This summer, we moved. Again. For the ninth time. Generally, a move for us means a new church. Unless, as in 2015, we moved a mere 25 minutes down the road. But this latest move had us back in the church hunt.
The search was not easy.
With each church, God has used that body and their specific calling to shift our world view.
I’ll never forget our pastor in Oklahoma City delivering the entire Sermon on the Mount. From memory. That was a bible loving church.
Our first church in Texas found it’s life-calling in missions. Not only locally, but globally. Out of our one class, we sent three families to the global mission field. I’m not sure I could name three mission families I knew AT ALL up until that point.
Our next Texas church taught identity, gratitude and worship. They lived and breathed worship. Honestly, it was a privilege we do not take lightly to have been a part of that body of Christ.
Those churches placed us on a specific path. One of Jesus-focused, worship-filled, mission-minded, honoring worshipers.
We set about on our search looking for the Act 2 church. Specifically, Acts 2:42-47.
We were looking for people devoted to the scriptures, each other and their community.
What we found was, well, not that.
We heard a sermon on honor. Great scripture from Romans.
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” ~Romans 12:10-11
Only what the pastor used as his example of honor was how dishonorable it was to refuse to stand for the national anthem. He spoke about young people not pulling their cars over for funeral processions nowadays. And how much social media targets and disrespects those in the faith.
I remember nothing about honoring the widows or orphans, the homeless, the mentally ill, the families of those in prison, the single mothers, the outcasts and over-looked. Nor being devoted to each other in love. Nor being zealous and spiritually on fire serving the Lord.
Much less, actually honoring the person kneeling during the national anthem by not making them out to be a disrespectful monster bent on bringing down a nation.
That church offered a gift card for a free meal for a family of four to anyone who turned in their visitor’s card at the Welcome Desk after the service.
We ate lunch at home.
There was a lovely church we visited several times. And I genuinely thought it was gonna be the one for us. Until the sermon on the Bigotry Bill.
If you search for that title, you’ll get a good many things about the “bathroom bills” or bills meant to give specific legal freedoms to businesses not wanting to serve people of the LGTBQ community.
However, the Bigotry Bill this pastor spoke on was a bill making it illegal to deny service to members of that same LGTBQ community. And if churches, specifically, chose to do so, that church could lose its tax-exempt status. The congregation was given amounts the church would have to pay each month in taxes should that bill be passed.
Passed where and by whom, I’m not sure. I don’t remember him saying the Texas legislator or the US Congress. Only telling us there was a bill ready to be voted on.
And that we needed to be careful who we cast our ballot for in the coming weeks. Clearly insinuating that should we vote the “wrong” way, the congregation needed to be prepared to sell the building and meet in homes. Where, he said, the church would THRIVE.
Leaving me to ask, soooooo…what was the point then?
If your church will thrive without a building, then sell the thing now!
The sad part is, I can’t find this specific Bigotry Bill anywhere. I’m certain it’s somewhere. Floating around out there as an idea, a threat, a potential scenario. I just can’t find it. Which leads me to wonder if this pastor might have found it through a click bait news article.
And if he can be that easily fooled or manipulated, then I’m out.
However, I’ve saved the best for last (sarcasm font).
Honestly, we could have left this church service during their worship time. People were up talking and laughing and having general conversations while the worship team was attempting to lead us. Basically, most people were not interested in being led anywhere.
But we stayed. And I am so glad we did (sarcasm font again).
It was the Sunday before the election. The pastor began his sermon by listing the character traits of each major candidate and then listing the values both parties held.
And then came the video.
As the pastor spoke about his selection, the person he felt best matched his personal convictions and who he would be voting for the following Tuesday, a video of a sweet baby in utero played for us.
It would have been poetic. If it weren’t so inflammatory.
Listen. I’m not trying to hide my own beliefs here. I am unashamedly pro-life. I have a daughter who began her life in a petri dish, listening to our embryologist, Glenn (because YES) playing Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. The creation of life is a miracle. Whether it’s done by two tipsy teenagers in the back of a car or an infertile old married couple desperate to have a child.
I also happen to believe my pro-life status does not end once that embryo is created. Nor once the baby is delivered. Nor once the two teenagers find themselves struggling to make it as babies with a baby. Nor when the child enters our public schools nor after they begin their careers.
I am pro-life for all life in all stages.
So, no. I am not at all offended by a video of a baby in the womb.
But I am very much offended at this pastor’s use of it to serve a political purpose.
From the pulpit.
After all those weeks, we were flat exhausted. We’d drive up to our friend’s church in Fort Worth every other week or so because we knew he would be preaching on Jesus.
Not culture or politics.
We wanted to be planted in a local church, in our community, where the kids might meet other kids from their schools and be able to invite other kids to our church.
Is it any wonder the World is not knocking the church’s doors down to get in????
After the new year, my women’s Bible study had a lunch fellowship. The Bible study is non-denominational and they do a good job of encouraging their leaders to keep the discussion focused on scripture and not personal churches or denominational beliefs. I respect that and so, I didn’t ask a whole lot of “where do you go to church” type questions. But my one prayer request every week was our search for a new church.
This particular day, after our fellowship, I noticed one of the ladies had on an interesting shirt. It’s completely out of character for me to ask about someone’s tee-shirt but I did that day. She told me it was from her church and invited me to visit. I’d not heard of it and told her I would definitely look into it.
After we walked away towards our cars, she came running back over to me. She said, “Robin, I prayed this morning that if God wanted you to visit our church, He would prompt you to ask me about my shirt.”
We went that Sunday.
And we haven’t left yet.
The second week we were there, we joined a small group.
This past weekend, that group took Valentine’s cookies and goodie bags to a homeless community near us. One of the members felt the Lord laid this act of service on her heart and the rest of the group rallied, in a matter of days, to pull it together.
