I don’t remember exactly when I met Greg. He and his family started attending the church in town about the same time I did. At the time, they were a family of three. I can still see little Abbey’s big blue eyes. I had the privilege of babysitting her. And later her sister, Anna.
Greg got a big dose of the Spiritual gift of teaching. For years, he taught the college and career class I attended off and on when I was home. Although we live a couple states away now, I still consider him one of my greatest mentors. Our faith takes us on many of the same quests for knowledge.
We share book titles and can talk theology for days. Our families have vacationed together a handful of times. They just love it when we start talking theology... I am thankful for this brother in Christ.
In addition to his teaching skills, Greg is an expert Dutch Oven chef.
Like any good believer, Greg has times of unbelief. He can struggle with denominational boundaries. His is a very real faith.
One such time, Greg was still teaching at church. He’d also become very involved in a small group. He became close friends with another guy in that group. And at some point they had a falling out.
When you’ve been in a church family for a long time, you’ll have hard seasons. Please stop thinking some people have the perfect church experience.
Well, this falling out got Greg to thinking. He’d also been doing some reading. Lauren Winner and Girl Meets God this time around. Lauren is Episcopalian.
Now, Greg knew there were some doctrinal points he did not agree with at his church. He grew more and more hurt over the dissension he had with this guy from his small group. And his soul started feeling what was perhaps a need for change.
One day, he decided to make a visit to the Episcopalian church in town. He scheduled a meeting with the priest and they sat down for a good, long talk. The priest asked him what he liked about his current church.
Greg got to thinking about what a family the church had become to him. Their actual family lived hours away in St. Louis but he realized this group of people had stepped into that familial role. They filled the social calendar. They poured God’s truth into the lives of his now three daughters. They allowed him to teach with great freedom and honesty. He shared all of this with the priest.
The priest replied,
It would seem to me you’ve found something pretty special with your current church family. Something people look for a whole lifetime and often don’t find. You may not agree with everything or everyone at your church. But if I were you, I wouldn’t give up that connection.
So Greg stayed.
My Wednesday night ladies got together a few years back for a fellowship dinner. Before the meal, we gathered in the living room and started sharing bits of our testimony. Mainly the role church had played in our lives and what various denominations we’d been a part of in various stages of life.
Now, I grew up Southern Baptist. I know that carries many, many connotations. For me, it was a beautiful existence. I basked in so much love. I learned so much about our Savior. Many of the verses I learned in Bible drills and Bible quizzing are still with me. The Southern Baptists gave me a solid foundation.
When I moved to Michigan, I struggled to find a Southern Baptist church. Something about "Southern" and me now living in the north made it difficult. I had dabbled in other denominations in St. Louis but my first inclination was to look for a church family among my people. The Southern Baptists.
In Michigan, that wasn’t an option. And I shared that fact with my Bible study ladies that evening. Which led to a rich discussion about what we looked for in a church.
Many of us know very little idea about what our denominations believe. We just know when we’ve found a church we want to call home.
Another mentor of mine, Michael, put it this way.
I like to tell folks I am a baptist with a lower-case b; but Christian with a capital C.
That is what I encourage you to do, readers. If you have found a church you also call family, embrace it. Don’t expect it to be perfect or even a perfect match with your belief system.
Find a church where you can find God. A place that loves on your family and helps you to grow in your faith. If they preach, teach and read from the Bible, join them.
I found out years ago Jesus wasn’t Southern Baptist. But I know many, many saints who are.