After my small country church shut its doors, I tried to make church fit my expectations. I must be a slow learner because I spent two years trying to fit in where God hadn’t placed me. It didn’t work out well for me as I felt lost for a long time.
I could list the requirements for my perfect church. It started with a smaller congregation where everyone knows each other on a Sunday morning. Worship is not too loud and includes both hymns and contemporary Christian music. The sermons are relevant to imperfect real life.
I finally found the perfect church that met all my requirements. It was time to sit down with the pastor and hear his heart and vision in his own words for my perfect church. That meeting was where I discovered that the perfect church of my mind was the not the perfect church God had in mind for me.
The pastor didn’t say anything wrong. It was just the opposite as I was engaged by his straightforward and God-honoring vision for the church’s future. Rather, it was a nugget of wisdom he inserted into our conversation that changed my focus. He talked about the “community” the church was trying to reach.
Something resonated in my heart. My “community” was serving cancer survivors along with others who are passionate about “providing hope, support, service and love to those struggling with cancer by being the hands and feet of Jesus.” (The mission statement for Cancer Hope.) That moment was the turning point where I finally recognized my perfect church. Afterwards, I thanked God for imparting His truth deep inside of me. Then, I mailed an apology and explanation to the pastor for changing my mind about his church.
In reality, God had revealed the answer to my church search two years earlier. However, at that time, this particular church did not meet my requirements. It was too big and the music was too loud. I had attended one of three weekend services and did not recognize a single smile. I didn’t stay because I was intimidated by what I saw on the surface. God wanted me to dig deeper. That process took me two years to work through and finally accept.
The second time around, I returned to the church with a different attitude. In the first few weeks back, the pastor addressed those of us uncomfortable with a big church. Paraphrasing his words to the congregation, “The early church was big. Three thousand people were added in one day. In heaven, there will be lots of people worshiping together. You might want to get used to it now.” I just knew the pastor was speaking directly to me!
As for “my community,” I am now the leader of a cancer ministry that has supported over 380 survivors in 25 states since its beginning in 2011. I thank God that He made my “perfect” church “imperfect” so I could experience His perfect plans for my life. I am finally home and it is the perfect place to rest.
In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.
Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.