Tag Archives: church

Churchless

I was in the 4th grade when we started going to my church. My family had hopped around from church to church, never finding a right fit or denomination for us, until the boys across the street invited us to Sunday School one week and my sister and I enjoyed ourselves so much that my parents tagged along the following week and the rest is sort of history. Though it had changed in a lot of ways by the time we’d joined, it was the church my mother grew up in and it became the church my dad found God again in. It’s a small old building that rests on a hill at the corner of two of the “major” roads in my little town, rooted pretty deep in the customs of the Southern Baptist that founded it. There are hardly any original members left alive, but one of them, Mrs. Silva-Jean sits in my pew with my family; her and my Maw Maw are best girlfriends.

 

In the time I’ve attended Towne Baptist, we’ve seen several pastors lead our church. When the first one passed away, a younger, hyper man took his place. When God called that guy to serve in another state, one of our own members got ordained and became the Pastor. That Pastor got involved in the mismanagement of church money and was ultimately asked to leave and at his exit, much of the church fell apart. Members left in anger or disappointment, others got tired of waiting for the “right” pastor to come and fill the void. And when we finally got a new Pastor, most of my church experience changed in a big way, for the better.

 

When I was younger, I mostly liked church for Sunday School and VBS and church camping trips. These things made it fun to learn about God. But when I graduated high school and could decide for myself whether I wanted to go to church or not, I mostly stopped going altogether. It was around this time when the drama surrounding the mismanagement of money started to create a hostile environment in a place that should be all about peace. Alliances were made and gossip was spread and the cattiness of it all was just too much for me. Even though I know you’re supposed to turn your cheek and forgive, most of us just couldn’t and the hypocrisy in that made me look at organized religion in a negative way. I was of the belief that you could worship God anywhere; you didn’t need a building and all that drama to find Him. While I still feel this is mostly true, I made the decision to come back to church when they finally found a suitable Pastor to fix the brokenness at Towne, because I felt myself needing to go to church; it was way too easy to drift from God without it.

 

Maybe it’s something about being older and having a better understanding about life in general, but that new Pastor awakened a desire in me that I didn’t even know existed. He didn’t preach AT you, he didn’t proclaim to be holier than us. His sermons weren’t always the uplifting, feel good types that have become so common in mainstream Christianity. He wasn’t afraid of touchy subjects, he told Bible stories from an obviously well-educated perspective and connected them to real life scenarios, and he could even laugh at and acknowledge his own mistakes when preaching. Lots of older people probably had a problem with him from the start because he’s only a handful of years older than me, which made him way younger than the average pastor we’d had for the last few decades when he first came on board. They also had a hard time adapting to his new age methods of spreading God’s word. In his time there, our church held functions most Baptists think are sinful to even entertain, like Halloween’s Trunk or Treat, and the reach in our community was huge. Literally hundreds of people who might have never even given our church a second thought showed up. The use of social media as an advertising platform also didn’t jive so great with the older members of congregation because, like some might say, “FB is the devil.” While I might agree that it can be a hellish place, I think the ways in which we reach new followers has to change with technology. You’re far more apt to reach someone with a FB post or Ad than you are by them driving by the church and noticing a sign inviting them in. In my eyes, he was already doing so much more than any of the Pastors before him and it didn’t even stop there. The guy is seriously an overachiever in life. Someone missing from the praise band for the 8:30 service? No problem, Phil can play every instrument up there and sing too. There’s something both unbelievable about his seemingly endless abilities and also really freaking impressive. I can’t tell you how many times I wondered how he’d managed to excel at so much in this life in only a handful more years than I’ve been alive. If I was a prideful person, I suppose I could see how that might be intimidating to someone who’d achieved less in more years. Luckily, I’m not. 😉

 

The bulk of people from Towne or who had departed Towne prior to his arrival never made it easy for him to do God’s work without some sort of ugliness surrounding his every move. Some even went as far as creating a FB prayer group, of which the Pastor and his wife were a part of, just so they could talk crap about how inefficient they thought he was as a Pastor. It made me sick to watch these “Christians” acting so un-Christian-like, to the point that I found myself wanting nothing to do with the church anymore. This feeling of disappointment in the congregation at my church was enough to even make my parents leave and attending church without them for the last year hasn’t been easy, but I did because Phil’s messages moved me more than anyone before him. His sermons are the kinds that make you take notes; that lingers with you long after you’ve left the sanctuary.

