Lee Grady called from a magazine in Orlando and invited me to go to Smithton Community Church. I thought there must be something to this church if he was getting on a plane to visit the church that was really in the middle of nowhere.
When we walked in the doors of this church, I instantly felt a presence that I had never felt in my whole life. It was like my best friend, the love of my life, a presence way bigger than me was in the room. The people were also really friendly.
I encountered God that first time at this church. I wanted to continue visiting because I really liked the preaching and the worship but I wasn’t interested in making anymore friends. In my mind, church people were gossipy, threw each other under the bus and treacherous.
I sat on the back row sometimes by myself at these services. I bawled like a baby as God’s word cut through the hard places in my heart. My husband said I was a new wife. Suddenly I felt joy, life and hope that were gone a few months ago.
The members reached out to me and my family and walls started coming down. I looked forward to driving to visit the church and the people. They were down to earth, simple and funny. I thought people that regularly encountered God must be super-spiritual and perfect. I was actually intimidated from becoming a member of this church because I thought I had to be super-spiritual.
To the contrary I learned that the Bible was written for the imperfect, the weak and the frail who loved God. The letters that Paul wrote to the baby churches in the New Testament were written to people who were coming out of paganism or Judaism and trying to live out this faith everyday. They were not super-spiritual perfect people.
After being told to leave, and all the crazy stuff I encountered in church, why do I go to church? For me, it isn’t because I’m super-spiritual. In fact, my reason may seem really earthly or immature. But I go to church for the people. I also go to church because I hear life-changing messages and I encounter God.
In every church I’ve attended, the people kept me attending. The bonus I found at my current church is every time I walk in the doors I hear messages that change my life and have an encounter with God.
I attend because I get to see Thora, who is an amazing woman in her 70s that I desperately want to be like.
I attend because I get to see Harold who has battled cancer and divorce and I’ve got see God rebuild his life and his health.
I attend because I get to see James Koppang who is a pastor and I’ve watched his life transformed from being an aimless teenager to a powerful leader.
I attend so I can see Roy Mingo at the door greeting.
I attend because I get to see Steve and Diane Dailey, people that I admire for their stability and maturity. I attend because I get to see Henry and Mildred Washington, Trena Dunham, Gabrielle Bayless, Mary Seidler, Levi O’Brien, Cindy and Ron Phelps, Clay and D’Lynn Watts and so many people who have been transformed by the power of God and the community of faith. I go to church because of the people who I’ve watched stand through dark times.
But I know that it is the Word of God and His spirit at work among us that creates this amazing dynamic of transformed people that change each other just by being with each other. They are not perfect people. They make mistakes yet it is this power of agreement and covenant that holds us together.
In our individualistic culture we forget that Christ is returning for a church without spot or wrinkle. Not an individual, but a group of people who follow Him. We were not meant to live the Christian life alone. We need each other and we need preachers and a place where we can meet God.
If you have stopped going to church because there isn’t a good church in your area or you have experienced treachery, I encourage you to visit my church or stream into the services online. You don’t have to struggle in your faith alone. God wants to set you in a community of faith. Join me, Thora, Harold, James, Roy and all of my other friends on this incredible journey. Let’s walk together!