Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Churches pt 2

Now then where was I? Oh yes, Grace church. Yes, we liked Grace church quite a lot. Grace was unlike any church I had ever been to before, not that I had been to a lot. These people were very enthusiastic about praising God. There was loud music played by a band, people would raise their arms into the air while they sang, and some people would even dance in the aisles. On our first visit to Grace, I remember thinking “I can’t go to church here, these people are nuts!” For me, church had always been a rather sombre affair. In church you were expected to sit still and keep quiet, and the music was supposed to be something you might hear at a funeral. This was very different. I had to force myself to pay close attention to everything that was going on. By the time that first worship service ended, I had discovered that it wasn’t so different after all. They preached from the same bible other churches use, and the sermon itself was very much like other sermons I had heard, although the pastor was much more emphatic than I was used to. Incidentally, the first sermon we heard at Grace was all about change. Coincidence? No, the only thing that was different about this church, was that the people were enthusiastic. They were actually excited about praising the Lord. Once I got over my initial shock, I began to realize how right that felt.

After three or four months, however, I began to notice some things that I was not sure about. They practiced speaking in tongues, which I didn't really notice at first. I had never encountered this before and didn't know what to make of it. I emailed both the pastor and the associate pastor with some questions. I couldn't really get a straight answer from either of them, although the pastor said he had done a series of sermons about that and I could get a CD copy at the church bookstore for twenty dollars. That bothered me a lot more than the tongues did. I kind of agonized over that for a while because we had really been enjoying the church. I remember talking to my sister about it and her advice was, “if it’s good for Adam, you should really consider sticking with it.” Well, she was right. Adam was excited about going each week and Joni and I were still getting something out of it too, so we stayed. Soon after that, God took the decision out of our hands anyway, as He so often does.

We began attending Grace in November of 2008, but only stayed until April of 2009. I didn’t agree with all of their practices and customs, but at Grace, I learned that it’s okay to be enthusiastic about praising God, that it’s okay to clap your hands in church and shout “Amen!" if you hear something you like. That was an important step in our spiritual growth, and God picked the perfect church for us. If God had sent us to Grace church first, I don’t think we would have been ready for it, that’s why we had to spend some time at UCC first, to prepare us for the next step.

That was when God decided He wanted us in Nebraska. So to Nebraska we came. We took a couple of weeks to settle in before beginning our search for a new church. In the meantime, we visited my old Baptist church, where my mother and sister still attend regularly. It was great coming home to the old church and hearing all the familiar voices, but we knew we wouldn’t be attending there regularly. It is very much a traditional church and we had become accustomed to the contemporary. After we had settled into our new home, we began our search.

The first church we visited was another Baptist church. It was a blend of the traditional and the contemporary. The pastor gave a pretty good sermon, but brr! It was chilly in there, and I don’t mean the temperature. The second church was better, the people were friendly, but we just weren’t sure. We decided to look a little further.

Our third try was a success. At the Evangelical Free church in Kearney, we found Friendly people, powerful sermons, and a strong commitment to youth. More importantly, it just felt right. On our second or third Sunday, the pastor announced that they would be expanding the church by building a larger sanctuary. I think any church that can do that in these economic times must be doing something right, but I don’t feel funny about the money issue there like I did at Grace. Nine months later, all three of us are still enjoying it very much.

It is clear to me that God had our growth and progress carefully mapped out. Each step of the journey, each church we have attended, has played an important part of that growth. If we had tried to go our own way or follow our own plan, I’m sure we would have bungled it quite badly. How reassuring it is to kno that God is there, guiding us and directing our path.

Well, that was a much longer story than I thought it would be! If you made it all the way through, thank you! If you happen to be looking for a church yourself, try not to fret about it too much, okay? God will lead you to the right one. And if you start to feel a little restless in your present church, give it some thought and prayer. God might be telling you that it's time for the next step.

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

Psalms 98:4-6 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn, shout for joy before the LORD, the King.

1 comment:

  1. An awakening of the spirit.
    Growing up I never knew,nor was I taught, that you PRAISE the Lord. In so many services,my Catholic youth, UCC, we sat and heard about the Lord, proceeded with the rituals, and left.
    It wasn't until Grace church that I discovered, it was not only okay to PRAISE the Lord, it was the right thing to do.
    I steered clear of churches always standing on my high horse saying,"When God wants me in church, he'll find the one for me."
    Grace showed me a new way to sing,praise and worship. All that the bible tells us to do.

    Psalm 13:6 I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.

    Psalm 33:3 Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.

    All of psalms tells us this over and over. It is in the Bible!

    The Lord doesn't want us to ritually praise, or give somber praise, he wants us to SING with loud noise.

    The power that flowed through my veins, from the very first visit at Grace and to this day through EFree is remarkable.

    I know I'm right where God had planned me to be.

    I wish everyone could feel the surge and rejoice in His name.
    In due time...in due time.