Deciding On Our Church Home

I’m not verbal. I’m verbose, maybe, but not verbal. I do NOT communicate well with my mouth. In fact, I mostly just completely flub anything and everything I attempt to communicate that way. I find myself saying the stupidest things on a more than regular basis.

I came home the other night and was kicking myself in the proverbial rear for flubbing up the answer to an oh-so-simple question, and thought, ya know? This would actually make pretty good copy for the blog, what with it being part of the music God is spinning, and all…

That said, I’m going to write what I was trying to say the other night when my Sunday School teacher asked me a very interesting question. Because basically? I completely did NOT convey the whole story like I would have liked to. Because I’m not verbal. I said that already, though, didn’t I? =)

He asked me simply- what made me decide to come to this church? Well, I’m going to answer that better here than I did there

God.

There. That’s it. Very verbose, I know. Seriously, though. That’s the whole story. What? You want more specifics? Yeah, that would probably help to clarify the flubbed version, anyway. Ok…

Our church (can I just take a second here to pause and praise the Lord that I can say “our” or “my”?? I can’t possibly explain just how VERY special it is to me that I have a church home…that I am allowed to say “my church”… it’s a source of continual wonderment for me, and sometimes I don’t really remember it and get scared when there’s talk about moving buildings because then I think “NO! I DON’T WANT IT TO END! PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME!” I digress…)

Our church has a bus ministry. That is, each Saturday morning various church members (pastor, preachers, men, women, kids….) go out to the different towns in our county and knock on doors inviting kids to ride the church bus to Sunday School the next morning. I’m not sure how many routes we (again with the personal pronouns… LOVING it!!) have, maybe 5 or 6?, but we generally have around 50-70 kids come in on the buses. (Ok, I’m guessing here, really… it is a lot, though.)

So, on any given Sunday if you live in our county, you just might get a knock on the door and an invitation to church…especially if they see that you have young-uns runnin’ round your yard (like I frequently do).

Well, one Saturday several years back (too much like work to count up how many), I got a knock on the door, and this nicely dressed man who loved kids (this observation was based on most careful scientific research… that is: he was SMILING about all the rapscallions runnin’ rampant in my yard, so obviously he liked kids) told me his church ran a church bus and asked if my kids would like to ride.

I told him something akin to “I don’t know”. Yeah, real eloquent, I know. Anyway, he gave me a flyer and told me to give a call if they wanted a ride. (Little did he know then that ME making first contact…like as in making a phone call?…is ummm, well…..HAHAHAHA… 3 letters… S H Y. Besides which- it was a cell phone # if I recall correctly, and that was just way too personal for me. I wasn’t going to bother someone on their CELL, for goodness sakes. I had no idea at that time that – cell phones have taken over the world – because basically I’d been sequestered in my house for like 5 or 6 years living as a nocturnal hermit.)

Let me break from this plotline for a moment and take you back probably about… ok, I don’t know how long, a year or so maybe? (Please excuse the fuzzy dates…trying to remember the passage of time is a HUGE struggle for me, I’m afraid…)

I got saved when the kids were both still in diapers. I immediately started passing down my newfound faith, BUT it was slow and small for awhile. Toddler bible storybooks, casual observations about how God made the flowers, that kind of thing. Then when I started homeschooling the first preschooler… it was a set of bible cards (stories, biographies, etc). As she moved up into the more ‘formal’ schooling, I added our first bible course/curriculum. -A side note that I know will grow into its own post or six eventually is that these bible teachings were done for 3 children…Meagan, Matt, and myself. I was learning right along with them, on purpose I was starting as a toddler.

I know I said I’d go a year back, but it wouldn’t have made since without that quick trip there. So as I homeschooled the kids, I taught them from prepared bible curriculum that I had PRAYED ABOUT using because I was bound and determined to NOT teach them (or ME) anything false.

