This post has been playing through my mind for several weeks and I really didn't know how to word it. I began writing this by just writing my thoughts down and hopefully I would be able to piece them together and make sense out of it all. I would like to thank my husband for helping me put my thoughts together. He has a way with words...
Toto, I don't think we're in the Bible Belt any more.
I was raised in church; we were there anytime the doors were opened for services. The church we attended was a rather large church at one point. I don't really remember attending any dinners, or fellowships, I honestly don't think there were very many. As a teenager, I attended the weekly teen visitation and any activities that were planned. We were what many would have called faithful.
The church was not perfect, in fact it was polar opposites. There were ups and downs just like in every church across this nation. If someone was not happy with things, they had the free will to leave, if they chose.
When I was a senior in high school, we moved out of the area and had to find another church. After being raised a certain way, I was finally exposed to what my husband calls the real world. We were no longer in a church that required a dress code for activities. We were no longer in a church that taught complete separation of the world. What an eye opening experience for this girl!
Over the years, I have come to accept that not all churches are alike. There are those that are strict on standards and those that are not. There are those who are led by men who will not make a single bit of effort to reach out to bring in new visitors and members, while there are those who will nearly kill themselves to get one person in. There are churches pastored by men whose only goal is to be like a "famous"pastor, while there are others who do not want any recognition at all. There are sermons being preached that teach the love of God, while there are some teaching venomous hate.
In all of these churches there are people sitting on a pew doing nothing. Nothing but griping about the song service, the choir, the length of the sermon, the clothes other people wear and the theme of a get-together. These are the famous pew warmers that show up on Sunday morning and are not seen again until the following Sunday. These are the people who want something different but are not willing to serve or be active in church. They have the option to leave and find another church in their area when they decide it is time.
I knew when we moved here, we would be in an area where church pickings were slim. I also knew that churches out here are NOTHING like they are back home. The preaching and the music is not quite what I want because of what I am used to. Here, we have to make a choice in staying at a church that teaches the Bible with man's philosophy being added or drive to another town/city, or live stream a church service from another state.
We have been here four months and we have visited four churches of like faith. Two of which are not quite doctrinally where we stand and one of the other two is far from the "welcome home" feeling and the fourth church is seventy miles away. Of these churches only one has made an effort to reach out to our family. Believe it or not the church was not any of the three within a 15 mile radius. You read that correctly, the only church that has made any effort in acknowledging our family is the church in Miles City. This little church has been around for many years. And over the years it has had its ups and downs but the people have stayed faithful to the Lord and he has continued to bless them.
When I hear people gripe about silly stuff that goes on in a church, I just want to shake them! I want to say, "How dare you not support your church faithfully by attending the evening services and fellowships. How dare you to criticize the music or the time limit on a sermon or that Mr. and Mrs. SoandSo didn't shake your hand. How dare you to judge what other people are wearing." You have no right to do those things.
We live in a nation where our freedom of religion allows us to attend the church of our choice. We don't have to worry if our life is going to be in danger when we step foot in the church. Many of us live in a location where we have a church on every corner. Then there are those of us who will drive an hour to attend church. There will be services that are missed because of weather and a husband's job. Our children will not be able to attend all the youth activities and being able to gather for fellowships will not always be possible. But it's a church that welcomes you in and makes you feel at home.
The statement, "You don't know what you have until it's gone" is quite true when it comes to churches.