 

A few months ago, Phil told us he was leaving. That God was calling him to plant a new church near his neighborhood. And initially, for me, the disappointment felt like anger. The idea of having to leave the church I’ve always went to because I couldn’t stick around through another transition of a new Pastor, because I couldn’t sit by and watch those naysayers gloat over his departure. But then my angry disappointment felt like relief because with my parents already gone, there was really nothing tying me to the church anymore outside of him. And while I might not love the idea of change, even when it’s good for me, I am okay with leaving finally.

 

So, it’s been 5 weeks since Phil’s last day and now 4 weeks since I’ve been to church and I worry about how long it might be before I actually get to see a service led by him again. Probably I’ll start going to the mega-church my parents go to for a while just so I don’t start drifting, but I’m not thrilled about it. It’s too big, like the kind of church you see on TV. My parents like it because no one has to know them personally if they don’t want – they don’t have to get involved in or know about the drama this way. But big churches like that feel impersonal to me. While I don’t want to be a part of the drama, I do want to feel comfortable in the pew every week, like I’m a part of a 2nd family I look forward to seeing once a week.

 

There’s a big part of me that feels bad about leaving the church I grew up in all because the leaders gone. Isn’t that just as bad as the people who left when he first arrived? How devoted does that make me? Except that devotion should always be toward God first, not a building. And I’m afraid that the brokenness of my church might never be healed. It’s fueled by too much negative energy and I just don’t think I can be a part of trying to fix that anymore. So until then, I’m sort of churchless. I’ll be honest, it’s a crummy feeling, but I just keep hoping and praying my Pastors new church plant takes off soon and successfully so I can get back to learning about God better than I ever had before him. And in the meantime, I’m pouring myself into my devotionals and prayer journal to keep me on track.

 

About the Church Plant: Connecting Church, Coming Soon….

 

Connecting Church 2016 from Connecting Church on Vimeo.

Weekend Full of Awesome

Lately, I can’t always count on my weekends to be fun or productive or much more than just zoning out and regaining my sanity after an insane work week. Because it’s the only time I get to unwind and do more than just work, it depresses me when it’s over without anything worth noting.

 

The past few weekends have been like these uneventful, over-too-soon breaks in my work life. But not this weekend. No, this weekend was made of awesome.

 

It started Friday, by having off for Good Friday, which by itself felt like a much needed gift. I got nine hours of sleep for the first time in months, caught up on the internet a bit, and dove into a book for the first time since January. A book that totally rejuvenated my creative mind.

 

Saturday it took me a little while to get started and I worried I’d lost my prime morning productivity time, but I sat down with my nightmare novel Dreamsters just before noon, determined to finally reach it’s end and just over 2K later, I did! I FINISHED MY FIRST NOVEL! It’s probably not as exciting to most as it is to me, but I’ve been working on the same 4 novels for the last 5 years. For a while there I was starting to think I’d never reach the end. I’d never reached any of the ends of my scripts as a teen/young adult and while I have finished a handful of short stories, I was really worried I just didn’t have what it took to actually write a full novel. It feels incredible to have proved myself wrong. It’s was hours before I could get my heart to settle down over it so I set out to bake an Apple-Berry pie for Easter. I took photos of the process this time and posted the recipe in case you’d like to try it out.

 

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Click HERE for the recipe!

 

Today I had to be up early to help Mom at church all day for Easter breakfast/brunch. In the years past this has completely wiped me out and it definitely did this year, too, but it was somehow more fulfilling than in years past. More than 400 people showed up for service and there was a lot of great fellowship. I had intended on crashing when I got home, but I stopped by my Maw Maw’s and looked through old family photos (some of which I stole to scan for Throwback Thursday) and then headed home to do a little cleaning in the living room because I finally got a new bookcase! It’s not new as in freshly built from the store, but new to me. It still doesn’t house all of my books, but a heck of a a lot of them, freeing up the previously improper places for any new additions. The living room feels a little crowded now, but overall I’m happier with a proper home for my biggest collection.

 

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(New Bookcase all the way to the right!)

I’m yawning as a I write this and I’m not really ready to go back to work tomorrow, but for once I’m feeling really good about how I spent my weekend. And even though I know I’ll be sleepy tomorrow morning, I’ll be mentally sound and that’s worth a lot in my world.

 

How was your Easter weekend?

 

An Ode to my Mother (on Mother’s Day)

I attended church this morning with my parents for Mother’s Day (her requested gift) and while I should have been paying more attention to the sermon, which was on purposeful ministries, my mind wandered to memories of mine and my mom’s life together.