Meagan loved bible class, as did Matthew and I. She would bring up the stories or ask questions during other classes too, and so she earned a Faith Award one of those early homeschool years. Somewhere around this time I started thinking about maybe going to a church. I wasn’t real sure why I even wanted to, because I’d grown up believing they were for the fakes. Maybe it was because those bible lessons talked about going to church on Sundays and going to church on Wednesdays. Maybe it was because they talked about going to Sunday School class and singing. (I love to sing…too bad I have an awful voice!) Maybe it was the bible and devotion reading I had just started for the first ever time in my life. (My reward to myself for keeping my kitchen sink shiny for one full month was my very own bible with devotions…course it turns out later all my careful researching of accurate and ‘ok’ translations was all for naught…I still messed it up, but anyway….)

Or maybe it was just the Holy Spirit whispering to me that it was time I took another step. Yeah, that’s probably more like it.

Whatever the reason, the wanting to go to a church was growing on me…and Meagan, too, it seemed. She started asking when we could go to church. I answered her with “I don’t know” or “I’ll have to check it out first” a lot.

I wanted to go, but I was terrified. I was. Of what, you ask?

Going to the WRONG church, for one.

So I started praying. I knew that God wanted me to give or do or teach or SOMETHING in a church. I knew that. I just knew I was supposed to be in a church because there was a specific something I needed to do. I knew that as surely as I knew I was breathing. I also knew these things: it had to be a church that taught the TRUTH and it had to be THE church that God wanted me in. I highly suspected (as in was 99.99% certain) that if such a truth-teaching church existed it was a Baptist one. This based on my grandmother (the missionary and totally my example of a Christian…post about her is also planned) being a Baptist.

Oh sure! I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about the fantasy of having loving friends and a “church family”… people who would care about me and my kids and love us and help us and take care of us. Absolutely I did fantasize about that, but I didn’t focus on that. I figured that was a pipe dream. I KNEW, though, that I needed to get to that church and soon.

Problem was how would I know which church was right? I knew very little about the bible or Christianity. I did know enough, though, to know that there are a LOT of wrong churches. Churches that profess Christianity but are just WRONG. I’d found myself in a few of those throughout high school. Scared me plum outta my skin, some of them. Others just made me want to bolt to the door the teaching was so, so… not right! THAT was a most uncomfortable one. I was almost seething by the time I left.

My plan at first was to try and get my mom to go with me to check out the churches. Why was that my plan? My reasoning was…she grew up on the mission field. She, a missionary’s daughter, would be able to tell a truth-following church from a not-truth-following church better than me. No question about it. Hands down, better qualified. Certainly she had been exposed to more Christianity and bible than I ever had been…

Problem again. I never could convince her to go. I really, really wanted to go, though, as did Meagan, and by now I was convinced the Lord wanted us in a church, too.

But which one? How was I, so very ignorant in the things of God to know which one? I knew what I would like for one…something small because I’m shy. But wait. Would a bigger one be better? You might can hide better in a big one. I mean you might could ‘do your own thing’ and kinda just blend into the walls and crowd easier that way, so maybe a bigger one would be better… Except think of the crowded auditorium…think about standing up and sitting down, stumbling through the bible to find the bible verse, SINGING, passing the collection plate…in a crowd of hundreds… all watching you and thinking how stupid you are. Ummm, yeah, maybe that smaller one is looking better. Maybe a nice quiet pew in the back. Out of earshot of anybody, lest I damage their eardrums with my high-pitched awful singing.

I never got much further than that. I truly had NO idea how to pick a church. I had no idea how to even begin. I did the ONLY thing I knew to do. Sit on my backside and wait for God to do it for me. I didn’t do that out of some deep faith, though mind you. I did it out of laziness and fear. I was too lazy to actually GO and start the search (if you’re gonna learn to swim, you’re gonna have to get in the water). I was too scared to start the search and find another wrong one. I didn’t want to expose my kids to it, and frankly I was scared to death that maybe I was wrong in thinking there even WAS a church that followed the truth. I mean, after all, I’d been believing for a long time that churches were fake, and certainly the few I’d seen in recent years had done nothing to disspell that belief.

