Hope Thrives With a List

Because I process best while writing, I decided to make a list of what I’m looking for in a church.checklist

A perfect church does not exist – anywhere – because it is an organism teeming with fallible human beings. The minute I walk in, the dynamics of that church will change because I am not perfect.

So I know my list is only a series of guidelines, parameters I am looking for in a church body. But it helps me set my limits, to know exactly what I’m looking for and to eliminate any groups that don’t have at least 50 percent of what I need.

My list includes:

  • Jesus. He must be front and center. I want Jesus to be the focus, always. The church is, after all, the bride of Christ – the body that started with his disciples, men and women devoted to following the Son of God. This is one parameter where I will not waver. If you doubt my sincerity, re-read my post “Hope Reaffirms” about how I left the church that had no Jesus.
  • I need a church that looks at Scripture as an entire document and God-breathed inspiration. I will not attend a church that takes just one verse and makes a doctrine out of it. Legalism is dangerous. Been there. Done that. Finished with that forever and ever, Amen.
  • Humble leaders are paramount in the church of my dreams. To minister means to serve. I don’t want my pastors to preach from their strongholds or to demand special treatment just because they happen to be ordained. The pulpit should be a place from which to share truth, not to pontificate.
  • I do not want to hear politics from the pulpit. If I want to consider a political opinion, I will stay home and watch CNN.
  • One reason I am having a difficult time finding a church is because I believe in egalitarian theology. Jesus was the only religious leader in history who truly respected women and gifted them to serve in his kingdom. Scripture says, “In the last days sons AND daughters will prophesy.” Many churches say they respect women and their gifts, but will only let women practice certain gifts. They don’t practice what they preach (pun intended).
  • I want a church that is willing to learn and grow – not remain stagnant with what they’ve always done. Jesus broke the mold on traditionalism. Life-long learning is one of my core values, and I believe we can always learn more about God, about his love and about how to grow in relationship with him. My soul tires of the same old messages. I want to grow in my faith and in how to effectively be a disciple in my world.
  • God blesses churches that care about missions, but many churches are caught in the romanticism of travel. I believe mission also exists right on our doorsteps. I want my church to be active in the community; not just across the globe. I want us to help the people in the pews and in the apartment complexes and those who are sleeping on park benches.
  • Because I am a single mom, it is important to me that my church cares about the orphan and the widow, in every definition of the word. Fifty per cent of us have experienced the shattering of our marriages, and if the church doesn’t want that number to escalate – then they need to “be” the church and reach out to those children and their lonely mamas. I have attended churches where the leadership regularly quoted negative statistics about single moms and other churches that had vital programs to help single-parent families. I believe Jesus cares about every demographic.
  • I am looking for a church with diversity, a body that welcomes every age group and every race. Since heaven will be a mixture of every tribe, language and nation, we might as well start getting used to it.
  • One of the churches I visited filled almost all of my parameters, but they had no need for any of my giftings. I believe it is important to serve within the church. However, I need to be using my authentic gifts and not placed in a traditional gift box. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I should be relegated to holding babies in the nursery or organizing a pot luck. I can’t help it God made me a leader, a writer and a teacher. I’m a first born, for Pete’s sake. I want my church to accept who I am and believe God sent me their way so that I could fulfill a definite function.

In my visits to various churches, I have been encouraged by the numbers of lovely Christians, the various programs and the ways churches function effectively.


When we attend one church for many years, we may believe ours is the only place, the only way.


But many believers are striving to learn more about God, serving in their communities and the world, giving of themselves week after week as they worship together. It has been encouraging to me to find these bodies everywhere and to know we are all part of the family of God, brothers and sisters with one focus – to share God’s love to a lonely world.

One of the pastors I met said, “Don’t shop around for a church. Let the Holy Spirit draw you into community.”

I like that thought, and I am praying in hope for that direction. I believe someday, somewhere, I will find the place where I belong.

©2016 RJ Thesman  ̶  Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

 

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Finding Hope While in Limbo

Hope wordIt is not an easy place to be – this no man’s land of unanswered prayers and constantly asked questions. For almost a year now, I have lived in a sort of limbo – questioning whether my role in life has somehow messed with my soul.

It is not a question of what I do, but of who I have become within this waiting period. I like my jobs. I love writing and I find coaching to be stimulating and fun. I love encouraging other writers and helping hurting women and putting the same 26 letters together to create different words and sentences.

Perhaps it is the age thing, edging closer to Medicare and not sure exactly how that happened when just yesterday I was 29.

Maybe it is because I am observing my wonderful son as he steps into a new job and moves forward to reach some of the goals of his life. I am so proud of him yet knowing that as he steps forward, I will be left behind. That emotional umbilical cord originates in the mother and stays connected. Only the child can truly cut it.

Perhaps this place of questioning comes from observing the changes in my mother’s condition, watching the Alzheimer’s steal her away piece by fragile piece. Scripture speaks the truth. Our lives are only a vapor…”a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

Have I completed the tasks God designed for me to do before the foundation of the world? Can I still write more words, complete my goal of a book each year and yet find time to build relationships with the people I hope to reach?

Is God moving puzzle pieces around, fashioning the last pieces of this life on Earth so that he can sound that trumpet and bring his family home?

What is my role in these desperate days and am I taking as much care of my soul as I am of my role?

Trying to figure out the next stages of life can drive me crazy, so I travel back to the place where hope finds seeds of truth – that faith foundation that leaves the details in God’s hands.

My role is to persevere, to keep writing and coaching and serving, even as I wait for God to complete his sanctifying work in me.

And even if he calls me to live in this place of limbo, I seek hope within the waiting because I know he has a good plan and eventually – in the timing of his eternal clock – he’ll make it clear.

©2014 RJ Thesman – “Intermission for Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/1l4oGoo