If you sit and listen to people talk about church you will find a variety of answers as to why they picked the church they currently attend. Some may think of church as a drive-thru: they pick from a menu to suit their tastes, rather than an alter where they bring gifts they give to God.
We currently attend a small church of about 30-40 people. About eight years ago we were attending a church that we loved. Our five kids were around ages 11, 13, 15, 17 and 19 at the time, and we were all happy in the church we were attending.
One day Vance said to me, “I think God is calling us to leave our church and go somewhere else.” I said that was interesting, because I was feeling the same. We loved our church, so why was God asking us to leave? This confused us a bit. We began to pray about it and felt God was calling us to attend the Lighthouse. Our friends Wendell and Lila Graber were pastoring the church at the time. God laid it on our hearts to come along side and support them.
We talked to our kids and explained that God had laid it on our hearts to attend the Lighthouse. The teen years are difficult for most kids. It wasn’t ideal to take them away from their christian friends that they had made through attending youth group and Sunday School . Our kids were not jumping up and down with joy when we made the announcement, they were just quiet. We told the older kids that they could stay at our current church if they wanted, but we encouraged the younger ones to come with us to the Lighthouse. In the end, they all made the decision to attend the Lighthouse with us.
The first Sunday we attended we walked in to the school gym where they met for church. There was a coffee station at the back. People were mingling, wearing jeans and t-shirts. Two ladies led worship, Lila and Keri, one with a guitar. It was simple … yet beautiful. Wendell got up and shared a message God had laid on his heart. He interacted with the people as he spoke, something that is difficult to do in a larger setting. People shared openly about sins they were struggling with and asked for prayer. We were humbled by their honesty and how real they were about what they were struggling with.
When church was over we asked the Grabers why there was no offering collected. They pointed to a small jar on a back table and said that was the offering jar. If anyone one wanted to give in secret, the jar was at the back and if they wanted a receipt one would be provided. I once attended a very large conference where the preacher got up and made a big speech about giving money. He then asked people to raise their hand if they wanted to give money. The ushers would then race over to collect their offering. Some people wanted to give so that others would think highly of them, rather than giving quietly and receiving their reward in heaven.
I cried for the first four Sundays we attended the Lighthouse. The pain and brokenness that people shared touched the core of my heart. They were not there to show off their fancy new clothes or spiritual superiority. They also weren’t there for the worship band or a famous preacher. The ones who did attend, came because they loved the people or had a yearning to know more about Jesus. This lead me to search my heart over the years and realize I should come to church, not for what I can get out of God, but what I can give to God … my heart and my worship. I should be willing to attend church, no matter how big, small or simple and give God my love and my devotion. It shouldn’t be about me or my preferences.
Our children also learned this valuable lesson; they had loved both churches, each different from the other, but they knew God was at both. They had learned that they could worship him in a large church with a dynamic worship band, or they could worship him in a small church with one person singing and playing the guitar. Our children grew to love the Lighthouse and the people who attended. We never regretted obeying God’s leading. Churches can each be different and all be pleasing to God, as long as the focus is on giving him the gifts of our unconditional love and worship, and on getting to know Jesus our Saviour … rather than what we can get from him, the preaching or the worship band.
Oh, come let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. Psalms 95:1-2 NKJV
Believing and hoping.