I took a sabbatical from church. I really hadn’t intended to, it just worked out that way. I had a church I loved and then the Pastor retired, after that everything seemed to fall apart. It was like a corporate take-over. One service after we got out I asked Elaine, “Did we just go to church?” It felt like speed church, kind of like speed dating. Fifteen minutes and you’re out the door. The new Pastor was perfect, and so was his wife. I remember she had some fabulously expensive red pumps. Their kids looked perfect too. And the services were scripted and programmed, no room for error. No room for the Holy Spirit either.
There was no prayer, no invitation at the end, I felt like God’s Spirit had checked out.
Then we went to another “Mega-church.” It was a pretty large congregation but we liked what we heard from the pulpit and the Pastor was a really humble regular guy. We were just on the brink of joining and the same thing happened all over again. The Church lost its lease and the building was sold. The Pastor was given a back-seat, and it was another corporate take-over. Signs were changed out front and the whole church was restructured and made over (there was nothing wrong with it the way it was). The first thing I noticed when I walked in were the flat-screens playing a football game. I was disgusted.
After that, we stayed home on Sundays. Sometimes, we went hiking and had church on the mountain. It was really kind of liberating in a way. After about a year though, we knew we had to start another search. Something wasn’t right. Church has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It set the tone for the week. But I still wasn’t ready to go just for the sake of going.
Each day on the way to work I pass this particular church. The sign out front is the first thing I noticed about it. It said, “No perfect people allowed.” I told Elaine, “I think I could probably go there.” We tried it and we liked what we heard, the message was straight out of the Bible, and it was quite possibly the best sermon on “prejudice” I have ever heard. It was a breath of fresh air. There was also a cool-looking woman in funky dress on stage playing an electric violin which I loved.
When the Pastor and his wife served us communion they spoke words of love over us and looked us in the eye. And at the end of the service there were prayer warriors in front at for anyone who needed it. There was what I had missed. The spoken Word and the Resurrection power of a changed life, and the hopeful probability that you would walk out differently than when you walked in. That’s church.
And it’s good to be back.