People in the Raleigh area occasionally email me and ask if they can meet with our church. Of course, anyone is welcomed to meet with us. Sometimes, they ask me, “What are your church meetings like? What should I expect?”
Well, I recently met Jon. We had lunch together, and last Sunday he met with us. I asked him if he would tell me about his time with us. I told him that I would like to post it on my blog (before I received his description). So, this is what Jon said about meeting with us last Sunday (he wrote it as a letter to the church):
Dear Brothers and Sisters of Messiah Baptist Church,
For the last few years now, my spiritual instincts have told me that something was missing from my overall church experience. My whole life as a believer, I assumed any dissatisfaction with the “worship service” was the result of my inadequacies or my lack of “spirituality.” I’m still inadequate, and I’m still not very spiritual, but something was telling me that I wasn’t the only thing broken.
The Lord has taught me quite a bit over the last year, and I have finally taken the step of faith to leave my existing church and search for a deeper church experience … something closer to what we see in the New Testament, and what I believe Christ intended. That is why I greatly anticipated my visit to your church this past Sunday. Of course, anticipation wasn’t the only feeling I had. I was also a little skeptical, perhaps somewhat afraid. I’ve been reading a lot lately about simple / organic church, and in the back of my mind, I can picture the type of people this might attract: rebels, non-conformers, heretics, etc. (somewhat kidding). What if I was disappointed? What if what I have been envisioning for over a year was a big let-down?
Any reservations aside, I found myself being mostly excited to visit with you. I was eager to experience some of the things that we actually read about in the New Testament. I am happy to say that I was very filled and fulfilled by our meeting together. I was surprised (while also not surprised) by how natural it felt, as if I was in my element. I guess the best way to describe it is to say that it felt very “balanced.” I guess one of my fears was that it would seem like, “let’s do everything we can to not look like an institutional church!” … “let’s be extremely different!” Rather, it felt like a genuine pursuit of our Lord’s idea of church. I was comfortable in the corporate sense (as a fellow believer) but challenged in a personal sense (in light of what we studied). It was refreshing and it was very balanced.
Here are the elements of the meeting that meant most to me:
Fellowship — I felt very welcomed among the group. It wasn’t just the “hello, welcome to our service, glad you’re here today.” It was genuine, meaningful conversation. You were interested in who I was and what was going on in my life. The meal was also very special. It gave everyone a chance to further connect and spend time together. I loved the fact that there was no sense of hurry or “look what time it is!” … We were just content to share our time.
Family — I love that the entire family is included in the meeting. We love having our son in church with us now and I like the idea that he can learn with us as he matures.
Interaction — I personally liked the circle seating arrangement. I don’t know how you normally do it, but it seemed very appropriate for sharing amongst the group. I love that everyone had an opportunity to share, read scripture, and have input (and it was decently and in order). I also loved the fact that there was freedom to be vulnerable, whether it be a hard situation someone is going through or even a sin that needs to be confessed.
Music — I’m assuming you usually have a guitar or something (which I like), but I enjoyed being able to sing without a lot of extra noise. It allowed me to focus on the meaning and the message of the songs. I was glad to see a good balance in the song selections (hymns, choruses, etc) … all familiar. A couple of songs did seem to “drag’ on a little bit, mainly the ones with a lot of verses (but I’m sure that’s just the old worship leader in me). I’ve yet to develop a comfort level with “contemporary” church music or the idea that “worship” is all focused on the musical part of the service, so I was definitely pleased to see that the corporate singing (and the whole meeting for that matter) appealed to the spirit rather than the emotions.
Bible Study — What a great lesson and very good insight from the whole body. I left having discovered new truths shared by all those who had something to add. It was refreshing to see a meeting where the Holy Spirit has more control than we do. Yet, it was not a “free-for-all.” Everyone shared (with humility) according to their spiritual insight. I did not sense that anyone was trying to draw attention to themselves by what they had to say.
Now, I can finally say that I know what I’ve been missing! Thank you all again for allowing a fellow brother join your family for one day. I certainly look forward to doing it again soon.
Until we meet again,