Growing up, my family never went to church. I don’t have any memory of being taught about Jesus or God really. The only thing I could even remotely consider as an encounter with any type of God experience were knocks on the door on the weekends by people who would always have some type of pamphlet to drop off. I knew what church buildings looked like, usually because of some big cross, but as far as what took place within those buildings…clueless.
At the age of fifteen that all changed. I began attending church with my aunt and gave my life to the Lord. It has been about twenty-two years since then and what a journey it has been. Over that time, I have had many opportunities to be a part of multiple fellowships. I have served both simply as an attendee and in ministry/leadership roles. I went from being a stranger to the church to having a heart beat for the church and the people part of it.
For about a year now, the Lord has been pressing upon my heart to share my experience and in January, I set a goal for myself to complete my book titled, Where is the Church? I am happy to say that this March, I have finally completed it. I have decided to publish a chapter a day here on my blog. I pray it blesses you and hope you will share it if it does!
My heart aches for the current state of the church. We are a body severed trying to convince the world we are one. We stand in pulpits and platforms pointing fingers at the shortcomings of others not realizing we are simply pointing fingers at ourselves and the world watches on. We are just a few blocks from one another, some just across the street, but we resemble competing supermarkets rather than gathering places of unity and restoration, power and deliverance.
We measure success by the seats filled and the size of the offering. A bigger building must mean a bigger move of God. Meanwhile, churches are just as empty with seats filled as they would be if the seats were vacant. Idolatry runs rampant because the Man or Woman of God over the church becomes the idol of worship more than Jesus. The culture is follow me rather than follow Him.
Where is the Church? Where is the Body? Where is the Bride? Where are the meeting places of God outside of four walls and a structure?
I have been serving the Lord, at the time of this writing, for twenty-one years. Collectively, I have served in ministry for about six years. However, I write this mostly from the perspective of the position opposite the pulpit. I have had the privilege of being a part of multiple fellowships, not because of church hopping, but because of life moves and changes. I have often wondered why I experienced so many different types of churches in my time and why were they all so different.
My views and understanding of the church have grown and have changed. What follows are my experiences and what I have taken away from the different houses of worship I have been a part of or had an encounter with. My prayer is that after you have read this book and know a little of my journey, you will be challenged in the way you think about the church. My prayer is that we would no longer be a church severed but a church united as a body, not a building. May we be the church the Bridegroom is returning for.
Because He first Loved Us
We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19 NIV
I was sixteen years old when I first came to know the Lord. Up until that point, I thought being a Christian was something insecure pathetic people did because they didn’t know their worth. All of that changed when I went to stay with my Aunt in Brooklyn, NY for what would be a lifesaving summer.
That summer, I was a thread away from attempting to take my life again. I was desperate to get out of my situation and jumped at the invitation to move away for the season. I had no idea what to expect as I had only ever lived in one city all my life. Upon my arrival, I was flooded with a fast-paced world that I couldn’t take in quick enough. It was like breathing for the first time. The air was different here, clearer from the fog at home. I did not know what this time away would hold, but whatever it was I was ready.
Moving with my aunt was easy. I loved her very much and held her in the highest esteem. Though she was older, she had so much more life in her than most adults I was around. She was a church goer and a Jesus lover. I knew nothing about either of those things at that time, and quite frankly, I wasn’t interested. However, because of my love and respect for her, I faithfully attended church services with her.
Her church was small and was made up of mostly older, middle-aged people, with a few young adults (still older than me) and maybe one or two youth close to my age. The Pastor was a female who was very down to earth and loved by her congregation. Services were predictable. A few songs, announcements, message and maybe another song. I remember sitting in the back of the church listening to everyone singing how they were nothing without Jesus and all I could think was, who were these insecure people?
While I could not really relate to anyone or anything at the time, I still continued to go on behalf of my aunt. I can say however, that everyone there, including the Pastor, was so very welcoming. It was evident the deep regard all the members had for each other. You couldn’t help but feel like you were attending a family gathering rather than a church service. They never once made me feel like an outsider and after a little while, I began to feel like I had always been a part of their little family.
Towards the end of my time there, my Aunt surprised me by paying for me to attend the summer youth retreat. Though there were not many youth at the church, the regional churches of that denomination hosted a summer retreat for all young people in the connected churches. I was leaving to spend a week camping in the mountains as one person, but I would be returning as a completely new one. By the end of that week I knew what Jesus would do…He would choose me and I chose Him.
After all was said and done that summer, I returned home changed. I discovered for the first time at sixteen years of age what love was. I found the love of God in that small Brooklyn congregation and those teenagers at the campground. How was it that I could meet Jesus in these circumstances? How was it that I could meet Jesus in this tiny Church filled with people decades older than me? How is it that I could meet Jesus in this church whose Sunday service was predictable and routine? The answer…God knows our love language.
He knows how to speak our love language because He is love (1 John 4:16). Sadly, many churches miss this mark because they have positioned themselves between the people and Him instead of being a conduit towards Him. We mock the intimate gatherings and smaller congregations because they “must be dead.” This may be true in some cases, but those small intimate churches are still part of the body. For some, those small intimate churches are the very place set aside for people to have life changing encounters.
Unfortunately, as much as He knows our love language, we have forgotten His. Or, perhaps, maybe we did not know it in the first place. One of the languages the Lord speaks is intimacy. He longs for us. He likens us to a Bride. Yet, we exchange intimacy for popularity. We exchange intimacy for a stage and call it a platform.
I suppose that is should be no surprise that intimacy in the church is lacking living in the social media age. The majority of our interactions take place via wires and airwaves. Somehow a like button or a comment on a news feed post equates to friendship and fellowship. You can even go to church online now.
Where is the intimacy? Where is the relationship? You may be saying that you have that in your gathering. You may say your congregation is family. Great. How about those who don’t go to your church, but the one down the street? How about the ones that look different, speak different and dress different? Do you love them just the same? After all, they are part of your church. The church is a body of believers, not a building. The building is the gathering place not the defining place. The defining place is our intimacy with the Father. While intimacy is something that is cultivated between us and Abba, are we as a church displaying opportunities for intimacy within the body that reflects our Heavenly Father’s love for us?
Click here for Chapter 2 – The Holy Spirit Stutters?