Today, I would say my mother is my best “girl” friend, but it wasn’t always like that. In fact our relationship was more volatile than anything until about 6 years ago. Growing up Mom and I bumped heads in a bad way. I had an almost constant attitude and really didn’t show her the respect she deserved when I was younger. She’d say, “It’s not even what you’re saying sometimes, it’s how you say it.” I was just down right mean. I didn’t have patience for her questions about my life growing up and as a result spoke to her like she was the biggest pain in the world. In reality, she was just trying to be the best mom she could be. For some reason as a child I couldn’t see that though.

Now as an adult, I often wonder how she ever did it. How she put up with it all, how she put clothes on our bodies and food on our table when we were so poor. I know how much I struggle now financially and I don’t even have a kid. I can’t imagine being able to afford one even if I was forced to. Mom raised two. I know now, that we were only able to have those things because she sacrificed so much of her own needs for us. And still to this day, she sacrifices her own wants to provide for me and my sister whenever we need something, no questions asked.

My mother’s ability to give selflessly is by far her best attribute and as much as I appreciate it now, I wish I had been more aware of such a commendable quality in her all those years ago. I didn’t deserve the good things she did for me back then, but she still did them. She still loved me regardless of how much I shut her out of my life. And for these things I will forever be grateful.

My heart aches for those who don’t have a good relationship with their mother, or whose mother’s have passed away. It’s a bond people need to experience in life. I don’t know where I’d be without it.

I love you Mom!

Peace – Sarah

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– A View from the Pew on Easter Sunday –

I am one of those people who gets more out of spending my own time with God rather than attending church on a regular basis. I go on holidays though for my parents benefit because they enjoy my presence on the pew with them and I think it helps reassure them that my belief is still strong. Church is only for some people though, in my opinion, and my parents are those kinds of people (my dad in particular).

I am not. It’s not to say I despise church or anything because it’s actually quite the opposite. I am southern Baptist and my church, the early service at least, has a live band – a band that I find moving first thing in the morning. All of those instruments vibrating throughout the tiny church walls, it gets inside of you – whether you want it to or not and next thing you know you’re dancing and singing to a song you’ve never even heard before. Just that alone makes me feel like God’s smiling on us for rejoicing in his name this way.

Anyway, today’s sermon was lead by our temporary Pastor Ron. I say temporary because about 6 months ago my church underwent a chaotic mess of un-Christ like behavior and long story short – we’ve been without an official pastor since. Ron has always stepped up to the plate to preach when needed though ever since I was a little girl and while some may not be very fond of his ministering techniques, I always have.

Ron is a deep man and frequently loses control of his emotions at the pulpit. Caddy judgmental people find this characteristic in him a sign of weakness, but I don’t. I see Ron as a man so deeply filled with the Spirit of the Lord that sometimes he just weeps out of joy to be so lucky to know the Lord like he does. And something about the fact that he’s not scared to shed those tears in front of us, to me, gives him a more respectable human trait. Unlike some preachers who walk with an arrogance of self righteousness like they are better than those in the pews just because they stand at the pulpit. This is definitely NOT the kind of Pastor Ron is.

Today’s service was pretty standard for an Easter service, retelling the tale of Christ rising from his tomb after his death and it was accompanied by great live music in between the messages. And Ron didn’t cry. His eyes may have pricked a bit during the invitation, but I think most people’s do as they watch others rush forward to find salvation in Christ. It makes you feel good inside remembering how you felt when you were that non-believer changing sides. The sense of relief it brings to know you can walk in His light regardless of your previous walk with the dark. I get excited for the newcomers.

Ron’s message today was loud and physically large. His hands sprouting out with the Bible clutched between his fingers as he paced across the front of the church delivering God’s words. He wanted to get the point across and he wanted to do it without his normal emotional ups and downs. But some people watched him as if they couldn’t understand what he was saying. He is so deep, it all means so much to him and his intelligence in the matter is too much for some to comprehend. They see his mouth moving, hear his voice, but can’t grasp what he’s trying to tell them.

There wasn’t much point to this post except to mention that I think Ron does a fabulous job preaching and appears to have really tightened up his emotions so that people don’t get lost focusing on the wrong part of what he represents. Someone like Ron inspires me to be closer to God and I think he could have the same effect on our church if he was full time Pastor. I surely hope they give it some thought, instead of continuing to wait for God’s answer about a new Pastor when the answer might already be sitting in their pews ready.

Happy Easter everyone – Peace & God Bless – Sarah

Lifehouse – Everything Skit – I know this video is old now, but it still makes my skin prickle because it tells the story of so many. I love the intensity of her grappling through the devil’s pawns to get back into God’s protective embrace and then how he just throws them off of her, because God can overcome all. It brings tears to my eye every time I watch it because I was once that girl.