I accidentally purchased regular sharp cheddar cheese sticks instead of my normal “reduced-fat.” My, regular fat cheese is so delicious. Squirrel…sorry folks…only one cup of coffee in and my brain is still dreaming of white sandy beaches and warmer weather….
Moving is hard. Change is hard. Visiting churches and trying to discern where God wants you to be….incredibly difficult. I have already written about our visit to Wheaton Bible Church. Today is about our two visits to Harvest Bible Chapel in Naperville…..and a little backstory on why we didn’t stick to our “visit until God tells us to stop” thought process.
When the move was first being discussed, I was very quick to begin research on churches via the internet. Sermons watched, worship teams watched, doctrine and statement of beliefs carefully examined, ministries and focus put under a microscope. That lead us to a list of well….few. On that list from the beginning was Harvest Bible. Why did this one make the cut so quickly? Having just completed James McDonald’s study “Authentic”, I knew that as a church plant of the main campus, Harvest would very likely be in line with those teachings and style. So, a few of Pastor Ron Zappia’s sermons were watched and then that led to the watching of some of the Harvest Worship videos you can easily find online. Nondenominational has always been a church we “southern Baptists” avoided due to the “mash-up” of doctrines and well…just things we weren’t comfortable with…but Harvest Bible doctrine lined up with what we hold to be Biblical truths. Nothing in it was anything we didn’t believe or hold as what God has clearly said for the church to be.
Yet, our first church to visit was Wheaton Bible. Wheaton Bible is awesome. It’s large…maybe larger than what we want as our church home….maybe we will still end up there…but given how vested we were in Harvest Bible before moving here, we knew we had to visit….to see for ourselves. One of those things that if we didn’t, we would likely always look back and wonder if we missed an opportunity. So, our first visit came a couple weeks ago….I believe on one of the first Siberian Express days…seriously…we should get major brownie points for braving this stuff.
First impression-it doesn’t look like a church from the outside. This girl is struggling with that…even today. Yet, I keep wondering if that isn’t one of the very things Christ isn’t trying to use as a teachable moment for me…what the church truly is. Teaching me it’s not the look of the building, what we sit in…none of that. And then, leaving my dresses and heels in the closet on Sunday morning….this isn’t just a Harvest thing..it was a WBC thing too. Church is casual. Everyone looks nice…which I truly believe we should all do on Sunday-be our best for Him. Even though our best..well….it’s pitiful…but to Him…we are enough, just as we are. Then again, maybe casual does break down walls…barriers. We are told to not be a stumbling block…and what if in all our “dressed to the nines” we have prevented someone from entering those doors…that person feeling they could never be a part or fit in.
Now..to the good stuff. Instantly upon walking in, we were greeted firmly, warmly…..not just that token welcome…I mean you really felt welcome. Then, one of the pastors comes up to say hello and realizes he had not seen us there before. Personal attention….intentional actions. This just continued the entire morning. For Lee, seeing men be so intentional….go so far out of the norm to make sure he felt welcome…was huge. Worship is contemporary…..but genuine. Video announcements are very well done as are all the graphics. The church has done an outstanding job of defining who it is and what their “branding” is. It’s about the Great Commission. It’s about that personal relationship with Christ. It’s not about knowing about Him…it’s about knowing Him. Folks, those are two distinct things….even the lost and those that profess to be atheist can know about Him..but only a born-again Christian knows Him.
The Pastor is a teaching pastor and this church does “series” and I appreciate that greatly. Excellent communicator and while I am confident he could unleash every theological term and factoid out there, his style keeps the message real and not one where you wonder if you are going to have to bring your Bible Study software and laptop to the next sermon. I can see where this is a vital approach to the mission of reaching new Christians and fulfilling the Great Commission. It’s not a watered down message, just one that a layman can truly grasp. I’ve noticed in two visits if a reference is made to a passage elsewhere in the Bible, the Pastor goes there…makes sure that no assumption is made that you know what he is referencing.
So, we visited again. Same warmth extended and a couple “nice to see you again” comments. Same impression as our first visit. To learn more about the mission, the doctrine, etc…we signed up for the membership information class. (Ok….disclaimer here…I find it so odd how you apply for membership up this way. Membership classes are required everywhere.) Anyways….I find it odd, but it’s actually kinda cool to really see where a church stands on Biblical truths…what they expect of you as member…and what you can expect of them as your church body. Learning about their leadership structure…the things that make them tick as a church body. Learning where they are on social issues and how those are approached from the pulpit. Learning what matters most to them as a church….and that’s Jesus. Everything comes back to Jesus, the Great Commission and that personal relationship-knowing Him…not just about Him.
I love the fact you can take classes on how to truly be a disciple of Christ and classes to help you find your spiritual gifts that help you be a servant to the church, the church body and to Christ. Being a Christian is hard and anything the church can do to help make the road a tad less complicated to navigate…we should.
We have requested to be put into a small group. Just the next natural step in seeing if this is our church. I’ll venture to their women’s study the first week of March. The Pastor’s wife spoke some Sunday and well…you just can’t help but like her. I loved how they did baby dedications….so personal, so intentional (there’s that word again).
Average weekend attendance is around 1750. My head can grasp that number. I miss choir. I miss pews. I miss what I know….but again….I know that He is trying to use these events as teachable moments. Remove me from my comfort zone….because I have been very comfortable.
Different church…..different look….same Jesus.