Church Is Not A Palindrome, Part 3
First, a brief (hopefully) intro to this post: I've written about church before and the struggle I've experienced over the past few years to find a local body of believers to be a part of. It wasn't the finding a local church that was the problem. I live in the deep South, and there are literally hundreds of churches within my area that I could have joined. The problem was finding a church that I liked. Though saying it that way makes it sound much more shallow than it is. It wasn't that I wanted to find a preacher that I liked or music that I liked or a small group or somewhere with a cool children's program or something like that. It was really that I had grown pretty disillusioned with church because of some experiences that I had, and every church I visited seemed to have something really wrong with it that I perceived as a reason not to go there. Anyway, you can find those other posts elsewhere.
Now, on to the post:
The good news? I have found a church. I've actually only been to it three times. So, I think it's doubly good that I'm even to now say that I consider myself a part of it. I haven't officially joined yet (I'm sure we will, soon; you know how summer is), but I'm glad we're going there. The church is Westwood Baptist Church.
If you knew me really well, and I tasked you to find a church for me, I doubt you would have picked Westwood. Most people I tell that's where I'm going now seem genuinely surprised. If I had just looked at it without actually going, I probably would have stayed away. This isn't because there's something wrong with Westwood. It's more that you probably would have thought that I would have found something I considered to be wrong with it. And it's not necessarily that I haven't. So, why am I going there?
1. I get a sense of genuineness and that goes a long way with me.
2. I've matured a bit and gotten over myself.
The past few years have been some intense times of growth for me in a number of areas. But all of that growth has constituted a season of life during which I've realized how much ego I have and how I have to constantly battle against that ego daily. When it comes to church this meant that I came to a point where I knew I needed a church home and where I knew that the major obstacle to me finding a church home wasn't the churches but was actually my own ego. I was looking for things that were wrong instead of the things that were right. To expect a church to be perfect is ridiculous. To not be willing to be a part of the solutions to problems is selfish. So, I picked a church. Liza picked the same one. It only took one visit on one Sunday, and we're in. It feels great.
It feels right.
This past Sunday, Les, the pastor, was preaching about personal responsibility. He's been doing this whole series of sermons on "Lost Words," which are basically character traits that are biblical and Godly but that our society doesn't seem to value much anymore (if they ever did in the first place). Personal responsibility is one of those lost words. The sermon was good, but not like the most earth-shattering thing you've ever heard. He was preaching from a passage I'm familiar with, 2 Samuel 15. It's where David and his army are fleeing from Absalom. David tells Zadok the priest to return the Ark of the Covenant to the city because he's not going to rely on it like some good luck charm. Instead, he's going to leave things in God's hands and face whatever consequences the Lord deems he deserves.
Anyway, like I said, it was good and Liza and I were listening intently, but at the end, there was just a brief moment that I'm sure many other people paid no attention to, where Les slapped me in the face (obviously, not literally). In fact, I have a good sense that God prompted him to say this in particular just for me. Here's what it was.
Les was pretty much finished with the actual sermon part and was leading a kind of decision time so that people could respond to what they had heard. He was challenging all of us to take personal responsibility for things in our own lives and then he began asking what those things might be. Were there things we blamed coworkers for or our spouses for or our children for or the economy or the government or our culture, etc.? Then came the clencher when he said:
"Is there something in your life that's your responsibility but for which you've been blaming the church?"
Talk about hitting home. I realized in that moment, sitting there in this church I had decided to become a member of, the journey that God had been taking me on to heal me and change me and transform me. I've been so pissed at Him and so many others along the way because things weren't going like I thought they should when all along I was the one not going the way I should. But He never gave up on me or abandoned me.
For that I'll always be thankful to Les and to Westwood and, ultimately, to God, Himself, Whom I'll be worshipping on Sundays with my new church family.
This may not make a lot of sense to you. I realize that. But it makes perfect sense to me.
So there you go.