Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thankful Thursdays

Good Thursday morning to all! This morning I am thankful that the Lord has answered a prayer I've been praying for some time. It means another change in my life, but I believe God wants to see me grow in my walk with Him, and He is making this change to achieve it.

I've mentioned in the past that I actually attend 2 churches in our area, one a contemporary Christian church, the other a more traditional Baptist church. The contemporary is the first church I attended when I was saved. God led me there, I believe, because it was what I needed at the time. This church is excellent for new believers; the teachings are Bible based but not so difficult that someone off the street can't understand it. They're always looking for ways to get people involved in ministries, even though they don't have a building of their own. The ministries are simple enough to get people jumpstarted, especially people like me who are introverts and have trouble reaching out.

I began attending the Baptist church about 2 years ago. The contemporary, as I mentioned, has no facility of their own. We meet in a local high school (previously we met at a local movie theater). This means that there is a limited amount of resources, specifically for the children. The contemporary offers children's ministry on Sundays, and that's it. I found out from another lady at the contemporary church that a Baptist church in our area had Awana on Wednesdays, and we decided to try it out. I would drop E off at Awana, then go to Bible study. I cannot begin to describe how much I've enjoyed Wednesday night Bible study! I have learned, been convicted, and been encouraged to study the Word more. My son has also benefitted greatly from Awana; he has gained a stronger faith as he studies God's word, and remembers Bible verses, something that's hard on a child with dyslexia.

So I was attending a contemporary church on Sundays and a traditional church on Wednesdays. My daughter, on the other hand, preferred the traditional church because the teaching is deeper. She complained that the messages at the contemporary church were fine for new believers, but she needed something with more "meat" (how often do you hear 18 year olds talk like that?). I wasn't completely sold at first, but her best friend was playing guitar during worship one Sunday and I went to hear and cheer her on. I had always believed I wouldn't like a traditional church because it would be too much like the church I'd grown up in: rigid and stuffy and judgmental. I found this not to be the case. While traditional, this Baptist church (independent, not Southern Baptist) is also modern. They use the Kidmo and Discipleland curriculum for the childrens Sunday school, filled with cartoons and simple ways to learn and memorize Scripture. The music is also a mix of hymns and contemporary worship songs, which suprisingly I enjoy very much.

At the same time, there were changes going on in the contemporary church that weren't to my liking. The worship was my main concern. When we'd started going to the contemporary church, the worship was mostly songs by David Crowder and Chris Tomlin. The band consisted of 5-6 people, and it was so moving there were times I couldn't hold back the tears. I always made sure I got there early for worship. As time went on, however, it started turning into a production, almost resembling a concert. Flashing lights, smoke machines, and harder rock songs began blaring from the stage. I began sitting farther and farther away, because the smoke machines made me cough and gag (not a good combination when worshipping the Lord). Then, there would be a pause in the worship set for announcements and to give people a chance to fill out a connection card. During this time, the band would play secular rock music, which I found offensive. I know most of the congregation loves it; this church is unique in our community in that the main demographic is 18-35 year olds. I, on the other hand, was feeling more and more uncomfortable. Maybe I'm a bit old-fashioned, but I believe there's a time and place for everything, and Sunday church service is not the place for secular music. A couple weeks ago I actually waited until worship was almost over before I went inside, something that I would never have done before. It was a bit of a wake-up call.

In the contemporary church I was also leading a woman's small group and teaching in children's ministry. After having taken the Strengthfinder test I know my spiritual gifts are teaching and learning, and I have a strong desire to teach. I knew also that this was an opportunity to share what I was learning, whether in my personal study or at the Baptist church. What I found, though, was that most of the attendees wanted small group study to be easy. These were either young profesional women who had a job and were too "busy" to spend a lot of time preparing for small groups, young teens in school who had too much homework to also have to do alot of studying, or moms with jobs who had too much on their plates to add a study time to their schedules. While this wasn't true of all the women, I did find many of them would come to small groups having read nothing of that week's study, unable to participate because they had no clue what we were talking about, or making comments that had nothing to do with the topic at hand. I also became discouraged at the fact that I'd have over 20 women sign up for a small group but less than 10 would show up. Preparing for small groups was something I took very seriously; I'd do my own more profound study that took time, even when I was working full-time, so that I could do an effective job of teaching, and yet there were times when no one would show up. I sensed that many in this church like the easy going atmosphere and want to stay where they are, but I know if I want to grow I need to be challenged, and I wasn't getting that.

Now, this is something I've been praying for, not something that has just come up. Other things that I won't go into began changing, and I was sensing that I needed to make a decision. Would I stay at the contemporary church even if issues with worship and other things were disturbing to me, or would I go to the traditional church where I felt the Holy Spirit convicting me and my faith strengthening? Sounds like an easy choice, doesn't it? But for me it wasn't. I didn't want this to be MY decision; I wanted it to come from the Lord. So I prayed and asked for guidance, choosing to continue attending both churches until God pointed out the direction He wanted me to go. I finally got my answer yesterday.

The contemporary church had branched out to another city north of us in the next county, and begun a satellite church at another high school. Technically, it isn't far from me, but it definitely wasn't as close as the location I was attending which was practically in my backyard. The second location, which started meeting in February, has been doing very well, averaging 125 people each Sunday. We would have about 900 people meeting at the first location, in 2 services. It was an arrangement that seemed to be working very well. Then, all servants were called to a special meeting yesterday to discuss changes that were happening in the church. No one knew what these changes were. Turns out, due to circumstances beyond the church's control, the contract for the first location has been terminated, and the church will only be meeting at this location for 3 more weeks. The church has made the decision to move all services to the new location. This was a surprise, especially to me.

When I told my daughter about the meeting, we discussed what might be going on. She made the comment that possibly one of the locations would shut down, though believing it to be the 2nd location. She even asked what I would do if the location I attended was shut down. I said I would not move to the farther location, especially if I have the traditional church so close by. I asked God to reveal His will for us with this meeting, and He did. I admit I was still feeling a bit unsure last night after having heard all the pastor had to say. I knew what the church was doing was the right thing for them, and I believe God is guiding this church where He wants them to be, in a city that is very unchurched. I also had to accept that what God wants for this contemporary church, is not what He wants for me. He has answered my prayer, and now that I've had time to meditate on it I can do nothing but thank and praise my God for His love and faithfulness in showing me what He wants for me. Thank You Jesus!


Yaya Yarns said...

Praying God's continued work in and through you in this situation. May you know without a doubt exactly where He would have you to be for His use and your growth. Finding a church home and getting rooted in it is very important, a place where His Word is taught and lived out, without hesistation!


Denise said...

Asking God to continue to lead you where He wants you.