Part 1 of my story is here.
For five years, I attended Thursday morning Women's Bible Study where my faith matured and I developed deeper relationships with my church community. Or as I call them, my Bible Study buddies.
I occasionally co-taught when Charlotte was out of town or sick. I even took a month (plus) off due to frustration with one woman I considered my "Christian challenge." God softened my heart through that bump in the road so when I returned to the group, I had a calm (more Christian?) attitude and understood that He puts all people in my life for His purpose and my benefit.
When Mimi decided to retire from sending out The Prayer List, I took over the job. The Prayer List made me a more consistent pray-er.
The different studies we worked through made me grow in my faith and I changed from being legalistic to being more grace-filled and mature in my faith. I learned about God's grace and mercy toward me, received comfort and prayers when our nephew died of adrenal cancer and when our daughter became pregnant. I understood that after a lifetime of going to church: God wanted a relationship with me and placed me with this group of women as an opportunity toward beginning that relationship through their fellowship.
I heard things from:
Dr. David Jeremiah who said: "Worship is not about us, it's about Him."
I learned that I should not put all the pressure/responsibility on my pastor to preach great sermons every Sunday.
I attend church to worship God in community.
From our son's pastor, who said during a sermon entitled "Conflict in the Church": "Don't focus on the messenger. Focus on the message. The message is Christ." Then later he said, "The church has a dual challenge: to love people and to challenge people to grow in Christ."
I read books:
Me, Myself, & Lies by Jennifer Rothschild
Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa Terkeurst
The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp
What's So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey
Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist
The Fitting Room: Putting on the Character of Christ by Kelly Minter
Divided We Unite: Practical Christian Unity by Ed Cyzewski
You're Already Amazing: Embracing Who You Are, Becoming All God Created You to Be by Holley Gerth
Coffee Shop Conversations: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk by Dale & Jonalyn Fincher
The Colors of Hope: Becoming People of Mercy, Justice and Love by Richard Dahlstrom
Not a Fan. Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus by Kyle Idelman
During this time, I discovered that I need to be a part of a church community. Sunday worship sets the tone for my week. It realigns me toward God's will and helps me focus on and survive the week ahead.
I started working full-time and wasn't able to attend Bible Study anymore.
I craved community and joined an evening sermon study at my church during Lent. Yet two things became apparent to me as I was with a different, smaller group of people:
I was spoiled by my former relationship with my Bible Study buddies in that we had gone below the surface with scripture and life and this new group didn't, and
the sermon series didn't have "much meat to chew on." (And let me say that this Texas-raised girl believes in a good steak!)
I keep in touch with some of my buddies with coffee or breakfast on occasional Saturdays, but I personally felt something (Someone?) missing during my Sunday worship. I need life application from the sermon, stronger leadership, more Christ.
(At this point I should tell you that our church has over 1,800 members. What I find lacking is obviously not felt by many in our church. Which is fine, since this is my perspective and what is leading me to look for a new church community.)
It took quite a while, months really, to attend a different church. To step outside my comfort zone. Last Sunday, Wonderful Husband and I became first time visitors at a local United Methodist church.
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim,[a] where our ancestors worshiped?”
21 Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
John 4:19-24 NLT (emphasis mine)
To be continued....