And I’m just smitten.
Y’all, I do not mind a good discussion on politics. Really. It has its place. And for me, my focus on politics had gotten a bit too strong in the last election cycle. As it did with lots of people. And, I’m sure, many of them are like me in that they’ve never been all that involved UNTIL this last election season. Before then, I gave politics little to no thought.
But this year, it’s been different. For all sides. Saying it’s been heated is a vast understatement. And there are some things that have me just furious.
None of which belongs in the pulpit.
The good news of Christ is He came, died and rose again for ALL OF US. Not only one side of the political aisle. THAT is what needs to be taught. Love, grace, devotion, service, sacrifice, redemption. For all.
Christian, I’m just gonna be honest here and say, if you are walking out of your church service each week with the flames of your American political fires fueled, you need to do some serious soul-searching.
Politics have their place. We should absolutely be critical of our elected officials. Absolutely hold them accountable as our representatives in governing our nation.
But if your heart is burning with a zealous fever for a political leader or political party OVER Jesus Christ? You have an idol. And you need a serious heart check.
Jesus was not a political savior. That’s exactly what people were EXPECTING. He came as a humble servant. He washed the nasty, smelly feet of His disciples the night before He was beaten and hung on a cross to die.
I do not believe He hung there because He wanted us to preach American politics from His pulpit.
He would push those tables over, friend.
Maybe there are some of you out there in the same hunt we were and finding much of the same results. Or maybe you sat through a video or a sermon about a topic at a church you’ve been attending since dirt was new and it made you feel just slightly off. Or maybe you were hurt by a local church sometime in your past and you’ve steered far away from the church doors since that day.
Can I join you in that hallway right now?
Keep going, friend. If you’re searching, ask God to help you find. There is no explanation for why we did not find our new church in a google search of local churches. Zero. And now I see their tee shirts and bumper stickers all over the place. I don’t believe it’s crazy to say, God closed our eyes. He prevented us from seeing something right in front of us. Why? Maybe so we could experience all we did in our search. Maybe so I could speak to it right now. Maybe for a reason we’ll discover (or not) later. But I trust Him enough regardless.
And if you’ve felt that uncomfortable feeling listening to your pastor at the church you’ve been attending for forever and wondered, wait, why does this feel off? Feelings are not truth. Scripture is truth. Feelings change and move like the wind. But don’t completely disregard an uncomfortable space. Pray and seek. Ask God to give you an understanding on what that feeling might uncover. Earnestly and deliberately ask Him. Look behind the feeling for what is lying underneath it. Don’t lean on your own understanding (ahem.) but ask the Spirit to show you what that feeling meant.
If you’ve been hurt by a local church in the past, then, friend, you are in good company. Churches are full of flawed humans and we often let our feelings direct our path. These pastors and churches I mentioned aren’t horrible, worthless, evil people. But they might be misguided. Acting out of fear, perhaps. Maybe like the Pharisees, scared of losing their power, position and privilege. Just like me (and so many of us), they got caught up in a political season. Jesus came for them as much as they came for the outcasts.
You remember the last church I mentioned us being a part of? Back up there at the beginning. When I said, “…it was a privilege we do not take lightly to have been a part of that body of Christ?” That body, that is the only place where we have been hurt by the church. In all our years of church attendance, including childhood, college and years of marriage, that church, the one I describe as a “privilege” was the only church where I faced pain.
And yet, friend, I still count that church, that body of believers, as a place and a people I am honored to have been a part of.
The church is God’s beautiful creation of His kingdom in this sinful world. A world governed by “the prince of darkness.” But…BUT…it is not His PERFECT vision. That ended in the Garden. His perfect church we will only experience in heaven.
Around here, it’s just a whole bunch of people with a whole bunch of baggage and a whole bunch of growing to do seeking and asking and responding to God. And it is flawed.
But those flaws? Those bunches of redeemed, hurting, growing, seeking humans? They are beauty. And God loves them MORE THAN husbands love their brides on their wedding day. More than every husband in the history of the world COMBINED.
Friend, go back to searching. Take that hurt, lay it at the feet of Jesus and go find a body of believers to take you as you are right now, hurts and all, and build you up. Then, take your hurt and lay it at the feet of Jesus. Find some church doors and bravely walk through them. Then, take your hurt and lay it at the feet of Jesus. Do those steps, seek and lay down as many times as you need. Jesus? He’s patient. He’s got time. He’s got healing. He’s ready when you are.
And y’all? Can I offer up some ideas on how we ought to be acting in these days? In our current cultural climate? Given the fact we are called to display His LIGHT in this world?
Stop fighting on social media. We aren’t going to win. Whether you start the fight or not, just stop. Enough.
Stop posting or liking or even reading click bait articles. If the title of the article ends with “then this happened” or “shut him down with this…” it’s trash. Stop reading it.
Turn off your 24-hour news channel.
Turn on a podcast from a Bible preaching pastor. There are lots of them available for download. Or even a fun podcast! There are plenty of clean, uplifting, entertaining podcasts.
Listen to worship music. Or The Beatles. Something that makes you feel glad and grateful.
Have a dance party to The Trolls soundtrack. It’s good fun and will ensure a long night of peaceful sleep for the little people in the house.
Go for a walk. Or a run.
Volunteer at your local public school. You can help the librarian stock shelves in relative peace and quiet. Or make copies. Y’all teachers would love for someone to MAKE COPIES.
Introduce yourself to the people you always see on your morning walk. Or at the school bus stop. Or sitting in the same pew every single Sunday.
It’s time for us to be devoted to the scriptures, each other and our communities. Burn with a zealous fever for serving the Lord.
Not America, a political party or a political leader.
And we are incredibly grateful to have found an Acts 2 church. All glory to God, y’all.