A Church to Call Home

An exciting thing is happening right now.  BSF started back up a few weeks ago and we are studying the Book of Matthew this year.  I have been gearing up and getting excited about this almost since I began BSF two years ago.  Not just because the Book of Matthew is an incredible book, but because we have been studying the Sermon on the Mount (which is in Matthew) at my church since September 18th, 2011.  Yeah, you read that right.  We've been studying the same sermon since Two-Thousand-and-Eleven.  We attend a Bible church right down the road and what we love about it most is how the teachings produce heart changing convictions.

Our pastor is utterly amazing, a theological genius who spends a full 50 minutes (no, not including praise time) with us every single Sunday, solely teaching us the BIBLE.  Not anything else.  In most of his sermons, we spend time breaking down the actual language of the bible, etymology of the words embedded into the scripture, then we usually go through what the scripture doesn't mean, then into what it does mean and how we can apply it to our lives--how we can let it change us to live more pure lives.

Our hearts are led to repentance after every single sermon.  We are led not to feel okay with our sin as long as we repent, only to repeat that sin and repent again and again, but to really grasp the idea that our sin is to be hated and true repentance is not the conscious decision to repeatedly sin under the pretense that we can ask for forgiveness rather to TURN from sin and instead work to change our lives away from that sin.  The teachings motivate us not to just repent, but to live our lives differently.

It's traditional.  Almost too traditional (think super long prayers and pretty old fashioned praise time).  :)  No fancy productions, no masking of the message and most people still wear "Sunday church clothes."  Sunday school is still offered on Sundays and Wednesday night family dinners are still on the bulletin.  The family feel reminds me of the Baptist church I grew up in.  It points to one thing--> church body and family unity AT church.

Our pastor delivers the Bible raw, whole, real and truthfully.  We don't master the word in a series that covers a part of the bible, but we master the entire selection of scriptures at once--even it if takes two years to complete.  In doing this, the message comes alive, full, convicting yet refreshing.  Truly teachable; lives molded to conform to the bible and not oneself.  Often, I walk out with three pages full of notes and at least twenty different scriptural references to give me the knowledge that I need to really understand what God is saying. All of the knowledge only increases my appetite for more.  Missing a sermon is like missing an episode of your absolute favorite show.  If you do miss it, you go back and watch it on your DVR.  It draws you in and just can't get enough.  The good thing is, the season never ends unless you let it.

It's the perfect size.  Big enough to fill up the sanctuary in three separate sermons but small enough to be intimate.  Big enough to blend in and small enough to stand out.  Our pastor doesn't separate himself from the congregation and can be seen walking the foyer on Sunday mornings.  He is highly, highly respected, yet not idolized or turned into a hometown celebrity.  Seeing him this way makes him accessible, connects him to his pupils.  It shows the church that his priority is right there with us--not distracted with his hands in a million other ministry adventures.  While those are great, the pastor at my prior church was gone more often than he was present.  He was doing wonderful things around the world, but his congregation needed him.  Our pastor is internationally involved as well, but you can tell he puts his focus on being there with us every Sunday first and foremost, even if he is ministering elsewhere Monday through Friday.  Of course he isn't present every single Sunday, but we know by the emphasis he places on serving his own congregation first that even when he is ministering elsewhere, his heart is with us.

He doesn't hide the truth or sugar coat sins to make you feel normal.  He is very honest about how God makes it incredibly clear that we are not to be one with the world, but we are to be clearly set apart.  Sadly, many churches distract from this message because we live in a world of self-indulgences and love of self that the truth will turn hearts away, when really hearts who love themselves more than God have already separated themselves regardless of church affiliation.

 His messages are clear and focused.  He doesn't add excessive humor and bright lights to distract from his message.  He teaches and expects a reverence for the Lord in his house standing on nothing but his word.   We don't hear silly jokes or puns or all about his family and his life and his personal spiritual revelations, we hear solely about the words in the bible.  He is so true to the word that he doesn't skip the "hot topic" issues by trying to shy away from politics and our ever darkening world to keep his numbers at his congregation high.  Instead, he is honest and preaches straight from the bible whether people want to hear the truth or not.  I've never learned so much from one person in my life.  If he knew this, he wouldn't take the credit, though, he'd give it all to God.  Yes, he is teaching God's word, but his teaching blesses so many.

The fruit of our spirits, for the first time in years decades is so ripe and it is all because of how this church makes our eyes come alive with the biblical truths of God's love, grace, mercy, promises, forgiveness, sovereignty, and almighty power.  There are such wonderful things to boast about the leadership that God has placed at our church, and every day, Adam and I are finding ourselves more and more thankful for our placement here.

When we became members at our last church, we just jumped all in.  We didn't give it much time or prayer, only visited a couple of months before we decided we wanted to make it home (our reasons? loud concert-style praise team--not because we liked to jam out, but because we could be wall-flowers where no one noticed us, the pastor was funny, and we never felt guilty when we left).  I am embarrassed to admit that our choice had nothing to do with the poignancy of the message.  We didn't see the church through all its seasons and in many ways, became members for the wrong reasons.  It was and is a wonderful church, but overtime we realized that it just wasn't for us or maybe it was for us at one time but our needs simply changed.

 Four years after leaving our previous church, I can finally say that we have officially found our home.  This time, we took it slowly.  This time, we were serious about what we wanted and what to make sure we knew what we were looking for.  After a year, I was ready to join.  Adam was ready, too, but he had reservations regarding a requirement of membership: the Believer's Baptism.  He was baptized as an infant, which is a beautiful thing in itself, but our church recommends that it's members profess their faith at an age in their lives when they can make a clear profession of turning from self and to God.  There is nothing wrong with either, but for Adam, it meant so much more.  We have prayed and talked about this issue for the past two years. Adam knew my heart and where I wanted to stay, but he also knew I was willing to leave should he make that decision.  I wanted this decision about our church home to come from his heart, not from my nagging.  Three weeks ago, sitting in the pew, a little black pad came floating across our laps as it does weekly.  Adam opened it, wrote our names, and checked the box for two things:  his baptism, and our desire to become members.

My heart sang.  

The impact of how beautiful this seemingly small check-yes-or-no moment was wouldn't be clear without detailing the reasons above why our hearts feel so at home where we are at.  With prayer and petition and through God preparing the way, He has revealed to us that this is the church for us to raise our family up in.  The past few weeks have been full of moments of intimate reflections between my husband and I over how attending our church has changed who we are to be more like Christ.  We were changed at the moment of salvation, but both of us can truthfully say that our lives in no way reflected a life of believers.  Good people in the secular world, but wildly displeasing to God.  Through our pastor's teachings, we have learned how to pray, how to repent, what God commands and expects of us and how to apply these biblical truths to our lives.  I am completely overjoyed with our upcoming membership into this beautiful church body.  I hope someday my daughters and their husbands read this as they search for the right church to raise their families in.  After all, I wrote it for them.  Tonight, I am going to bed with an absolutely swollen and thankful heart.

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