And then there is us.
We aren’t confined by any specific denomination; we have never really sought the input of others when deciding where to worship and though we were content to buy the first house we actually saw; we weren’t willing to make that gamble with a church.
So we did what we do best: I got on the internet and visited over 20 churches in our relatively small town. I sent links and screen shots to my hubby. I picked out the one I wanted to join based solely on its online presence.
We visited it. I was wrong. My hubby had a choice. We visited it. He was wrong.
But then we talked about it; what we felt led to in a church and came up with a rough list
1. A clear, conservative presentation of the Gospel
2. A church that had Bible instruction (in addition to worship) for kids older than elementary and adults (Oh my! We wanted Sunday school. How many Sundays did I get drug to Sunday School, early against my griping? But here I was naming that a prayer-led non-negotiable for our new church. The idea started two years ago Easter when we visited my parents and went to church with them. My dad suggested we would enjoy the younger adults class. My husband came alive in Sunday school; he has a vast knowledge of scripture and loves to discuss ideas and concepts. I sat in this small Presbyterian Church and looked at my husband with new eyes! Might I add that I thought he was incredibly sexy in Sunday school? Can you even say sexy and Sunday school together, especially if you’re protestant?)
3. I longed for diversity in a church…racial, socio-economical, even ideological.
4. Music. I’m not a music person; I like songs I know. But my hubby missed a choir.
5. A church involved in actively being the hands and feet of Christ at a local level. Any number of ministries applies; soup kitchens, homeless shelters, education classes.
But in our new city our new search was coming up empty with the type of churches we had been fond of; the smaller community churches lacked a dedicated teaching hour (small groups are wonderful, but we wanted this in addition to an instruction time each week) and most did not have youth classes.
So we set out visiting more churches, and none seemed like it.
Then we went to a very local (less than a mile) small-ish (by my First Baptist standards, larger by hubby’s rural Baptist standards) Southern Baptist Church. And the first people we met were Sunday School teachers for a class “that looked just about our age.” (Brownie points to them that the class age is early 30s!)
I started praying fast, “Lord, please anywhere but a Southern Baptist church!”
We talked about it as a family; we prayed about it. Even baby girl approved (“I don’t hate it every minute I’m there.”)
We all knew this was where the Lord was leading us. The only problem?
I didn’t want to go.
I would miss me jeans and t-shirts on Sunday mornings; these ultra-conservatives would not be a place where I would find friendships; they don’t let women be pastors; I don’t agree with some of what they as a convention believe.
I. I. I. I. I. I.
I.I.I.I.I.I. i. i. i.
I must decrease. I must decrease.
So to the Baptist church we went, and joined, and are becoming involved.
And what I've learned so far is a reminder that God works out every detail for what we need:
1. If you miss blue jeans and flip-flops (or dress suits and hats), wear them to church anyway. While I’m usually more casually dressed than most, I don’t think ANYONE notices! As long as you’re not dressing to get a reaction, you probably won’t.
2. So in a group of very conservative looking women, there are probably more diverse opinions that you realize. Some I am in agreement with; some we have agreed to disagree. (I come off looking really bad on this point. I was very judgey!) And I have found some ladies who are challenging me, growing with me, laughing with me, and some who want to have a Bible Study field trip to the tattoo shop!
3. Seek to change/explore/grow only the things God leads you to, only those things that matter to Him.
Our little church isn’t very diverse, not in any category that I can find. But I have discovered that others want to see the body of Christ grow and join with others who differ. We may have different ideas about what that means (joint services, outreach programs, partnerships with other churches), but the Lord is working His plan out. By the way, our church got a little more diverse when we joined. I think I am the only heavily tattooed, feminist, Democrat on the roll books.
And there is a hunger, especially among the women, for local mission and ministry involvement.
4. Don’t be impatient and be open. I wanted a church that already had a soup kitchen so I could go help once a month. That didn’t happen. So I’m waiting and learning and growing.
5. Don’t be afraid to talk to people and ask where you can plug in. I asked the pastor for a meeting because I wanted to share with him what we had gained by joining the church and some areas I felt led to help. I didn’t hand him a laundry list of things I wanted in the church; I just asked where there areas that I could be useful? Were there areas that were dealing with some of the needs on my heart? I came away from that meeting more encouraged than I had been in a while. (I also may have told him that I thought my husband was most sexy during Sunday school?? 90% sure I changed the word to attractive, but still.)
6. The Lord will surprise you and comfort you even if you were worried He was wrong.
Over the last year, our family has been studying and incorporating Biblical feasts and traditions into or in lieu of more traditional holidays. Advent was the first one, and we dove head first, loving the quiet reflection and celebration. I was speechless when I walked in the sanctuary the first Sunday of advent, and there it was an advent wreath pictured on the screen. The word advent in the bulletin. The preacher gave the congregation advent gifts. The Lord isn’t wrong; He will remind you of how wonderful His plan is, if you are obedient. Even if you are secretly hoping it doesn’t turn out. (And because God has a sense of humor; I know ALMOST EVERY SINGLE song that has been played in church. 20 years in the Baptist church as a kid and a really good memory. So I’m even good with the music.)
7. And being the weird one isn’t bad at all. A Sunday school friend has actually said. “Oh my gosh every time you speak you confirm your weirdness.” And I’m buying us a STAY WEIRD t-shirt so we can be twins.
I will be wearing mine on Sunday morning with jeans and flip flops