Guest Post #8 for May's Different Beautiful Church Series (final post)
Have you ever felt that prompting from the Holy Spirit to do something you really didn’t want to do?
It was almost four and a half years ago I sensed that undeniable urging from the Lord, through His Holy Spirit, that would change everything for me.
Before I go any further, let’s talk about the past.
I was born and raised Southern Baptist with a constant Christian influence in my life. I either lived with or next door to my grandparents (mom’s parents) my whole life until going off to college. Between them and my mom taking us to church, that was all I knew.
And praise God for that! At the ripe old age of six, I had the privilege of my mother leading me in a prayer to accept Christ in my life.
I have sweet memories of my church family all through school, especially my amazing youth group and the youth pastor brave enough to lead our crazy crew.
Fast forward to college and it was only natural for me to attend a Southern Baptist church while away from home. I have sweet memories of that place and those people too – many of whom I’m still dear friends with today.
But it was shortly after my undergrad years that a shift happened in my affinity for the Southern Baptist church. The details aren’t important, but I eventually landed at an Evangelical Free Church in the same town. I had never heard of this denomination, but the warmth of the people drew me in.
Three career moves in three different states over the next several years led me to explore more E-Free churches, a Methodist church, an Episcopalian church, two more Southern Baptist churches, and, eventually, a Presbyterian (PCA) church.
I knew someone at that PCA church, the choir director, so I instantly felt connected.
I joined the choir (thankfully, I love to sing) and decided to join their new membership class. I had never heard of such a thing, but it wasn’t long before it was clear to me the value of this method of joining a church. The pastor met with our group once a week to explain the theology and doctrine of the PCA church and what church membership meant.
I soaked up every minute of those teachings and fell in love with the theology of that denomination. It felt right. It felt comfortable. I belonged.
One week after joining, I was offered a new job in another part of Florida and moved once again. This time, I was truly sad to leave “The Church.”
With a strong desire to continue on in my newly appreciated PCA mindset, I found one church in my new town that fit the bill. However, they were in the process of searching for a new pastor and nothing really felt like home to me there.
I wanted to connect with others like me – young professionals. Someone suggested Calvary Chapel just down the street as they had a large, vibrant ministry for “people like me.”
But it was huge and, I thought, impersonal. A multi-campus mega church. How could I possibly feel at home there? And if I attended their young adult meeting, could I still be considered Presbyterian?
Thankfully, I stepped out in faith and went. I got involved in a small group. I began to feel more comfortable and made more and more connections. I started serving in two ministries and even joined the choir.
I had found my home in a non-denominational mega church. Who’d have thought?
After five years of faithfully attending and serving in MY church, I met my husband. And, thankfully, he came with me to MY church for nearly a year after we were married.
But it was near that one-year mark that his feelings for MY church had changed. He started taking issue with certain things like their music, the version of the Bible the pastor taught from, not to mention the size of the church (he doesn’t like crowds).
I was out of town one weekend between Christmas and New Year’s, and my husband decided to attend another church upon a friend’s invitation.
When I returned, my husband – the spiritual leader of our home – explained to me that he felt God calling him to attend this other church full-time.
My heart hurt.
Well, it was before the day ended that I felt the Holy Spirit say to me,
Worship with your husband.
I didn’t even have to question if I had heard Him right; I knew. I didn’t like it, but I knew God was calling me to leave MY church and follow my husband to this other place of worship.
This place… this other House of Worship… you guys, I felt like they were one step away from being Mennonite. Which is fine if that's what you're called to be, but I wasn't. I felt so out of place. We went from a contemporary, casual worship setting to a place where, if I wasn’t wearing a dress, I felt looked down upon.
For just the second time in my life (other than the denomination I was born into), I didn’t have a choice in the church I attended. I suppose God does give us free will, but I knew to not attend with my husband would be to disobey God directly.
It was about two full years before I even liked going there. I didn’t feel like I fit in. I didn’t agree with their theology, and certainly not all their rules – whether explicit or implied.
It hasn’t been until this past year or so that I have actually witnessed a shift in this church body. A softening of hearts, perhaps. A change in some of the songs we sing (if I hadn’t been there, I NEVER would have believed we would have sung a Lauren Daigle song during the service!).
I now believe God planted me (and my family) in our current church for such a time as this.
I’m liking this “other” church better these days. I feel a little more at home and try to appreciate little things. Now that we have two kids, I am naturally more attune to what the church is teaching. I don’t want my kids to get so wrapped up in theology that they miss the Gospel.
I heard another pastor recently say,
Theology is how we think of God. The Gospel is how He thinks of us. It’s not about theology and what we know ABOUT God; it’s about the Gospel and what we UNDERSTAND about His love for us.
This truth right here is what I believe the non-denominational church gets right. In my six years at MY church, I saw the Gospel lived out in the people who served in the church. Love God; love people. That’s their creed.
Shouldn’t that be the creed of every Christian, regardless of what denomination you ascribe to?
Forget your theology – those minor things that we all like to major on. At the end of the day (and when Jesus returns) all that won’t matter. What does matter?
Love God; love people.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’' Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:36-40a (NKJV)
So, while we are members of this other church now - an Independent Baptist fellowship – I honestly don’t consider myself to be of that denomination. Or any other for that matter.
I simply say,
I am a Christ-follower.