it was a process. i left many Sundays feeling frustrated, dissatisfied, and ready to podcast Matt Chandler (http://www.thevillagechurch.net/) or Francis Chan (http://www.cornerstonesimi.com/) from my couch for the rest of my life. obviously, i'm not doing that, but the thought did cross my mind more than once. i also considered taking my iPod to church and listening to Matt or Francis teach instead of the church's pastor. terrible, i know, but true.
i finally found a church home and i'm getting settled. it's a large church, so there are lots of unfamiliar faces. now my task is to make some of the faces familiar (and not just because i walk through their door each week and say hi). the reason it took a while for me to find a new home was because i was unwilling to compromise on a few issues. i realize no church is going to be a perfect fit. like i said, there will always be things you don't like about one, but the trick is to make sure you're focusing on the non-negotiables and not the personal preferences. some friends of mine were having a discussion recently about what they look for in a church, so here's the list i submitted.
1. Solid teaching, not preaching. i crave someone exegetically teaching scripture verse by verse (or chunk by chunk), not only preaching topically. your opinion supported by one verse slapped on the screen at the end of the service doesn't cut it. sorry!
2. Spirit-led worship. not a show (truly a challenge in Branson).
3. Numerous healthy ministries to be involved with and serve (with members already actively engaged in serving).
4. Biblical model of leadership for the church (elders, deacons, etc.).
5. Strong, healthy, active groups for every age category. especially the young professionals/singles ministry. obviously.
that being said, it was a challenge, but i've found a home. James River (http://www.jamesriver.org/) is my new home. Pastor John teaches. he recently finished going through James and now Vision Sunday is coming up tomorrow. worship is loud, yet authentic. believe me, i was skeptical. everything around here is a show. but this one wasn't. it was authentic. passionate. real. Cherish Kids (http://www.cherishkids.org/) is one of many ministries and it has caught my attention for some obvious reasons. it deals with kids. and more than that, it aims to provide for kids who need foster homes or are up for adoption. um, hello?! what do i want to do with my life? yep, foster care and adoption. needless to say, they'll be getting a call from me. i've found my home. my next task is to bring it down to size and make it not seem so large. that's where Life Groups come in. small group accountability and life-on-life ministry. my only drawback with James River is the 40 minute drive each way, but i can get used to that. Ozark has cheaper gas anyway.
one of the first things that drew me in about James River was Pastor John's sensitivity to the fact that not everyone coming through the doors on a Sunday morning is going to end up in the same place when it's all said and done. there are plenty of dying people walking through the doors each week and they don't even know it. every week Pastor John finishes the service with an opportunity for people to come forward to give their life to Christ or re-submit their life to Christ. having grown up in the Church and with dad being in ministry, i've heard my fair share of "altar calls." but it's both refreshing and encouraging each week to see dozens of people go forward.
God is moving. people are responding. sometimes i forget that fact. i get so caught up in my own walk and sanctification process that i forget that i need to be praying for and seeking new teammates to join me in this journey. i never cease to be blown away on Sunday mornings as person after person gets up and walks down to pray and join the team. this is my family. this is my home. now it's time for me to join in and start doing some dishes or folding some laundry. it's time to serve.
live unashamedly. laugh uncontrollably. love unconditionally.