After dancing around church in my various struggles for several years following The Days of High School Youth Group, my husband and I found ourselves sitting on the doorstep (almost literally) of The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. And we LOVED it. We really liked that witty, sarcastic pastor, shouting at us from the stage. Lo and behold, we found ourselves one-in-a-million, attempting to be part of a super popular, real life mega-church. Here we got our first taste of the sovereignty of God and Christian community groups.
Down the road, we found ourselves in the Austin, Texas area, with God pulling us into yet another mega-church, with solid, challenging teaching. They shepherded us well. Our lives were forever changed by our time at The Austin Stone Community Church. We learned about love, missional community, good theology, being un-building oriented, and God began to speak to us about consumerism in church. Those people have my heart.
For a short stint, we visited several churches in the Houston area. They had EVERYTHING in the world to offer us. Programs and activities galore. Smoke and lights. But we struggled to find good truth and the place we were looking for. In desperation, I reached out to one of our pastors from The Stone and tried to convince him to plant a campus there. He gave me some really hard-to-hear advice. Basically, find a church with solid, Biblical teaching and GO ALL IN. Submit to the authority of that church’s leadership and love and serve those leaders well. This piece of advice was not what I wanted to hear, but it now speaks profoundly to me, in light of our journey.
Fast forward to our move to Northwest Arkansas. There are so many churches here. There are some big ones. There is some fine teaching. There are churches with amazing ministries and programs. Bottom line: there are multiple congregations that we would be blessed to be a part of, maybe even “fit in” with really well. But.
My husband has a dear friend from his high school/college days who started up his very own church plant and has been pastoring here for two years. My husband and I walked out of one of the local, larger churches here one day and looked at each other and we knew.
We were being pointed to this tiny church plant because we could be a part of changing the course of everything there. Our impact could be vastly greater in this little place. The accountability could be greater. We had to say to ourselves, Ask not what this church can offer us, but what can we offer to God through them. After all, our Father is a champion for the underdog. He does His biggest works in the most unlikely people.
Let’s try something new. Instead of walking into a church for the first time and taking a headcount of how many people say hello, how the church makes me feel, how many programs are available for your kids, how engaging the pastor is (i.e., how many times he makes you laugh with his sermon), the perfection of the worship band, or how nice the property is…let’s do a 180 in our church-scouting perspective.
I had to stop seeking out a pastor to idolize, seeking his opinions above God’s. I had to stop saying, ‘I take care of my kids all week, and little people just aren’t my calling, so please don’t ask me to serve in Children’s Ministry.’ Everyone knows when we miss a Sunday. We have to make an effort to really greet new faces and form relationships with the ones we see every week. I can’t just attend and be a Butt-in-a-Seat once a week. We’re far from perfect. Sometimes laziness takes over. It’s always messy. We’ve been there for a year and I’m still trying to get focused.
Don’t get me wrong. I love me some big churches, obviously. God does massive things in the big places and He laid a foundation in us in those big places. There are faithful followers pouring their hearts and souls into those churches. That may be exactly where He wants you right now. It’s really not the size of a church that is the issue.
And now He is saying to us, “Go. Run.” Maybe for you the first step is to join a Christian community group. Maybe it’s to start serving the body for the first time on your church’s welcome team. Maybe you’ve been feeling the weight of church consumption for a while and are ready to step out. Take those leadership skills someplace where they can shine. I never really stepped into leadership because at so many churches that are already established, leadership roles are already taken and trying to get someone to hear your new ministry ideas is like trying to add a new book to the canon. Come and join me at The City Church NWA. Start your own. Pray and listen to the Spirit. He’s got you.
Just don’t sit there.