I have found the perfect church, but not in the way you are thinking.
Finding a church was not something that was taught in high school, in the church, or in a college class. Because I was in Christian education, when I took my first teaching job,
it was required that I go to the church my school was associated with - that’s another topic for a different day. Anyway, as a young adult, I didn’t give much thought to what kind of church I wanted to attend. I went to churches I liked, some not so much, and others I was just an observer.
After I was married, you now have two different people, raised two different ways,looking for a church that suits them both. How does that work? As my husband and I moved around Ohio for schooling, we had to look for a new church several times. Looking back, it was so frustrating. I had been raised in a congregation of around 500 in the city, and he had been raised in a small farming community church. Thankfully we agreed on most elements of what to look for in a church - good preaching, music we liked, friendly members, and fun activities. As we began to grow our family, childrens’ ministries became important when finding a new church.
After the 2nd move in 2 years, I was done looking for a church. We had moved to New Jersey for just 1 year for My husband’s last medical fellowship. I was so tired of looking for a church that fit us, so I just picked the one closest to us, and we went there for the year we lived in New Jersey. There was no pressure to become involved, to sacrifice my time; I was just counting down when we would move back to Ohio. The Lord began speaking to my heart while there at that church. My daughter decided to be baptized there. We helped clean up the church, my youngest son made a lonely elderly man’s day by sitting next to him every Sunday at church. These things were small, and I didn’t even think anything about them at the time. It was easy to miss what the Lord was showing me because I wasn’t paying any attention. I was just counting down the days.
As we began to plan our move back to Ohio, my husband mentioned he felt we should attend Maranatha Baptist Church, where he grew up. We would be living nearby, and we knew the Pastor of the church. I instantly became furious. The church was too small, the music was different, there weren’t a lot of kids, Holland would miss out on teen group things, and the list went on. I was mad. I wanted a church like the one we had found a few years ago. When we left that church, I thought we would never find a church as amazing as that one. Side note:
Ironically, we were in that church when I had my lowest spiritual moment.
As my husband and I discussed the church, I came to see he was determined that Maranatha would be our church, so I prayed, “Lord, change his heart or change mine”. Soon after, I was introduced to a book that discussed how our churches should emulate the churches of the Bible. It took every category that I used as an excuse and destroyed my thinking - my wrong thinking- of what the church should look like. My heart had been changed.
If you didn’t notice, look again - what was I basing my view of the church on? What were the most important things to me when choosing a church? What the church could do for me, how they could serve me. I was so selfish in my thinking that it lead me to believe I needed a church that fit my needs. I slowly unwound the ideas of what I thought would make a good church and what I found was even better. I found a church that loves people; but doesn’t just love them, Maranatha seeks out people. The congregation lives life together. In the Bible church, “churches” would eat together, share in each others’ lives, give when one was in need, and comfort when lives were upended. They didn’t sit on their bench, listen to a disciple preach, and go to their home and deal with their messes. They faced those messes together.
I see that in my church. Is Maranatha perfect? No, and there is no church out there that can meet your “needs” if you are going to sit back and continue to think it is the church's responsibility to do so.
So here is the point: just because a church doesn’t look like one you would go to, don’t ignore that it might be where God wants you. God will bless you if you simply obey. I have found this church to be like no other I have attended. I am sad that this virus has not allowed us to live our lives in togetherness, but I hope we can see the value in letting others into our lives. Not just sitting in church and leaving right after; but getting involved.
God may have you in a church that makes you very uncomfortable because He is wanting to refine you, to teach you, and to walk you through that situation. Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable. Who knows how the Lord will use you in that church.
The day we joined Maranatha, I cried the entire time I was up front. Besides feeling foolish for crying so much, I felt joy that we had obeyed God’s calling, and we were exactly where we were supposed to be.