Thursday, May 26, 2016

church in a cornfield

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2


Many years ago, in a dramatic conversion experience, I gave my life to the Lord.  Things changed at a very quick pace at that point.  I was living the typical American life, from the magazines I read, to the TV shows and movies I watched, to the life I had been living.  I suddenly felt dirty and I wanted to be clean.  I threw away books and magazines, changed the way I dressed, quite going to the movies, and eventually, put on a headcovering (1 Corinthians 11:1-16), which was by far the hardest of all the things changes I made.
I knew I needed a "body of believers" to help me live this new life in Christ.  I found a Mennonite church in Grandview, Texas, where they seemed to be living out all these new things I had read about in the Bible, but I quickly learned that there is a culture to the Mennonites, as well as just Christian beliefs.
My family was not real happy, so we looked around to try and find something that might be easier to live with.  We visited at the Grandview church, continued on with the mega church we were already members of, and also visited other places.
I soon learned about the Charity churches, and listened to a set of tapes entitled "The Godly Home", preached by Denny Kennaston.  That's a wonderful series to hear, and still available if you do a google search.   We visited a Charity church in our area, and finally, we made a trip to Pennsylvania to attend a tent meeting with the Charity church where Brother Denny was pastor.
It seemed to be everything I wanted in a church.  At one point, during a break, I walked into the empty tent and sat in a chair at the edge, watching the children play.  Barefoot, with long dresses and black pants and suspenders, they ran and played against a backdrop of tall cornstalks.  It was a beautiful picture, and I knew this wholesomeness was just what I wanted for us.  Church in a cornfield.  What a dream...

Life went on, and moving to PA was not possible for us.  I kept attending the Grandview church, trying to understand the culture and strange rules, because I knew that underneath, the doctrine was what I was looking for.  The cape dress didn't bother me as much as some of the rules, the hardest being we could not listen to instrumental music.  I loved music, it's always been one of the great joys of my life.  It wasn't that I minded giving up my "oldies" although I admit I really, really missed Davy Jones singing "Daydream Believer."  I just didn't understand why I couldn't listen to Rich Mullins or Michael W. Smith.  They had reasons, but coming from the mess I had come out of, it didn't make a lot of sense to me.
But I tried, and I tried very hard.  I lasted two years as a member of the Grandview church, hanging on during a split that eventually started two more churches in the area.   After the split, the rules grew and made less and less sense to me, and I ended up pulling my membership, even though I continued to attend for a while longer.
When I left, I visited the other two churches, staying at one for almost a year.  Then I went back to the denomination I grew up in.  But it wasn't the same.  There were certain things I felt were important:  modest dress, all the time, not just in church.  Headcovering.  Nonresistance and separation from the world.  I just wasn't finding it outside of the Anabaptist.
I hung on and kept trying.  Two bouts with a tiny conservative church in Itasca, going back to the Grandview church two more times, and trying to fit in.  Driving an hour and a half away to another Mennonite church.
And finally, settling in the second church, Osceola Christian Fellowship, the church that had originally split off from the Grandview church, and I had resisted for so long.  They had changed a lot, and there, I finally found what I was looking for: a body of believers who are there for our family, and who we want to be there for.  People who aren't content to just sit, but have a children's home, who work when disasters strike, work with the homeless, and helped this widow and her children when their lives fell apart.  We had come home.

Recently, I was sitting at a fellowship meal after church, listening to friend Chris talk about his work with a church who ministers to the homeless in Dallas.  He has a dream of starting a church in the inner city, and as he talked about it, he said, "These children don't go to church in a cornfield."
My head jerked up.  I walked outside.  And realized, all around this church I attend now, a cornfield is growing.  I remembered my dream, close to 20 years ago, about my children attending church surrounded by cornfields.  And here I was. And I'm still in Texas.  God is so good!!

This church allows instrumental music, too.  My taste has changed a LOT, and I rarely listen to the oldies anymore.  But once in a while, I turn on my Pandora station, and for about three minutes, I listen to Davy Jones sing Daydream Believer.  And that's ok.

Find a body of believers, friends.  It's important, even if it takes 20 years.