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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Are You Seeking A Church?

From a post:
"I was wondering if anyone can recommend a church for me and my family to go to. I tried ----------- in town but they didn’t have a kids program yet. I would love to find a church we can go to and feel comfortable. Thanks to all."

Several kind people suggested their particular group mentioning kids programs and service times.
We heard that question countless times over the years, I always wanted them to join our church. And h
opefully, they would become "committed" and "faithful" to our "vision " with their time, personal involvement, and yes, finances. As leaders, there was a shared sense of disappointment if they did not choose us and picked another group. (Can you see a bit of a competitive spirit in that?)

Another phenomenon observed was a large group of "church hoppers" drifting from church to church. We knew many of them and believed they were sincere in their belief. Over the years as my wife and I were pillars within our assembly, we saw many of them attend a church until something would happen. There was usually a reason such as church splits, personal sin, pastoral failure, a new pastor and changes, or a falling out with somebody.

Some ended up in a bland, lukewarm group that required little of them in exchange for mutual acceptance.

When we left our church after 24 years, I had no idea what to look for or where to go.
 In much prayer I asked the Lord which one He might send me to. It is odd how we never before waited on God to direct us but it was easier to rely on "the arm of flesh" than get a specific word from the Lord.

But all I heard was silence, and for several months I told Him I would go to ANY of the 35-40 churches in our city. -any of them! -I missed the fellowship, worship, and community. 
So when He would not send me to any local churches, I went anywayI learned I should have listened to God.

So we went. It was the same old format, programs, a sermon, and mostly the same one-man show.
Only the faces, voices, programs, and seating were different. Were we just too critical? The answer is a flat "NO!" -At that point on the "potters wheel" of brokeness, we would have GLADLY joined in fellowship with any of them. 

Going alone to visit, week after week, all I wanted was GOD. It did not matter to me what the name was, where they met, or who went there, all I cared about was being in the Presence of God.

I even went to a small all-black church, where I was the only visitor and the only white person there. Another out of town Pentecostal church had some very good singing and worship which we enjoyed and we swallowed hard returning a few times in an effort to "connect" to God and man, within the walls of a church. 

We closed our eyes, not looking at the musicians and singers on the stage-platform, and focused on Jesus. We really tried.  That nagging verse "DO NOT FORSAKE THE ASSEMBLING OF YOURSELVES TOGETHER AS IS THE MANNER OF SOME...." always lurked in mind. 

      "This also is church"
Before we had resigned our “home church”, on a Sunday afternoon I stopped at the local AMVETS donation center. A man I had known since childhood worked there and we had a conversation about God and the Bible. In doing so, The Lord revealed to me something about his life and as we sat in my truck in front of his workplace, I asked if I could pray for him.
As we prayed, the wonderful presence of the Lord absolutely filled the cab of that truck; I knew it, he knew it, the truck even knew it.  After our prayer, he returned to work and as I was driving home, the Lord spoke very clearly to me: "This also is church".
 My reaction was WHAT does that mean?  -My "church" paradigm was still in the box, under a pastor.

The fact that I had just assembled with someone in prayer according to what Jesus said in Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them, was shaking my view of what "church" means.

For months afterwards, I kept thinking about what God had spoken to me that day. "This also is church".  (At that time, I had no idea we would be leaving our assembly. God had planted a seed and as I was now reading the Bible studiously, the thought of what "church" actually is, according to God, slowly began to change. So many things had been taken for granted, over-looked, and most of all, never examined in light of serious study of scripture.
I began to consider "church" outside the box. It began to dawn on me there was a great number of Christians in our community who did not set foot in the local churches. I understood there were others outside the walls of the traditional church institutions. I thought , "how could we get them into ours" but the Lord quickly corrected me with "bring them in to WHAT?"

After our church resignation Sept. 29, 2004, and our failed experiments in "church shopping", we realized we were in uncharted territory and away from the comforts of manmade security.

Some wonderful things happened, our faith in GOD actually began to grow and we even experienced several healing miracles. The scriptures became fresh and exciting as the Lord became our guide and teacher, just like He promised in John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.  Even the Old Testament made more sense as we understood what the prophets were saying to the church in OUR day.
And again, John 7:17, If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

The Lord began to show us scripture we never heard taught in church, and our need to walk in them.
We understood how Jesus could say in John 7:16, "Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me." And the truth of what John wrote in 1John 2:27 " But the anointing which ye have received of him abides in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him."

We also saw the need for personal repentance of much manmade "leaven" that had been a part of our Christianity.  There was far more to repent of than we ever could imagine.

These were some of the great blessings God has given us. And frankly, we have been amazed at some of the people and means God has used in our lives to keep us assembled and connected to both Him and others in the body of Christ.
We point you to read the Bible prayerfully for yourself and ask God to reveal to you "Which CHURCH are you looking for"?
Are you looking for a church where Jesus is the Head?
Are you looking for a church that believes the Bible is God's Word, our authority, and are you willing to pay the price of obedience?
Is truth important to you? Are you willing to follow the Lamb outside the camp?
Have you ever studied the New Testament for how and where people gathered? and what happened when they did? Search the book of Acts, it is there many times.

Most people go to a "church" hoping to find the way to God. Some leave a church in their search to find God. What counts most is that we are each led by Him and hear Him direct our path. We hope you find Him too.