My dear dedicated readers… I owe you an explanation.

My high hopes and plans for getting the posts done last week were thwarted by the prep for Thanksgiving. I kept telling myself that I’d have plenty of time to get it done and then the alert came telling me it had published! AGH! One of THE worst things a blogger can do is publish an empty post – and I did that 3 times. (insert McCauley Caulkin’s open mouth scream here!) You have my promise: it will never happen again. I value your time and decision to read my posts. Thank you for staying with me! 

This month I’ve remembered where I’ve been and 40 years of discipleship. Today is the final post in the Remembering Series.

Pews, stadium seating, plastic chairs, cushioned chairs. I’ve sat in many church services in different places and in various parts of my life.

This is what I’ve learned. 

The common denominator in every good church I’ve ever been in was the leader being able to humbly admit his faults while leading by example from God’s Word. The reverse is true as well. 

I used to think church was simple. You show up. You serve. You worship and learn. God’s Word is the basis. Easy.

Um. No. People make it very complicated.

Suddenly there’s not a simple line to follow but a myriad of complex histories woven into a church body that often gets tangled and trips itself up.

I have observed the tangle is worse when leadership is tight-fisted about control. Feelings get misunderstood as convictions. Gauntlets get thrown down. Pastors leave. People leave. I’ve been through that a few times.

There is no one right style of worship. 

I grew up with hymns and praise choruses in the 80’s. Then the worship music explosion the 90’s. Being a college student during the late 90’s meant I had to wrestle with worship. It was good. It’s always good to wrestle with stuff like that.

I learned that closing my eyes to shut out distractions reminded me that this is for God. I learned how to feel comfortable worshiping with my hands raised. I’d always thought that to draw attention to myself in a service was the worst thing possible.

Then I went to Liberia, West Africa and experienced true and genuine joy in worship like I’ve never seen before. We literally conga lined up to give our offerings – several times! The people around me were dressed in their very finest and busting at the seams with joy to give – even though they didn’t know what they would eat that day.

Can you imagine what our churches would do if we danced our way up to the offering bucket and if we did that more than once a service??! What our American churches can learn from our African brothers! Pure unadulterated joy. We don’t understand it. Ours is very much connected with events and feelings and our current state of things. Theirs is simply because they are alive and with their brothers and have a little bit to give to their Papa God. I was greatly humbled.

Returning home to our church with air conditioning, cushy stadium seats and a well-rehearsed extremely gifted worship team made me wonder if we are missing the point. The point of worship isn’t to perform but to drag our exceptionally selfish little hearts and remind them they are not the center of the universe.

We need lots of reminders.

I had a conversation along these lines with a grouchy 9 year old a couple months ago. He didn’t want to go to church and was sitting in the pew with his arms crossed. I gently put my arm around him and said that sometimes I don’t want to be in church either but that’s when I must shout the truth to my heart.

I am not the point. My feelings change easily. God is the point – the whole entire reason I live. Worshiping kicks my selfish universe back into its proper orbit.

He looked up at me. We stood together and sang truth back to our selfish hearts.

There is no one right denomination. 

I’ve been in a couple Baptist churches and a few Bible churches and a couple Evangelical Free churches. I’m currently in a Reformed church.

The one thing about all of those churches, each one tends to believe they are the best denomination – some more so than others. They have a corner on the market when it comes to understanding the Bible and what God has to say to our world.

I disagree.

There are a lot of preference issues we’ve made into non-negotiables – and in some cases, churches have split over.

Do you believe God’s Word has the final say in everything? That it is perfect and true throughout the ages because God never changes? Do you believe that Jesus was perfect, completely human and completely God and paid the only sacrifice for sin forever? Do you believe that there is nothing you can do to add to the sacrifice Jesus already made? 

(If you answered no, we need to talk.)

See what I did there? I didn’t say: you’re not my friend and I will never speak to you, ever again! We can still dialogue, people. I want to understand your reasons. They might be a bit flawed. I care about you and I believe your eternity is on the line.

If you said yes, I’m so glad! Take a minute to check yourself and make sure you didn’t subconsciously add anything to the list. It’s easy to do.

In case you’re wondering, there is no perfect problem-free church. People are in churches so there will be problems. But a healthy church knows compassion and grace as well as solid doctrine. They are generous and care well for those who are hurting. Differing generations love instead of divide.

This is the church we’ve found. It’s definitely not perfect, but it’s our home.

Each Sunday, I sit in a pew with my family. I’m solemnly reminded that we are part of the history and future of this church. In another 100 years, maybe the next generation of our family will still be there.

As for me, I sure hope that huge pipe organ doesn’t go anywhere!