Looking for a Church

Our family recently experienced our sixth geographic move in 11 years of marriage.  This has given us a wide range of opportunities for church hunting, 33 opportunities to be exact! We don’t think this makes us experts in the field, that’s for sure, but since it is part of our days right now, I thought it might be interesting to share what “church shopping” has evolved into for our family.  Prayer and internet research start the process; Jeremy utilizes a few sites including www.9marks.org and www.founders.org.

If possible, Jeremy also likes to listen to sermons and read about a church’s beliefs before we attend a worship service.  Next, we start making visits using two simple non-negotiables: Biblical preaching/teaching (1 Timothy 4:2 &1 Corinthians 9:16)  and love from the Church (John 34:13-14).  Of course, these two are not exhaustive, but if a church does not meet this criteria, then usually a second visit will not be warranted.  

Children’s activities fall into the “preferences” category along with music style, congregation size, location, cultural mix and other “negotiables.”  If during our visiting we find more than one church that meets our two top criteria, then we pray for further for discernment and allow ourselves to consider “preferences” in our final decision.  We ask God to lead us to the church He wants us to minister our gifts in and be ministered to in.  We believe that unless HE directs our path or “builds a house” for us, all our methods or ideas are in vain.  So I can truly say that it has been by the grace of God that we have been able to be parts of some amazing churches in our lifetime, NOT a method we have developed.  

Praising God for the blessing of the Body of Christ, and praying that we would “. . like newborn babes, long for the the pure milk of the Word, that by it (we) may grow in respect to salvation. . .” (1 Peter 2:2)

    The Family Tree

    I’ve been crisscrossing the southeast on road trips this spring.  What beautiful drives - tree lined roads, hills…I love it! 

    To pass the time, I sometimes listen to talks that I’ve downloaded to CDs, and I’ve listened to some of Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s Henry Forums.  Recently, I enjoyed hearing “Out of Africa: Biblical Christianity in Zambia” by Conrad Mbewe.  During the first part of this talk, Mbewe highlights how the gospel first came to his region of Africa and how Christianity spread there throughout the last couple hundred years.  Often, he describes how one individual specifically impacted the life of another, who in turn had an impact on another person or group, and so on.

    This got me thinking about the importance of geneaologies.  Just as people often want to fill in their biological heritage (learning that their great great grandfather was the first settler of a town, etc.) I think it is perhaps even more important to consider one’s spiritual heritage in not only general but also specific terms. 

    It encouraged me to hear how the Lord specifically worked through the everyday lives of individual believers in Africa through many years to do what has developed into a great work.  It is so encouraging to consider the many saints that have taught and discipled me personally, and think of those believers earlier this century that blessed, exhorted and strengthened them, and then of those earlier believers who taught, wrote, sang, discipled and loved that generation…and so on… 

    Throughout history, God has ever continued to work through His people.  And, by His grace, He will continue to work through me.  When I think of the larger picture of this “family tree” that He is growing up on this earth it spurs me on to continue pursuing Kingdom purposes even through the hard, difficult or seemingly fruitless times.  The tree is not fruitless.  The tree is growing.  The tree has deep roots.

    Cockroaches on My Porch: Humility Lessons from Louisville

    When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
    -Proverbs 11:2

    This week our family moved to a new city for my husband to attend seminary and are living in family on-campus housing.  What this means for us is close quarters, close neighbors and a new peer group: future pastor’s wives and future pastor’s children ALL AROUND US! 

    As much as a I pray about it and speak scripture to my heart and mind, I struggle constantly with prideful thoughts of what OTHERS think of me, my children, especially as first impressions are made.  Of course, I’m concerned about the little earthly carnal things, and in a stroke of sovereign good humor, God ordained a mortifyingly humiliating experience (to bring low the pride, as in Isaiah 23:9.)

    As I unpacked a box of photo albums in our apartment on the first day, a “Palmetto Bug” tried to come out (for those non-South-Carolinians, this is a two-inch cockroach that SC has given a nicer name!)  In panic, I pick up the box and RUN outside, slamming it down on our little porch!!  The box is closed, so the cockroaches don’t come crawling out.  As I set the box down, I look up and Jenny* and Whitney* my new neighbors were sitting in my yard only feet away from my porch, talking and watching their children play.  I have an inner dialog with myself, as I say “hi” to the neighbors and frantically try to think of a graceful way out of this.  

    I can’t take the box back inside, and I can’t just tape it back up and throw it away - not with photo albums in it, maybe I could take it around the apartment unit and open it out back - no, one of the roaches might crawl out onto me. . .I can’t just wait around, hoping they would go back inside - they told me just a few hours ago that they practically live outside when the weather is nice like this! I had no other option, I had to accept this lesson and be HONEST with them and tell them what was going on.  No secrets in seminary housing, I guess.  I told the ladies what was happening so they wouldn’t freak out.  They were very calm, telling me how to get a hold of the exterminators on campus, then stayed in their lawn chairs as I opened the box and stomped on and sprayed the cockroaches that came out.

    Humbling?  Yes, without a doubt!  Good for my heart?  Yes, yes, yes!  If I’d rather hide the box of cockroaches and not let another sinful human know they were in my house. . .how much more absurd it is that I try to justify and hide the cockroaches of sin (pride, for example) that come crawling out - before a perfect and holy God?

    I guess it’s time I took my good friend’s reading recommendation: Humility, by Andrew Murray.

    *Names have been changed to protect the innocent