by Patti Richter
The church of the living God… a pillar and buttress of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:15 ESV
One rainy and near-freezing Sunday morning in January, it seemed unwise to make the hill-and-dale journey to church in the next town. Instead, we drove a short distance to a neighbor’s church that we’d never visited before.
My husband, Jim, and I quickly warmed to the friendly congregation and their down-to-earth older pastor. We also appreciated the classic worship style, although the song selections took us back a few years—maybe a few decades.
Our move to the country two years ago brought plenty of changes, which we expected in our retirement adventure. Grocery stores are smaller. Gas stations don’t join price wars. No restaurants on every corner. Churches, however, are everywhere, and many are easy to spot by their white, pointed steeples and stained-glass windows, including the church we visited that wintry day.
Before the cold weather hit, we had little concern about trekking 10 miles to attend church in the nearest town. Our son and his wife lead worship for the growing congregation that consists mainly of young families and singles who gravitate to the trendy, downtown area. We love the contemporary worship music at this church and appreciate the relevant, through-the-Bible preaching style of its young pastor.
In one sermon, the town-church pastor supplied a sobering statistic: only 14 percent of residents in our county attend church. This fact made me look harder at all the quaint looking churches we passed on our Sunday morning drive. I noticed many of their parking lots were mostly empty.
In our subdivision, I began to realize that few neighbors attended church. It’s a new development, and we’ve enjoyed meeting other newcomers at small clubhouse get-togethers. Discussions have led to nearly every aspect of personal life except for faith and politics, which seem to make folks clam up and reach for the finger food.
I wondered if one neighbor, Jane, might be a fellow believer. I noticed her kind smile and a light in her eyes that suggested friendship with God. Then, a few weeks before Christmas, I saw a sign in her yard: Live Nativity. Her church’s name and address were familiar since Jim and I had seen the beautiful sanctuary on a hill during a country drive.
Jane was surprised and delighted to see us on that bad-weather Sunday. After the service, she introduced us to the long-time pastor and some of her friends. Jane also expressed her desire to invite fellow neighbors who, like us, were new to the area.
Jim and I are now regular visitors to the country church. We plan to commit fully to just one church in the near future, though neither of these seem a perfect fit for us. Like the country mouse of Aesop’s fable, we are slightly out of our element in the trendy downtown church. And like the city mouse in the same tale, we might inwardly sniff at the comparatively simple fare at the country church.
In one important way however, we’re a perfect fit for both churches. Like countless others, they faithfully offer the gospel. Both congregations provide what we most need: participation in Christ’s body, which he “gave himself up for… that he might sanctify her… that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle” (Ephesians 5:25 – 27; ESV).
The church is God’s dwelling place in this troubled world. And whether the setting is contemporary or traditional, in a mega-facility or a tin-roofed hut, the church is where we belong.
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance journalist and long-time faith columnist at BlueRibbonNews.com with more than four hundred published articles.
Patti is the co-author of the award-winning Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.
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