Get Ready

*Note to my peeps: Don’t panic. You’re in the right place. I thought it was time for a new look.

As a recently reestablished resident of the Metro Nashville area in Nashville, TN, my husband and I have been engaged in the disheartening activity of finding a church to attend. Here’s a little background:

Once Upon a Time

I have been a member of a church, either in Tennessee or Texas, for most of my life. That means I have regularly attended, tithed, and served in different capacities in various mainstream denominational and nondenominational churches throughout most of my fifty-year lifespan. My family has been, traditionally, some incarnation of conservative Baptist. As a young adult in the 1980s, I switched to nondenominational, which has been the mainstay of my religious observance from that time until now.

My husband’s family attended the local Baptist church, as well, confining the bulk of their attendance to holidays and other special occasions. Because he is twelve years older than me, his experience of “Christian America” may entertain a slightly different vantage point, but not enough to affect a noticeable difference in our spiritual perspectives. Another important point to be made is the fact that we are newlyweds—a precious story for another time—which is certainly a factor in this discussion.

Where Do We Start?

Several weeks ago, we began our search on the Internet. Nashville has undergone a massive transformation from the city of my youth. Upon my return from a twenty-plus year tour of Texas, I encountered a beautiful, albeit alien, terrain. Thank goodness for Google! I can’t believe I used to drive around without it. Churches are everywhere so crawling the web helps to narrow the choices down a bit. Of course, prayer has been our key resource.

From sanctuaries and auditoriums, bleachers, folding chairs, and pews, I’ve engaged in enough congregations to have honed a specific criteria of what I’m looking for. Oddly, this list has become shorter over the years, which is noteworthy considering how church programs seem to be steadily lengthening. Confession moment: I should disclose the fact that I have spent the better part of the last decade in a weird sort of disillusionment regarding the Christian church in America. I found it increasingly difficult, at times, to attend. In his own life over the years, my husband, who became intensely involved in the Renewal Movement of the mid-nineties and active in prison ministry, eventually became discouraged, as well, preferring to worship privately through biblically sound, teaching tools (podcasts, recordings, etc.) and prayer. In my experience, no matter how sweet the people, how sound the teaching, or how moving the worship experience, I consistently came away with a growing sense of loss, like we were missing something—something important.

Now What?

More and more, I find that I am not alone in this unsettling revelation. I am an avid reader and researcher concerning cultural shifts within populations. The American church is an endless source of observable data. While the Focus of our devotion is unchanging, our expression of His worship exists in a perpetual state of regeneration. Why, then, are so many once-committed Believers now choosing football and sandwiches over the wine and the bread (Hebrews 10:24-26)?

I would like to end this installment, here, and ask my readers to reflect upon this discussion. I will leave my comments section open. In the past, I have closed it, enabling me to read the content before allowing it to be seen by the public. Because I intend this to be an open discussion, I’m taking the safeguards off. Remember, we are discussing the Bride of Christ. No matter her state, she is His bride and we must treat her with the same love and respect that our Bridegroom has so graciously extended to all of us. We are flawed and imperfect, but we are loved beyond measure or human understanding.

One more thing: there’s a point to this extra-long entry. More is on the way. I want to not only start a discussion, but bring up an uncomfortable, yet foundational, component that I believe is one reason for the discouragement and subsequent exodus of so many faithful hearts (Matthew 24:12). Stay tuned. This could be good.

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5 thoughts on “Get Ready

  1. I can’t help but wonder if one of the reasons you and I are finding things lacking is because we came into the church on the heels of a huge revival. During the late 60’s and early 70’s so many people turned to Christ. Which is interesting as this is also when drugs and sex became more open and rampant. I remember the churches I attended as being very exciting, because everyone, well into the 80’s, was on fire. Hands in the air, praising Jesus excited. Now I am surprised to see hands held up past the ‘cradling a football’ stage. If arms go up above the shoulders, it’s usually one hand, rarely two. When did we forget how to worship?

    I, like you, have been struggling in church, but what I’ve discovered is; it’s me. In my case I do have a great church, with a pastor who preaches unapologetically from the Bible. Not watered down, hope you feel good about yourself, preaching either. He is truly a man of God and a wonderful leader. My life has caused me to become an every other Sunday attendee. I find that it is hard to get connected and to do the things I need to do. Hence the reason God calls us to be with like minded people. Which doesn’t have to be in a church, but that’s typically where I find others that believe as I do and are willing to instruct or be instructed. I have had to push myself to read my Bible, do my devotions and pray. Slowly I am finding my peace again because I am letting God in again.