I was scared of what would happen to ME if I landed in another one of those kinds of churches. I wanted no part of it, I dreaded it…really, I did.

I kept praying that the Lord would please lead me to the right church for our family (I learned about doing that through an email group for Christians in TX who were learning to FLY with some help from FLYlady.net). I prayed that God would help me to know which church was right. Then I did a teensy bit of homework.

Like basically none. One thing you need to know right now is this: I do NOT know my city. That is to say I know my city has a Wal-Mart, a hospital, a library, a McDonalds, a bank, and a post office. Outside of that? Yeah notsomuch. Also? I am SEVERELY directionally challenged. I’m talking horrible case here. Did I tell you I got lost driving the new van home from the dealership? Yeah, that was like 1/2 a mile STRAIGHT DOWN THE HIGHWAY from my house. I live like 2 blocks from said highway. It’s a no-brainer. For anyone but me.

So this is what I did. I drew upon my vast wealth of knowledge of my city to “look about a church”. I knew of about 5…sorta. I drove right past one at the end of my street every time I went to the store, library, doctor, or soccer practice. It was a Baptist church. Check one on the “points to consider” list. Church numbers 2 and 3 I passed on the way to soccer practice or the doctor’s office. One was definitely out. I’d been there once. Yeah, that one was definitely not it. The other I knew very little about. I think it is Baptist. Not sure. Regardless it seemed hard to figure out how to get to, since it wasn’t like ON THE HIGHWAY, but instead could only be SEEN from the highway. Yeah, I’m that directionally challenged. It’s a major pain, I tell you.

That left 2. One of those two, church #4, I only had a very vague sense of where it was. It was “that way somewhere”. We’d walked to it once (rest assured…Mom led the way) when the kids were tiny to get their vaccinations at the free clinic there. It was huge and had big stained glass windows. I don’t know what denomination or whatever it is (and though I knew it was only about 3 or 4 blocks from the house I had NO idea how to find it to figure out what denomination), but stained glass always makes me think of Catholic churches, so I guessed that church might not be the one.

The fifth one is my church home, but I did NOT figure that out by process of elimination. There’s more.

I had only narrowed (based on my vast wealth of knowledge) the choices to 2. Church #1 and Church #5. At the time, this is what I knew of Church #5:

I passed it sorta-kinda-I-think on my way to the post office. It was the church that my ex-fiance and his sister rode the bus to before they moved to my then-hometown (where I went to high school…not to be confused with my current hometown).

They had told me a story about this church. Basically they told me that they had ridden the bus there, and that the preacher had called them names and told them they were banned and basically told them they were no good. Let me just state right here, right now… I have NO idea whether any of what they told me was truth. I also want to say that knowing the current preachers at least, (I don’t even know if the same preachers were there that many years ago…) I can NOT imagine this to be true. I really can’t. Maybe they were told not to ride the bus anymore…maybe…but that would have only been if they’d been causing major problems….repeatedly…and had refused the dozens and dozens of chances given to QUIT and behave. This is a scenario I can TOTALLY imagine having happened. Anyway….

When I heard the story back in high school, I did not live in this town, so I really had no idea who or what or where they were talking about. (They told me the name and I remember thinking it sounded like a funny name for a church, and so that’s how years later I knew to connect the two. I saw the sign with the name on it at some point and went that’s that church that banned them.) I did know, however, that I didn’t like what I heard about the church. I mean… a preacher who would tell a kid they’re no good and not to come back and call them names?? Uh-UH! Definitely NOT a good church. Obviously.

