We've been looking for a church to attend, sometimes more diligently than others and sometimes just because I thought that's what I was supposed to be doing. We've attended a couple of churches since moving here, and although the folks were very friendly at each one, Chris and I couldn't seem to muster up enough enthusiasm to attend a second time. Until a month ago. We attended a church near us called Edgewood Believer's Fellowship. I told Chris that I really missed going to church, and it would be nice to meet more people. So he took the liberty of searching online for a place near us to attend. And wonder of wonders: we went to a service that we both loved.
On our first visit, I was a little nervous and told Chris that if the church was small, he was to keep on driving because I didn't want to go. We both thought that the large, recently built church we'd seen from the road was EBF. Of course that was not it...it was the small building just down the road that we'd never noticed. Despite my reservations about the church being even smaller than I'd imagined, we went in anyway.
We were greeted by friendly people who pointed the way towards the sanctuary (not that you could really miss it). I would guess the attendance to be around 50. Quite different from the church we joined while living in Dallas called Gateway which had a cast of thousands.
The worship was good, I enjoyed the songs they played, but the pastor was fantastic. It's been a month since we went the first time (both of us being out of town), and although I recall portions of the sermon, I remember being enthralled with the idea the pastor presented of people coming to God because of His love, not because Christians tell the unsaved they will go to hell. Maybe I'm unique in that I've heard a fair share of hellfire and brimstone messages in my life, so perhaps the message of grace should not be such a surprising concept to me, but I thought it profound. The pastor, Bryan Hackett spoke intelligently, yet simply, and much to Chris's delight, used an example from quantum physics (I just found their website and learned that B. Hackett has a degree in physics).
This Sunday we attended again, and I told myself not to expect the same positive reaction as last time, but the 2nd time was even better! The pastor had recently returned from a conference in Seattle called "Off the Map" (http://offthemap.com/about-page/). It is an organization that encourages open dialogue between Christians and atheists in an attempt to understand each other more without the pressure of trying to "convert" each other. I was on the edge of my seat as the pastor relayed his experiences in Seattle. An especially interesting video he showed was of Jim Henderson and Matt Casper. A little background: Matt Casper (an atheist) offered his soul up for sale on eBay to the highest bidder. For every $10 he received, he would attend a certain number of hours at any given church. Jim Henderson was the highest bidder and asked that Matt blog about his experiences at the churches he visited. He wrote a book about his visits which, according to the pastor, were very eye-opening.
The pastor was still processing all that he had heard and seen (the conference consisted of speakers from both sides of the board). He stressed his desire to make church more like a conversation rather than the congregation being preached to, and he promised that he would test every religious tradition against the Word of God. Chris and I have never been more fascinated, more challenged, or more inspired. We came home from the service debating what we had heard for the next hour. And then again before bedtime. The pastor even asked the question: if in the Bible, Jesus told the rich man to sell everything he owned and come follow him, why aren't we doing that? I almost fell out of my chair! This isn't the prosperity message that we all know and love and want to cling to. Chris summed it up nicely on the way home and said that this message was the kind he'd waited his whole life to hear. We can't wait to go back.