    The discord for pretty much everyone is that the rest of the world is in a similar funk, but there’s a twist. They don’t realize they are missing out on anything. Either they are so entrenched in their church and have neglected their spiritual growth to the point they are completely unaware of what they are missing or they saw and were taught by their parents that being with like minded people did not matter. Which has created a whole slew of ‘I’m ok, your ok, we’re all ok’ churches. Doesn’t matter that the Bible says overeating is a sin, it makes you feel good and we love you, so it’s ok. Doesn’t matter that the Bible says living together is wrong. You don’t trust marriage because your parents divorced, so it’s ok. We’ve become a generation of love the sinner AND the sin.

    Add to the fact that our lives are filled with constant noise, work, tv, music; and especially smart phones which provide everything we can conceive of, we have forgotten how to be still and listen. How can you hear the word of God when you are on Facebook, googling recipes, texting your friends or family during your favorite tv show…….

    Once we disconnect from anything, it’s very hard to reconnect. For us anyway. God is always there waiting, letting us know He can and will fill the void. We just have to be open. The question is, how do you reconnect? Like I said, a current personal struggle. But one I am overcoming by being intentional. Intentional in my chats with my Abba Father, my family and my friends.

    The key to locating where you belong is finding that leader that can disconnect from the world and tell it like it is. Which means many visits to the same place, sometimes numerous places, and lots, LOTS, of prayer.

    I look forward to your next installment to this and am curious to see what others think.

    • Whoa! You bring up A LOT of interesting points. I’m game.
      I agree with you, wholeheartedly, that the problem is, and always has been, with me–more specifically, the condition of my heart, which is the central issue that I am exploring. On that note, I think you will find my next post relevant to the points you bring up, here. I guess what I really want to know is, what happened? What happened to that genuine desire for worship that is so prevalent in the early stages of the great moves of God? As always, after the initial fervor, and all the crying women have moved on to the next revival tent, how is it that we become content with programs, ministries, Zumba classes, and coffee bars? I mean no disrespect to the well-meaning folks who implement these attendance-growing strategies. I’ve donated my share of time in the church kitchens, rolling out biscuits for the faithful before service on Sunday morning. I’ve loaded up brown paper bags with school supplies and Thanksgiving trimmings. One would think that with all the selflessness and volunteering, we would be on a 24-7, God-lovin’, spiritual high, not dragging up to the parking lot at the last minute, feeling guilty, our minds crammed with a thousand to-dos and to-don’ts. David proclaims, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133). Also, in Psalm 122, King David says, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’” I mean, what’s up with that? There have been times when I felt that way (and we all know that worship is never something one confines to a feeling), but most of the time, even though my heart finally softens after a few songs, talking myself into making the trek takes a major self-sermon. I love the Bride of Christ because our Lord loves her, laying down his life for her. Would I lay down my life for the Bride? Would I lay down my life for the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Would I accept the call of Christ to follow him, unconditionally?

      • That’s a good question. I believe I would, but that’s so easy to say when I’m comfortable. Which goes back to your question. Would I be willing to go where God calls me if it means being uncomfortable? Which you and I both know it will be. He doesn’t call us into cushy. Lol.

        As far as why is everyone feeling displaced; I still think a lot of that is the possibility of a spiritual revolution on the horizon. All our souls are yearning for the same thing around the same time, it’s bound to be a signal that something is stirring.

        Yet another part of me thinks about those posts I’ve seen over the years about how children laugh something like a thousand times a day but adults laugh maybe 10 times a week. I’m positive I have the number wrong, but you get the point. If we lose our ability to laugh at pretty much anything, then are we dying inside? Have we lost the joy of life despite being washed in the blood of Christ? Am I the reason that I allowed this world to trample my joy and laughter or is it just a forgone conclusion that as we age we get grumpy? Should we continually keep toddles around to remind us how to look at life joyously? Actually, I like that idea!

        In the end I believe that I have that control. The control of my mind to choose joy or anger or sadness or happiness. But I must be intentional, because this world is intentionally trying to make me miserable. Satan know there is something stirring too and he is going to do everything he can to keep us so occupied that we are ineffective.

      • One other thing. Over time I have come to realize that it is our heart condition that is usually the issue, but thankfully it’s everyone’s issue all the way back to Adam and Eve. So we are in good company.

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