Through the years, Larry and I have tried to define who we are, as far as Christian denominations go, many times. We have never quite nailed it down because we haven't found any denomination that really fits us completely. We feel at home just about anywhere, really. Sure, there are places that feel a little more like home than others, but ultimately if they teach the virgin birth, death on the Cross, the resurrection & the 2nd coming, everything else is just fluff. And fluff can be pushed aside and/or ignored. Fluff we can deal with. Basic theological differences, we can't.
And since attending the Sheila Walsh conference today, I've been thinking about that on a different level. Hearing her talk about how God uses broken people, I was screaming "YES!" in my head. I've been thinking about it ever since. And I've come to a few conclusions about what the 'ideal' church looks like to me. (or at least something like this...)
The senior pastor is a recovering addict. He realized at 21 that he would be dead within the year if he didn't quit. He looked for help & got it. He started walking a sober life and failed. He fell back into old habits and realized how hard this clean life would be. And then someone told him about Jesus.
The associate pastor did time. He made some mistakes in his 20s, but after serving 4 years he got out & decided to turn his life around. Someone gave him a Bible while he was in prison and he read it cover to cover. He trusted God as his savior behind bars. Life on the outside would be hard. He'd have to start over and build new relationships, find a job and start a new life. This time, he would be doing it differently, though. This time, he wouldn't be alone.
The music pastor has a rebellious teenager who is giving he and his wife a lot of heartache. Despite raising her in church and having fed her Scripture all her life, despite all the summers in VBS and youth group meetings, she has never trusted Christ. He's terrified about what the future holds if she doesn't get her head on straight, but he's more fearful about her eternity if something doesn't change soon. After all, if she keeps hanging out with that crowd, she may not be alive in a year.
The youth pastor was a juvenile delinquent. At 16, he was locked up in "juvie". He still can't believe he and his friend robbed 2 stores before they got caught. Sure, he did his time & his record was sealed so that it doesn't haunt him now as an adult, the relationship with his parents has taken years to rebuild. It was so hard to regain their trust and he tries to get that across to the kids every week during youth group meetings. But with God's help, some of them are getting it.
The women's ministry coordinator had an abortion at 17. She thought he loved her, but when she told him she was pregnant, he gave her money for the abortion & disappeared. She really didn't want to do it, but she was too scared to tell her parents. She had a girlfriend drive her to the clinic & walk through the lines of protesters with her. She knew it was wrong, but she was terrified NOT to do it. It wasn't until she was 26 that she learned how deeply God loved her, even on that day. Ever since, her life has been changed and she desperately wants to reach other women for Him.
The children's director was a runaway who grew up in a single parent home. His dad left when he was in 4th grade. His mom always worked 2 jobs to pay the bills and he was home alone a lot. He knew he was just a burden on her, creating more bills, so he packed up his stuff one day when she was at work & hit the road. He lived on the streets for a little over a year before a preacher came to talk to the homeless kids he hung out with under the bridge. He didn't trust him at first, but eventually he learned that God had a plan for his life. It took another year before he went home to his mom. She met him in the yard, crying and cheering all at once, thrilled that he was home. She worried about him all that time he was gone. But when he sat her down on the couch that night & shared about what he'd learned about God, she realized that he wasn't alone all that time that he was gone, and that comforted her.
Why, you ask? Why would I love a church like this?
Because all of these people really know the love of God. These people have experienced grace and people aren't afraid to approach them. These people all recognized God's mercy and fell on their knees for forgiveness. These people all heard the call of God on their lives, educated themselves, fell in love with the Word of God and can teach it with authority and conviction based on personal experience. There are no masks or walls. They don't come with some set of rules about what is "ok" to discuss in church. These people are all 'real'.
I want to go to a church full of 'real' people.
Note: Please don't misunderstand. My current church is amazing, full of people who love God & mentor me all the time. None of the people I described here are leaders in my church (that I know of). I'm just thinking out loud.
4 years ago