Sunday, November 03, 2013

Talkin' about the Church

We are thankful to be a part of the Body of Christ, the fellowship of believers in Jesus Christ, the global Church. We have felt an immense amount of love and generosity from friends, family, and those that don't even know us from all over the world that have prayed for us, encouraged us, and given to us - many that share our faith. Yet, also many that do not. We are surrounded by many caring people.  

But I want to take a moment to talk about our local church, Highland Hills Baptist Church.  The church that we have been committed to for the past 5 1/2 years. The church that called Adam to be on staff to serve and minister at as their Youth Pastor. As I sat in the sanctuary today, I couldn't help but be grateful to be a part of these people's lives and to be grateful that they are a part of our life. 

Highland is not a large congregation. The attendance numbers aren't published anywhere, but on a regular Sunday morning, my guess is that there are around 150-200 people present to worship together. People know one another. Quite a few have known each other for a very long time. 

We've had the privilege of being a part of several wonderful churches, but Highland has something special. And I've been saying that for awhile. 

The inter-generational connections are beautiful and abundant on many occasions. People do an excellent job of caring for one another. Many families have a deep commitment to their faith. Deep friendships are apparent. People are welcomed and enveloped easily. The message of God's word is abundant and unwavering. 

The people at Highland are striving to take care of us in the midst of this. People extending themselves to make sure our tangible needs are met. People that are praying, praying, and praying. People that extend a hug when they think I might need it. People that are helping to watch our kids or thinking of them specifically and trying to help us transition through this time. 

A handful of people in and out of our church have privately asked me about our finances and if we are in need. Although there was no Medical Leave Policy in place at Highland, the board quickly agreed to continue Adam's full-time salary through mid-January. If Adam is still not able to return to work at that time, they will then discuss the matter further. Not sure if you read that carefully, but they are paying us his full-time salary currently. Not many jobs would commit to paying 3 months at full-time pay while an employee is sitting in a hospital. And the church has always been very generous in making sure their staff has good healthcare. They take care of us. 

And within Highland, it was three separate widows who were the first ones that felt moved and acted to give us monetary gifts on their own accord. Three beautiful, generous women that surely have needs of their own, yet saw the potential financial stress that this situation could cause in our lives and quickly wrote a check to make sure our needs were being taken care of. Those gifts still cause a lump in my throat. 

Our church is not perfect. It's still made up of people. People that mess up and hurt one another's feelings. People that lose sight of our ultimate purpose at times. People who disagree and criticize. People who are overworked and overused. People who sing off-key. People who say the wrong things at the wrong time. People who have deep struggles of their own. People who are too proud and stuck in our ways to even realize where God wants to challenge, change and stretch us. Myself included in all of those statements. 

And we're in an awkward phase right now. We've been without a Senior Pastor for almost a year and anxiously/patiently (is it possible to put those two words together?) waiting for God to lead us to our next leader. Plus, we're searching for a part-time Music/Worship leader and we're finding it difficult for our lay people to have this ministry continue and thrive. 

But the beautiful thing is that despite all of us and what would seem like a time of uncertainty, God is moving. God is working. God is present. I have no doubt about that. Our church has been a beautiful arm of God providing for us, caring for us, comforting us. I know God wants to use Highland for even more and to share Christ's love with our community and beyond. He wants to use this community of Jesus-followers to change lives for the better, for Him. 

We anticipate Adam getting back to youth ministry at Highland. It might look a bit different than it used to. He might not be able to take on the entire youth group in a game of dodgeball and beat them. (It's probably somewhat debatable on whether or not that is an important criteria for a youth pastor anyways.) But he will probably return with a new sense of conviction, purpose, humility, and compassion.  

I've been so grateful for the faith that we have in Christ, but also in the role that our church has played while we go through something difficult. 

But it also makes me a bit sad for those that may not have that. We love our church family when things are going well! But its in difficult times when we realize what a significant role they play in our life. It sounds awfully sad and lonely to not think about our church going through this with us. 

Sometimes I get a bit annoyed when people lament about not being able to find a church they like. Or conclude that they love Jesus and it isn't important to be a part of a church since they can't find one they agree with completely. Or leaving a church because they don't like the type of music that is used or don't feel like they can grow at all. As if attending church should be all about what we want and what we think it should be. And if just sitting there expectantly will instantaneously give us what we want. 

I've shared before in circles at our church that at first glance, I probably would not "choose" to attend Highland. Out of my own ignorance, limited perception, and judgment, I might feel that it is too "traditional" or "stuffy" feeling (sorry friends, just being honest). But boy, am I glad that God worked beyond me and led us here and compelled us to commit to serving and attending here. We have been so blessed by this community - long before this accident. And we have grown a lot. 

I hope that someone is reading this. (I know our moms are at least....Hi moms!). Maybe someone that has struggled to be committed to a church. Or even attend church at all. Someone who at one point found faith in God to be a big part of their life but has drifted away from that. Someone who may attend somewhere but has been struggling to see the point in getting connected. Someone who was hurt by people in a church at some point and has little desire to try a church again (Sadly, I know that is many).  

This is not a plea for anyone to attend Highland, although any and all are welcome. There are many, many good churches. If you believe in Jesus as your Savior, I encourage you to be a part of God's family. Not just the larger Body of Christ, but also a local body. Dig in. Be involved. Be committed. Serve one another. Reach out. Love. Make sure they are true to God's word, but don't wait to find the perfect church. It doesn't exist this side of Heaven. 

You may will deal with difficult people. You may disagree with how things are done. You might not like the song that was sung or the instrument that was used. You might get your feelings hurt. You might miss sleeping in on Sunday mornings. 

But you will be blessed. You will be living out our calling as believers and followers of Christ. You will meet extraordinary people with extraordinary stories. You will have great opportunity to impact others. You will have opportunities to grow. You will be a part of something much, much bigger than yourself. And in times of joy and in times of sorrow, you will have people standing alongside you. I think God wants us to experience life together - to travel this road together.