It began yesterday. The part of the relocation I have worried about the most. (I know..worry….) Finding a new church. A new church home. I secretly have prayed that we would visit one church and have that lightbulb moment where God clearly says-this is the one. Reality and the experiences of others that have relocated away from the Southern Baptist beltway is that it will likely not be a one visit and done event. So, I thought I would chronicle this journey knowing at a point in the near future, the journey’s tale will end with “We have a church home!”
To begin, what are we looking for? As evangelical Christians that do not agree with the Calvinist approach of predestination, that automatically crosses several off the list. Then we are left with what is important to us outside of doctrine and the statement of beliefs?
Size. 10,000 plus members isn’t something that we find appealing. Maybe that’s where God will send us, but it’s not on our “let’s go there” list. I’m not sure what a “perfect size” is…but I do know I want to be able to tell someone that I missed them on Sunday because I noticed they weren’t there.
Women Ministry. Ya’ll. Women need fellowship with other believers. We need that friendship, that accountability, that “routine”…we need to be able to journey with where God is leading us, where He has us…together….we are God’s creation that needs “pods.”
Men’s Ministry. This is an area my spouse has wanted for a while. An organized men’s ministry where men gather weekly in study to encourage and support one another. To bring up leaders, to mentor future leaders, to strengthen those who are more seasoned in life.
Sunday School or something that resembles it. I’m not opposed to home groups, but I do find that there’s something to be said for that body coming together every Sunday. It, to me, gives a greater sense of unity…..one church. (In truth, we are all one church. One body of believers, but that sense of community/one church is what I am referring to here.)
Music. We love music. We love hymns. We love the new stuff. We love a worship ministry that isn’t a production/performance. We must have authentic worship.
Some of you may gasp at this one, so I apologize. No women in the pulpit on Sunday. I love Beth Moore. I love Christine Caine. I love all the women of faith out there teaching God’s truth! Love, love, love. Yet, this gal, is just Southern Baptist enough to want men in the pulpit on Sunday. I, as a woman, want that leadership. I want that Biblical plan for leadership in the church. We also want that man to be one called by the congregation because of faithful prayer for God to show them who He has called. Not an office.
Strong youth, children’s ministry. While that shipped has sailed for us, we know that a strong children’s and youth ministry speaks volumes to the health of a church and to the mission of that church.
Mission oriented. We can’t just sit and be comfortable as Christians. We must serve. Serve locally. Serve our own. Serve others. We must be “doers.”
So, that’s kinda the hit list after Doctrine and the Statement of Beliefs. Those are at the very top. Those don’t line up with God’s truth and our beliefs of God’s truth…a visit won’t take place.
This leads us to our first visit. Wheaton Bible Church.
Wheaton Bible Church has a membership of around 4000. When the campus grew and had to build, they went out west and are now basically on the West Chicago line. Still not too far from us…no further than our Arkansas home church. We were determined to visit yesterday and we braved the Chicago Linus Blizzard to do so. Thought process was Jesus would take the wheel if necessary!
The campus is large…but not “oh my goodness” it’s a Mega Church large. We were greeted with brave souls out directing us to parking and with everything covered in white and us being unfamiliar with the lot-grateful. From there, you enter the main entrance and there were greeters! Front and center is a large welcome desk for visitors and others seeking information. We didn’t have to seek out folks for knowledge-it was presented in BOLD letters for us. To the left is a coffee/snack bar. Proceeds go to missions/charity projects. You could see lots of folks using that service to have a time of fellowship with others. To the right I noticed what was a large room that was hosting the Spanish language service. (Or I believe that’s what it was.) This church has a huge mission for the Hispanic community. We didn’t venture too far down either side of the hallways, but I am guessing the children’s ministry was pretty close by as I saw parents with kiddos making the trek. We walked into the sanctuary and were again greeted by ushers with programs.
First impressions. Sanctuary is about twice the size of the sanctuary we have sat in for a very long time in Arkansas. Stadium seating, but that’s pretty much the norm in new churches now, so pews…well….a comfy seat is a comfy seat. I personally loved looking forward and seeing wood and a cross hanging. Gave me that feeling of traditional mixed with “current.” We attended one of the two contemporary services and in the program could see the program for the traditional that was held earlier that morning. I love that this church is able to do both. Those hymns we all grew up with have such a special place in the church and shouldn’t be forgotten and some folks needs the traditions of old……and it’s not a bad thing…..just like it’s not a bad thing for us to be “current” in our worship/service styles…as long as God’s word remains true and we don’t compromise on that truth.
The head pastor was out, so we had an associate pastor. His voice was so calming. Worship was good….it wasn’t a performance and that’s on our list of “we don’t want a performance.” Communion/Lord’s Supper is done monthly and I so appreciated the words told to the congregation regarding the meaning of why we do what we do there and the mention of it’s a special remembrance for believers…and if you aren’t yet a believer to pass the plate. God’s truth.
They are on a series on David. We just happen to visit on the first of two sermons on David’s muck. Ya’ll…David had some muck and his sins came with consequences that led to rape, murder, civil war…death of thousands. The sermon was God’s truth. Nothing more, nothing less. God’s grace covers all…yes it does…but the consequences remain. God can use all of our muck for His glory. His love for us and His grace…we cannot even fathom the largeness of it…just like we can’t fathom the depths of our sin nature.
We were both happy to not have been in a feel good or prosperity gospel church. This sermon, this church. That’s not them.
So, this visit did cross off a lot of our “wishes” and we will visit again and the next visit take in one of the classes afterwards. We have no idea if this is the church God wants for us, but we will continue to visit and continue to listen to God telling us whether to keep visiting or let’s try another one. Who knows…we may try more and then come back to our first visit.
Church is relationships. Relationship with Christ and fellow believers. Church is about serving. It’s not about being a seat warmer. God has plenty of those….He wants more doers. We want to be doers. We want a church that plugs in its members to be doers. We want God’s truth being spoken every single Sunday.
So, we search-even in the Blizzard Linus. (Wasn’t Linus that quiet kid that always carried a blanket???)