the history, but it turns out that they were just in between youth leaders at the time. And I now know that the pastor has solid leadership. He is very good at delegating and putting the right people in the right places. Once the announcement was made, I breathed a sigh of relief. That was my only remaining concern.
We attended for probably a year before we began letting our guard down. As the church family continued to show their love towards us, we couldn't help but being sucked in by them. They threw a magnificent baby shower for Rebekah (and they barely new us). And they were so generous and kind. Their love of all kids was just astonishing. Kids are definitely an important part of this church! And they take educating them and raising them in the church very seriously!
I will confess - I waited for the "other shoe" to drop. I had been to so many churches where drama abound once I got heavily involved. Things were never simple. People were catty. Hypocrisy and judgement were usually just around the corner. So I was very hesitant to get involved. I actually wanted to just sit in the chair and soak up the glorious-ness of naivety. I didn't want to find those things in this church and once again feel the hopelessness of church. I was very happy having some place to just go every Sunday. And told William frequently I was just going to be a pew-sitter...and I wasn't venturing out!
But this church family doesn't really allow that. They suck you in with their smiles, caring nature and inquiry into your daily life. And before we knew it, William and I were getting to know everyone and loving everyone we got to know.
We've been attending for 6 years. This by the way, is the longest I've managed to stay at any one church in my adult life. ;-) I'm proud to report that I haven't found any drama or issues. Have there been problems? Sure! Have there been unhappy people! Absolutely! But all have been dealt with accordingly in an open and honest way with those involved. And the lack of gossip means I don't really know fully about those situations, what happened etc. I do know of a few situations and know how they were dealt with, and it was always in a straight forward manner. I appreciate straight forwardness! I also appreciate the serious lack of gossip (which is a common problem in most churches!).
So is my church perfect? Absolutely not. Is my church a family? Absolutely. And I wouldn't trade them for the WORLD. I love each and everyone of them and am so blessed by them.
There is one thing that sets them apart from any church that I've ever attended...so you might call this #6 in my tip list...everyone prays for one another genuinely. It was their prayer and support during my pregnancy with Ruth that allowed me to go through it insulin free. It was their prayer and support while we were trying to sell our house that allowed us to make it through that very trying situation. Praying over one another in a genuine fashion is priceless.
If you are interested in finding out more about my church, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be happy to give more information and invite you to join us sometime!