Saturday, July 2, 2016

Church Musings

Visiting the first church I ever attended in the Bahamas
In my 40 plus years I have listened to many sermons; sat in many churches; learned a lot and observed a thing or two.
As an icebreaker activity, I was asked how many churches I had attended throughout my life; I came up with eight:

  1. Central Gospel Chapel in the Bahamas  (denomination: Brethren)
  2. Bethany Gospel Chapel in New York (denomination: Brethren)
  3. Northport Baptist Church in NY (denomination: Baptist)
  4. Hempstead Assembly of God in NY (denomination: Assembly of God)

Since relocating from NY to CA in 2007,  I have attended four additional churches in that timeframe and became a member of two of those. I'm never sure of the benefits of church membership, but regardless of membership, there are certain things that I like and look forward to in a church.

On any Sunday as I observe people at church, I see families, couples and singles. It's easy to spot the families and couples because they all sit together. Couples may hold hands or place a hand on the other's shoulder. Families with children usually have the children in between with the parents serving as bookends. Sometimes the husband and wife will sit together. If children are dismissed during the service there's a shifting of the seats. Singles sit by themselves or they may come as a group and sit together. Growing up church was a special place, so my mom took the time to ensure we had on our Sunday best. While Jesus said come as you are, we made an effort in how we came. Our hearts, minds, and bodies were prepared for worship. This mentality seems to be on its way out the door today.

I also notice the worship styles of people. There are those that look pious yet tranquil; there are those that look bored and seem to wish to be anywhere but church; there are those that regardless of how the music sounds will go all out with their displays of worship and there are those that are still but are taking it all in.

In all of my church experiences, I especially enjoy a service that encapsulates worship - where it pervades the service instead of it being isolated to a segment of the service. The Worship leader (for lack of a better title) at a prior church would pick songs during the service that meant something special to him. But it wasn't about the song because it almost didn't matter as his love for the Lord shone through in his voice and his face. And if he felt so led he would encourage everyone to participate more and sing with more fervor. I'm sure most wondered what he had! He was contagious in his love for the Lord.

In all church services, there's usually a time for preaching. The pastor/preacher is a vessel to bring God's truth. You can always tell when the Word has hit a spot as there's something in the atmosphere. It may be still but there's rapt attention; it may be loud because of the vocal agreement. No one has to do anything to stir up the atmosphere. What's being said is not trite or contrived.The Lord is speaking and it's magnetic. Some may think that this has something to do with the personality and charisma of the speaker but only to a small extent. God's word convicts; God's word makes you want to do better; God's word changes you; God's word is magnetic, it uplifts; and makes you think and go deeper.

When people are under the ear of God's word, I've also noticed that children may pay more attention, couples choose to forget the argument they had before church, hands reach out to touch, someone may be overcome with emotion and another's hand reaches out to console or offer encouragement. Tissues are passed but no words are shared as each person is convicted.

People want this. Weeks are busy - there's errands to run, jobs to go to, extracurricular activities that pull us in different directions but on a Sunday morning it's as if our souls cry out for a much-needed respite. A time to reconnect with God and each other. A time for children to learn foundational truths.

It's why on any given Sunday, I'd rather be in the presence of the Lord in a church than anywhere else.

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:25 [NLT]

How many churches have you attended in your lifetime? What do you like or notice in a church?

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