So later on, when I was eliminating churches I found myself narrowed down to this church with the questionable reputation and the church down at the end of my street. One is big, one is little. Both are close enough to walk. One is evidently affluent (not exactly “my kind of people”) and “up-to-date”. The other appears more old-fashioned and reaches out and touches the decidely less affluent people (my kind of people) at least in the form of kids (I knew that because my ex had said he rode their bus, so they came and got him), but there’s that story about them turning away those same kids, too…

I did not completely eliminate Church #5 based on the questionable reputation because by this point in my life I had learned 3 things (well, lots of things, but 3 that are crucial here…):

  • my ex-fiance and sister were not exactly completely honest, upright Christians, if you catch my drift…(of course I wasn’t at that time either….by FAR!) and so it was entirely possible that they had the story a bit mixed-up or exaggerated.
  • don’t let others pick your friends/opinions/beliefs/etc. Make your own.

Ok, I know had a 3rd point lined out when I started this train of thought, but by the time I’d written point 2, it had evaporated, so I’ll move on. If I remember it later, so be it…

So I prayed and prayed and asked God to please help me to know which of these two (perhaps I should not have limited Him?? but anyhow…) churches was the one He had in mind for the kids and I.

About now is where that first knock on my door came in. “Hi. I’m So-and-So with Such-and-Such Church. I noticed you have some kids playing out here and we have a bus that comes by and takes the kids to Sunday School, and I was just wondering if they’d be interested in riding the bus and coming to church.”

*the gears in my head gasped*

He’s from that church? They bus kids in? Oh yeah, I knew that. Well, he seems nice enough. Of course, ‘seems’ doesn’t always mean anything. Surely THIS wasn’t the guy who supposedly banned them? Hmmm….

I smiled (at least I hope I did) and kindly (at least I hope it was) showed him on his way with my oh-so-eloquently put non-commital. Something to think about, though, certainly.

I kept praying and praying, asking for guidance. Help me to know, Lord! I prayed.

He came back.

Nothing if not persistent. He really does seem nice. Not at all pushy, which is always good. Hasn’t screamed at me that I’m going to hell if I don’t go to church (like that couple did to Mom that time). Meagan would get a kick out of the riding the bus part, for sure. She’s always wanted to “ride the bus and go to the big school”…guess a church bus would be next-best, even if the ride would be short. BUT I am not ABOUT to just send her without checking them out, besides…I want to go to church too. *pout*

This time he said something like, “We’d love it if you’d come visit us sometime.”

I told him, “Well we just might do that.” as I politely (I hope!) closed the door.

They’d love it… WHO’D love it? How can he possibly speak for the whole church? I mean I guess I could see him saying HE would love it, but how does he know everyone else would? And isn’t “we’d love it” a little strong? I mean come on. How many people actually mean it when they say “We’d love for you to come and stay with us?” or “We’d love for you to … ” just about anything. Really! Well, anyhow, at least the guy is putting up a good show. He smiles, he’s polite. He really does seem to like kids. That’s a big plus, there. At least one person there likes kids as much as I do. Of course I don’t KNOW, but I think he just might maybe feel like I do about the forgotten kids. That is, that they have to be loved, that somebody needs to tell them about Jesus and let them come to church. That somebody needs to show them they care about and love them. That far too many kids are being left out and forgotten and WHY DOESN”T ANYONE PAY ATTENTION TO THE KIDS? Do they not SEE them? HOW CAN YOU NOT CARE ENOUGH ABOUT THE KIDS TO TELL THEM JESUS LOVES THEM??? Ok, yeah I see that churches have all kinds of programs and services and blahblahblahyaddayadda for adults… and teenagers even, and that’s great. Really. Fine and dandy, but WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS? Especially those forgotten, unloved kids. The ones whose own parents don’t even really care. Oh how my heart breaks for them. And I just wonder… this guy… I think maybe he might share a little of that “don’t forget about the kids” thing. So this church?…well, maybe we’ll try this church first…at least they aren’t keeping the church for their own kids and no one else’s like it seems so many do. The ones I have seen or heard about mostly seem to keep their church for their own kids…like they don’t want to share their oh-so-special church with the ones who “don’t belong”. Yeah, maybe we’ll try this one first.

