My thoughts on church attendance are no secret to those who have been reading this blog for any amount of time. It does NOT say in the bible that you must be a church attender to get into heaven, but the bible does talk about fellowship with others. (Acts 2:42) I love my church family, and I thank God for placing us where He did all those years ago when we started attending where we now go.
It wasn't always easy for me to be there, in fact, for the first year, it was downright awful. I tried joining the choir and didn't feel as if it was a fit for me at that time. I tried out bible study classes on Wednesday nights and was snubbed so often, that had I given up, could have seriously given me second thoughts on going to church in the first place. The worship was dead. I know that sounds harsh, but have you ever attended a church that the people just did not GET the words being sung? This was after we had tried to jump in and be involved, Todd with the youth and me with the younger kids. I'd been to camp, he'd been to camp, and we had given it almost one year before we came to these conclusions. (As I've written this, God was preparing me for something totally different, and at this particular time, perhaps my heart was not right...my intentions might have been wrong and my eyes were not focused on Him.)
It was all ritual. (Not the preaching, though, that was one thing we never had issues with.)
God led us to this place, though, and it was His plan that we were there. We tried to leave once, after a particularly discouraging event with the youth. We visited another church the next Sunday and when a friend of mine got word that we were visiting around other churches, she did everything in her power to get us back. She asked Austin, the young families pastor at that time, to call Todd, and he did. He begged us to come back and to stay for the revival that was taking place.
There was a group that came into the church and took over every aspect of the church, from the nursery on up to every single part of the services for the two weeks they were there. (Lights, sound, music, kids, youth, the preaching...everything.)
Because of when we left to visit another church, we missed the first week. But the following Sunday, my friend made us sit with her that morning, and that was when we started to see LIFE in this church. There was a change that started happening when that group of people came in and took over all the ministries in the church. God began stirring the hearts of everyone there, and I cannot even tell you how many people gave their lives to God during that time frame.
To me, He revealed that sometimes I need to examine my own heart and relationship with Him, before I look to those around me. I know for a fact that He convicted both Todd and me during that time. That was also when He showed me the importance of not being with just one group of people all the time. I really try to be an includer to others around me, because I had experienced the hurt of feeling like I was on the outside.
I think of one teenage girl who was an example to her peers...she went up to the stage during the time when the preacher invited people to come share testimonies of what they had experienced that week. She changed then, from the inside out. I think of how the Lord revealed sin to some, and how their lives changed. When all of this came to a close at the end of those two weeks, there was a shift that began within the church.
Changes began to take place, even within the staff, worship style changed and we had a new man come in and take that over, and the vision that our pastor had for our church changed. He started making things simpler, and I know the Lord gave him the vision for what is still in place today. That is that we have family style worship services. On Sunday mornings, the kids from grades first and up, all remain in the service the entire time. (Even during the preaching.) Now, I will say, some liked this and were all for it, and others did NOT and left the church.
And you know what? That is okay. God knows who He wanted there and who needed to move on, and I trust what He did during that time frame. For some churches, things like that would cause nothing but division and strife, and for a small while, that happened, but we kept our eyes fixed on HIM, and we persevered. There is no condemnation for those who left, or for those who need church for the younger kids to be separate. Praise the Lord that we have options!
I say all that to say that we have been through some trials within our church family. Thanks to my friend Lori and to Austin who encouraged us to stay, we did just that and have never looked back.
After being there for another whole summer after that revival, the NEXT summer is when the Lord made me fall in love with teenagers. I had always loved the younger kids, but it was Jonah's and Noah's fifth grade year that He began to pull me away from the younger kids into the youth. It was a little sad to think about changing, but Austin understood and fully supported me in this decision. I was asked to be a teacher of youth, and from there that has remained the same.
This will be my fourth year with the youth. Some have been there for decades longer (ahem, Missy), and some are just starting out, like my young married friend Mallory's husband.
Each year I pray about where God would want me to serve in my church. Because it's not just going to church that is important. We also need to serve others within our church. If you're reading this and you aren't plugged in anywhere, consider praying about that and getting more involved. Join a bible fellowship (Sunday school) class. Find an area to serve, whether it's in teaching, greeting, praying...just find an area. After much prayer again the past few months, I feel the Lord is leading me to remain in the youth.
