How to find a church, Part II
In the second Sunday of our church shopping spree, we were one member down, as my poor husband had to work. We spent the week praying and being mindful of the Lord’s leading for which church to try next, or maybe to return to the third church from last week, where we felt a refreshed and renewed sense of the spirit. But I’d be lying if I said I was merely looking at the Lord’s guidance in my decision.
I am human.
I first visited this past Sunday’s church about three months ago, on a Monday. It was fairly early, and the building, which was large, was quiet. I met first the church secretary, whose name I’m almost embarrassed to admit I didn’t remember, but since I don’t use people’s real names, I could have left that out and who would have known, right? I chatted with her and the youth pastor fairly briefly, and the secretary grabbed a hold of me and began praying. This moved me to tears at that time, something that is easier than ever nowadays because my heart is softer today than it was yesterday. A tour was given, and the similarities to our home church in both personalities and the circumstances were glaring. As I was leaving, I noticed that on the door was notice of the Sunday service time.
Honestly. That’s why I didn’t go back immediately. Anyone who has ever tried to wake up my youngest daughter just said, “I completely understand where you’re coming from, ” in support of this knee-jerk reaction. It’s not like it’s 6 a.m., but it was a half hour earlier than we were accustomed. I followed my rules from the first week of church shopping. I arrived late. I sat near the exit. I prayed. I had an escape plan. And so on.
When worship began, a crowd of children stormed the pulpit and began dancing and creating their own choreographic routines impromptu. Adorable. But more than adorable, it’s a sign of health. My husband and I believe strongly that children are a blessing (overall), and that a church blessed with many children, almost to the point of overflow, is a blessed church. Without children, revival can’t continue.
Then the most amazing thing happened. To some people this would be nowhere near amazing, but it is to me only because of the way I was attached so quickly to our church back home. The church secretary came up and said, “Hi, Donna! I’m so glad you could make it!” Three. Months. Later. She remembered my name. I don’t know about everyone else, but I can’t remember a name or a face unless I meet someone 25 times, but I admire that ability in others. My favorite pastor’s wife did the same thing. I always thought she was really good with names because when I met her the first time, they were at a different church and I was seriously sporadic about attendance. I didn’t like the people and I hated the music, but I thought going to church would help me blend in with normal people a little better. Every time I walked in the door, it was like she had a tracking collar on me. She would find me and say, “Hi, Donna. I’m so glad you could make it today.”
She really was the only one who talked to me in that place. Because my attendance was sporadic and my attention wasn’t where it should have been, my favorite pastor and his wife left without me realizing it. My attendance gradually waned to apathy fulfilled. It wasn’t until years later when I found them again, and I found my home church. And, yes, she knew my name (but that’s another story for another day that involves my poor husband, and another reason I call him poor).
Back in Casper, worship continued. And continued. And I thought, “Hmm. How is the pastor going to finish by 11 if they keep singing. Don’t get me wrong. I love the music. I didn’t want it to end. I just wondered how the pastor was going to wrap it up in time for lunch.
In a strange turn of events, I realized the pastor didn’t at all care what time it was. We would leave when he was done. I know how many Sunday school teachers and football fans out there are thinking, “Wow. That’s just awful.” However, this is a beautiful thing when put into action. This body of Christ-loving people has made the decision to let the Holy Spirit move, in all His greatness, in order to effectively soften and break the congregation to receive a message as it was intended to be delivered.
During one service, the pastor told everyone that there was no way anyone could walk out the door of the church that day the same as they walked in. He was right. I walked out that day, and every other, strengthened and renewed. This is how it should be.
It turns out that the secretary had a very good reason to remember my name. She has a scar to remember me by. Maybe she’s like one of my best friends who names everything (she names sides of beef, and I’m not kidding), in which case her scar would be named Donna because that’s who she was with when she got it. When she was giving me a tour of the church, she showed me the to-be sanctuary, which was under construction at the time, and she fell through a hole in the sound booth looking for a light. She said it took weeks to heal and that she would probably have a permanent scar from the injury. But even those little things that can’t possibly be spiritualized when they happen really do have a purpose. Who knows? Maybe she really is good with names. But I think the Lord knew I needed her to remember my name, so He gave our meeting an event.
In any case, we found our “new home” church. We love and will always cherish our original church, where we first took the hand of the Lord and walked with Him on the lighted path that serves as our guidance still today. But we’re confident we will grow and serve and love in the new place we’ve found.