This month Tom and I made the difficult decision to move to another church. If you invest in your community through a local church, you know just how difficult that can be. We Christians count on our church for everything from spiritual support and accountability to social functions and community service.
We had started attending Crossroads Community Church in Jersey Shore, PA three years ago. Our goal was to have a family, and I wanted our family to be established in a church that we could grow in together. I had it all planned out. Crossroads was a perfect fit for me – I loved the small groups, the activities, the contemporary service, the children's program. I could see us growing as a family into the church. I took on responsibilities, my husband volunteered, and I felt like we were part of something.
Then God showed me, in the story my devotional readers are familiar with, that my life purpose (after being a wife and a mother) was to write a book. As I did just that, my husband offered more and more support.
One day, in a flash of understanding, I realized that I had not been offering my husband the same support he had been offering me. My husband lives to work on our farm. He feels strongly that his purpose in life is to farm and he makes choices to focus on that. As I began to do the same with my writing, I realized that I had been lax in supporting him.
As I started supporting my husband the same way he was supporting me, I realized that we are truly a farming family. As traditional as we are about food and life (the old farming ways), we are as traditional in our approach to church. And as we started talking, really talking, about what we wanted from our church, we realized that we both missed the tradition of the services we had both grown up in. We missed the old hymns, we missed the smaller congregation. We wanted our son to experience the old tradition of a Sunday School program.
So we began praying about it. And finally I asked my husband – where do you think we should be? He shared that he felt the most comfortable with a small rural church we had attended briefly when we were first married. Lycoming Christian Church in Linden, PA has a rich local history and a pastor who grew up on a farm. The pastor, Rev. Dennis, had earlier in the year accepted a call to serve on the theological advisory board for the book I am writing.
So we made the difficult decision to move. Using the model I had learned in the old New England tradition, we communicated our decision to the church leadership in a letter that we followed up with a personal phone call to the pastor. Once those conversations were concluded, we felt like it was time to share this part of our life journey with our readers, many of whom are our sisters and brothers at Crossroads.
Those of you who are not in our local church family may find it a bit odd that we would share this story – but I ask you, how else do we demonstrate the spiritual context of living life in community with each other?
"You [the church] have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rule over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness."
We believe that the mission of Crossroads Community Church is dead-on and centered on Jesus. We know that they are impacting lives for Jesus and we support their work and message. Our decision to move is not due to a lack of something, but rather, it's a decision fueledby the maturity and growth we experienced at Crossroads.
We also believe in the mission of Lycoming Christian Church. They preach salvation and the Cross of Christ. We are excited to share our life with them and learn from their wisdom and insight.
I guess the bottom line is this: Tom and I believe in the mission of churches – regardless of denomination – that focus on the truth of Jesus. Each church offers something different, and every believer has the opportunity to find a perfect fit.
The church universal is a powerful entity and we continue our commitment to its mission: to proclaim the Truth of Jesus Christ.
As disagreements go, it went well. Tom and I used our Love and Respect training (I cheated and added my Respect Dare knowledge, stacking the deck ), and managed to keep a conflict from spiraling into an out-of-control fight. Still though, I didn't feel satisfied.
I was simmering inside, replaying tidbits of the conversation and holding imaginary conversations in my head.
Of course, I was right in each conversation.
At some point during our disagreement, I said, 'Nothing I do makes you happy!' I felt ineffective and useless.
That night we sat down and prayed together. My husband talks straight when he talks to God. No 'thees' and 'thous', no fancy words or long, drawn out sermons:
"God, please give us wisdom. Show us how to see eye to eye and get along."
We opened the Bible and this is the verse that popped out at us: "...those who follow after the Holy Spirit find themselves doing those things that please God. Following after the Holy Spirit leads to life and peace..." Romans 8:5b,6a
And there it is, a simple answer to a simple request. For Tom and I to see eye to eye, we need to be focusing on the same thing -- following after the Holy Spirit. Pleasing God, and no one else. The rest will follow.
Maybe it's not a new idea; I mean, it's in the Bible, so it's been around for a while... But perhaps it's time for me to start considering that when I grumble about trying to please others, the reason it's so hard is because it's not where my focus should be.