I know and acknowledge that the love I have for these students is only from Him. I cannot explain to you how deep that love is, but sometimes He overwhelms my heart with love for these students. I know partly that's because my own kids are in the youth, but it is all from God. I pray for them, I cry over them, I text them and talk to them at crazy hours, I speak truth in love in hard situations, I help lead them, I pray with them when they're nervous, I sit beside them sometimes, I let them cry on me and join them usually, and sometimes I feel as if they're more friends than someone I minister to or help mentor. I am actually way more comfortable with teenagers than I am with other adults.
I never thought I'd say that, but it's true, and sometimes I feel the need to go and hide myself among them. (Like when I'm at a party and don't know many people, I'll just go find young people.)
I am so thankful that the Lord allows me to be even a tiny part of His great plan for the students at CFBC. I am thankful for the relationships that are built and strengthened and I am thankful for the opportunities that are given to us to make sure that happens. I try to never take any of that for granted. I am also thankful for all the leaders who pour into the lives of my boys. I am so thankful to God for the way that He leads them to go and talk to others who are not in our family. It does take a village to raise kids, and I am thankful for mine.
We have since experienced lots and lots more change. We lost another worship ministry pastor and gained a new one. We lost a youth pastor and two middle school pastors. God brought a new guy, though, our Jason and his amazing family (Sunday, JM, Sarah Sunday and Josh). We gained AJ to replace a middle school youth pastor, and now are again without a middle school youth pastor, because AJ was hired to replace Austin. See? Lots and lots and lots of changes. But change is good and change refines us and reminds us to not be too comfortable with people. We are to hold loosely all these things (including church staff or pastors) that God gives us, because they are not ours, but His.
To Him be all the praise, glory and honor for leading us to our church home. I loved my previous church home, too, but God led my family away from there and to where are now at Collierville First Baptist Church. My kids are faithful attenders and always WANT to be there, and even as I write this, are there now helping out with some technical stuff. I praise God for that...not many teenagers want to be at church nowadays. All their friends come from there, and I am so thankful that we live where we do.
And you know what? That was no accident either. God knew that when we bought this house, which will be thirteen years ago this November, that we would be attending this church someday, and of course He would place us within walking distance. He knew that we would need and long for community and for friends to readily stop by.
He amazes me sometimes. All the time, but I've never thought of that last paragraph until just this moment. He knows everything, my friends, He hears our prayers and He works things out in the details, even when we don't know what's going on.
If you are reading this and you long for some of these same types of things I've written about, please pray about this and then contact me! You can find me everywhere on social media, most of you know where I live and a lot of you have my number. Reach out and let me help you find a place. Please. I had friends do that for me, and I thanked God for them and I try to be that for others. I will sit with you in church, I will help you find a class, I'll invite you to bible study. Don't let another day go by! It's never too late.
I do not profess to be perfect or to attend the perfect church. We are all sinners, saved by God's grace, and most of the time we just muddle through life together. It's messy and sloppy sometimes, but it is also always beautiful. The more real and open we are with one another, the more God works. The more we pray together, the more He shows us. The more He shows us, the more we are called to obey. And the more we obey, the more we see His hand upon our lives.
I'm leaving you with a couple of pictures of my beloved church home.
My favorite night of the year is our Christmas eve candlelight service.
The hall where I sat last year to sign in kids to choir, and where the youth would run down to greet me and give me hugs and catch me up on their weeks. On this particular night, the youth met at an outside location and the hallways were so sad and empty.
You know I love everything more when it's all dressed up for my favorite season! Christmas.
If you have made it all the way to here, congratulations, you've finally reached the end. Know that my intentions in writing this are not to "bash" what all is above and what our church was like before that revival. Things happen for a very specific reason, and looking back, it's cool to see how far we have all come together as a church family. We have been through a LOT. But God gets all the praise and glory and honor. He is the One that did all that.
Thanks for reading. Love to all.
(If you are experiencing this in your church home, remain faithful in attendance and PRAY through the rough times. God might call you away, but He might call you to stay where you are and to wait on Him.)