And so for a few weeks I tried to convince my mom (because ummm, yeah, I was still CHICKEN to go anywhere on my own, especially if the anywhere was a CHURCH!) to come with me to church. (Have I mentioned that I used to have severe panic attacks if I went out of the house alone? Like 15min parked in WalMart’s parking lot trying to get calmed down enough after dropping off library books -yeah, like that was a big crowd…but the librarian SAID SOMETHING TO ME- to go in and buy groceries?? which of course was more tense, anxious torture….) Yeaaaaahhhhh… So I was really, really, really hoping I could get Mom to come. Like you wouldn’t believe.

Except she wasn’t budging. Man! Ok, so I guess I’m just gonna have to do it. I mean, ok, Lord, if you want us to go to church, I’ll go, but MAN! I could sure use some courage here….

I don’t have a clue how I got the guts up (ok, yeah I do…it was Jesus) to pack the kids up one Sunday and head up to that church. I can’t remember now if we drove or walked. (Very possibly walked, I know I did walk a lot right at the beginning because I remember singing “I Have Decided To Follow Jesus” on the way in the hopes of calming the ragin’ freakin’ out mind and tummy.)

I don’t remember much about the sermon or singing or anything. Just that the preacher laughed and smiled and got downright tickled with himself…and I thought that was cool. He was just so INTO Jesus! Excited about Him! He was ECSTATIC about Him, even! Yeah, I sure liked that guy. Right off! =) This kind of preachin’ I could listen to forever! I thought. Kinda weird, I guess(?), since I’d only heard maybe 4 or 5 sermons total since I was old enough to really listen.

And also? I felt totally… home. It just felt so right. I felt so right being there. It WAS just… right. No explanation for that outside of God. None. Why? Because I freak at crowds (by the way, a crowd is one more than me), and even though I did and do still “freak” more than a little at the crowd, it STILL feels like home… in spite of the freakin’ out! Because even the nice, good church (interestingly about the same size as my church) I went to a few times as a kid with my uncle still felt uncomfortable wrapped around me. It was scary because I was alone and no one seemed to care that it was scary to me. They just kinda glanced over me, it seemed. And while that was nice in some ways (I did mention I freak when people talk to me, right?), it also left me feeling unwanted, unloved, and forgotten. Not that that was really a new feeling, mind you. More familiar than anything, but still…there was something I wanted and I certainly wasn’t getting it there.

At least they didn’t kick me out of children’s church for being too old (I snuck in every time we went so I would at least have my little brother in the same room with me. In big church it was just my uncle… and he was in the sound booth.) And of course, all the other church experiences I’d had had been downright HORRID. I mean I really wanted nothing to do with a church for a long, long time because of that. I wanted Jesus, I wanted to follow Him, I wanted to learn about and worship Him… just not in a church.

This church, though? One visit really was all it took for me to feel ok with my kids attending. (Though to be sure, I did check the Sunday School papers Meagan brought home and ‘felt out’ what the teacher talked about in class for awhile still. I’m not completely stupid.) It was just… home. Sure as I am typing this up in the middle of the night (because when else do I not have a 9-year chattering in my ear??), I felt during that first visit that the Lord was telling me:

“This is where I was trying to get you to go. This is where I want you.”

Other things happened in the next year that make up other stories, but here are a couple of real quick (I promise!) highlights. A little over a year later, I was baptized in this church, and shortly after that not knowing a thing about ‘the way things are done’, I talked to the pastor (a word/position I’d only recently figured out) about being an actual MEMBER, after church. I don’t remember what all I said, but I do remember telling him that THIS church was where God wanted me. I also remember him telling the rest of the church that after they’d voted me in. (I won the election!! WOOHOO!! haha)

So that’s the whole story that I’d wanted to tell, (but totally flubbed), about how I decided to come to this church. To sum it up:

I didn’t. God did.

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