Many years ago, we (M and I) attended a wonderful church that really supported us well. They did "the hands and feet of Jesus" well during our cancer journey. Soon after M's death and the start of my fostering journey I felt led to move on.. which turned out to be a God thing as that church went through a very tumultuous time. I was glad to not be caught in the storm. But it resulted in a lot of distrust of church leadership and management for me.
The kids and I visited several churches. It was not a big deal, I had 2 or 3 kids. They were little, people were welcoming.
We started attending a Mega Church in the area. They had an amazing children's ministry. My kids learned so much. We were at church, Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday every week. We were involved in many ministries and I made some awesome new friends. (who ended up convincing me to homeschool)
After a number of years, pretty much everyone we knew left the church. We decided to search out new options.
I am telling you, it was the most unique experience. Apparently most churches in this area are not used to seeing a white momma with 5 little black people and wheelchair show up. We visited a number of churches where no one would talk to us or acknowledge us.
One Sunday morning in particular stands out to me. I had dressed all the kids, drug them out the door by 9 am. No small feat. As usual the church was not terribly handicapped friendly. But we managed to park the wheelchair in the aisle, to the displeasure of some people around us. We intentionally arrived early so we could find a good spot. There were many young families milling around us chatting happily. We were noticed but not acknowledged. We sat quietly in our pews until church started. As they sang a hymn that we had sung at both our wedding and M's funeral, I cried. My kids were mortified. We managed to survive the rest of the service without further drama and made a quiet exit afterwards without ever talking to anyone.
Another memorable Sunday. We live within walking distance of a little country church pastored by the older couple (80s) that lives next door to us. We walked to church. There were maybe 3 adults under the age of 60. All I could think was this must be Heaven's Waiting Room. There were no children in attendance. MAny people came up to us and welcomed us. They were so kind. Suddenly the Pastor who had been kneeling up front praying, got up and came straight to me and says loudly "why doesn't your husband come to church with you?!" I informed him that my husband was already in the presence of the Lord. He returned to his little kneeling pillow and kneeled for prayer. Soon he comes back again and had another weird question for me. Soon church starts. First they sing a song, then the Pastor makes announcements, then him and the Sunday school teacher have a discussion (over the pulpit) on whether they should have a Sunday School class for my kids, beings as they are the only kids in attendance. (They were truly just so thrilled to have the kids there) Finally they made a decision and took the kids to the basement for class. By this time, I am shaking with giggles. Without a doubt the Pastor has dementia or some other age related illness. The comments, the order of the service, the pews filled with dear old ladies and men, it was just all to much for me. I could hardly control the giggles. We have never gone back, but the people are sweet and dear and as kind as could be.
We found a church that was amazingly friendly and the people were super kind,. We attend this church for a couple of years. They were truly amazing at serving and loving on people, until we discovered that what we believed did not align with what the church stood for...
We decided to move on. We were not looking for confrontation or drama. We simply want to live as the Bible guides us, this was not well received.
Our exit created a host of issues. So much so we decided to take a break from attending church anywhere.
We started listening to Tony Evans online, having our own praise and worship time. The kids really like this and I benefited greatly from listening to solid Bible based teaching.
We have since visited several churches. I am suffering from the trauma of our previous experiences. I am also looking for a very traditional but not legalistic church that is not afraid to be set apart from the world.
This is where it gets real.. if you don't want to be offended, skip this part. :)
We find 2 reactions when we attend church in our area. The charismatic churches will welcome us, they will love on us, they will be kind and welcoming. But they are often not prepared to tell you where they stand on the Bible and will talk about grace. It's all grace and love and acceptance and no "be different from the world". (love and grace is great!! but God is a just and jealous God)
The conservative churches will take one look at my not so little, not so traditional family and will pull their children closer and avoid eye contact. They will not speak to us or welcome us.
Being the single mom of 6 black kids, there is often a judgement. Many people make assumptions and are shocked when they find out my background and history.
We have been attending a church, here and there for the past year. It is small. It is very traditional. The people have been incredibly kind to us. They have a young adult with special needs and as a result they are very comfortable with Nesiah. Her noises and flailing arms are not shocking to them. Many people will talk to her and tell me all about this other kid in church. For once the wheelchair has become a conversation starter.
But.. church is hard. I don't want to get connected, despite needing it. My kids hate the church because it does not have a "fun" Children's Ministry. My 2 yr old refuses to sit quietly. Nesiah is loud. I find that I spend my time trying to keep the 2 littles quiet, trying to limit the distractions. I get very little out of the messages.
So based on my personal experience in this community with churches on every corner. I have come to the conclusion that there is something out there for everyone and having so many options is not good for me.
I have noticed many churches that no longer preach the Word of God as the Ultimate Truth. Many churches have become social clubs, and there are two kinds. The clique kind where the in people are in and everyone else is out. The love everyone, where everyone is welcome (As it should be) and they will do adjust their belief in order to grow their club (throwing out the Bible)
So many churches are desperate to grow. They are more concerned with numbers then they are with teaching Truth.
So many churches have people who have attended for years, they attended wiht their grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, classmates, generations and generations. They don't welcome outsiders. They don't welcome "different".
Ultimately in the world we live in, we must seek to live by scripture, the whole scripture. We must be willing to be set apart, to be different, to stand strong in the important things. The word of God is never changing. When we are black and white in a gray world, we will pay a price.
Does your church follow the WHOLE bible and believe God's Word to be the ultimate Truth? Do they stand strong even if that means lower numbers?
Does your church welcome different people, those who are outcasts in society? Do you bypass the fatherless, the broken, at your door to serve in Prisons and in foreign missions? Does your church minister in your community? Do you invite AND WELCOME your neighbors to church?