For a variety of good reasons I decided to make some adjustments and find a more suitable church for myself this week. I've been needing more. So I went looking and here's what I found.
I have to be careful here because one of my hard and fast rules, only because it's also one of the apostle Paul's hard and fast rules, is to not be yoked together with folks who call themselves after the teachings of particular men, because the teachings of Christ are sufficient. I also don't want to use the term "yoked" in a demeaning way (as yoked together with unbelievers), but it's a raw visceral term that helps express my distaste for all of the meddling with the word that many theologians are prone to, leading people away from the pure milk of the word and the simplicity and sufficiency which Christ accomplished in it's revelation directly to us, for our own use, through His apostles. And for the life of me, I just don't get what's so hard to understand about the Word of God that causes so much disagreement between so many in the theological Christian mainstream.
I'm not going to dilute my own walk in the Spirit though, amongst my brothers, by clothing myself with some other popular theologian's belief's or other theological sloganeering, that most of the time they don't even quite understand themselves, but only in the plain trappings of the bible. Therefore, I will not call myself a follower after the teaching of another man or attend a church on that pretense. That should be obvious since it's prohibited in scripture by Christ through Paul in 1 Corinthians. I don't follow after Paul or anyone else because, well he told me not to and, he said he's just the earthen vessel used for the ministry of the Spirit given to him through revelation of Jesus Christ. We are not partial to Paul, because Paul says that God is not partial to him or anyone; not Apollos', Augustine, the pope, Luther, Calvin or Menno. All of these latter men went to their graves yet needing to make corrections to their teachings. Their faith was true and pure but their teaching was imperfect. In fact, the fruit of part of their their labors was simply unnecessary strife and jealousy among mere men which while at one time had assisted in serving a godly purpose, now, having served boldly but being gone, has left us with many associated problems and farther away than ever from being able to with one accord glorify God the Father with one voice in Christ. The results of any true biblical teaching needs to be inarguably true to Christ's teaching, using the very scripture that is designed for the purpose. I will gladly be taught by anyone, corrected, rebuked, and love it and them for it, as long as they're teaching what Christ's Word has already taught. Don't attach another theologian's name to my church.
Yet, this past Sunday, when I went searching for a new setting to learn and worship, and I wound up at the sign along the highway, which I've been wondering about for the past year or so, that said, "Everyone Welcome"... just beneath the words, Mennonite Community Church. Oh man, what am I doing? Well hear me out.
This morning I attended the Mennonite Community Church of Gleason WI. I was as encouraged as I had hoped to be. I'm going to enjoy studying and growing and learning there on Sunday mornings. They generally caution against using the t.v., radio or the computer, but don't prohibit it. Yes, the women submissively and honorably headtop covering. The men's dress ranges from the mennonite signature dark jacket with the unique collar system on the white shirt. I wear a plain causal pair of dress pants with a casual dress shirt. I see no reason to dress the exact same way I would dress if I were just lounging around the house or in the same style bluejeans I would use to work or play in. I prefer to rachet my church dress up one notch from work/play clothes as just a personal act of respect for the Lord on His day, our day, and in His presence, even though the Lord's Spirit dwells in me all day everyday, and is there during the most disrespecting moments of my average day as well. I've been around people who prefer blue jeans worn to church and just figure that they're doing it as their own conviction - possibly to avoid the empty pretense of showing superficial respect by the way one dresses - for church, unto the Lord. You can't judge a book by it's cover, and so is the way that this congregation of mennonites seem to view others. And all are welcome. Still, we do live in a world where one must call himself something or someone else will name it for you. I won't be calling myself anything but a Christian and I'm hoping I've found some good Christian brothers to be around Sunday mornings.
They do fancy themselves as trying to be separate from the world, as they see it, and I can't fault them for the way they chose to do that. In my mind it's a worthy effort on their part; better than no effort at all ,which is much more common around the professed Christians I've been around. These folks are honoring certain parts of Christ's teaching that there is some ambiguity in (for lack of a better word), and this bunch is willing to extend to others that there is some liberty in Christ to be exercised here as far as dress and tradition. Hopefully.
I'm hoping that they enjoy fellowshiping with folks according to what's in folk's hearts as born out by their words and deeds through Christ. Most of what I heard all morning this morning was that they believe that it's all about Christ. That's all I heard in the preaching. This appears to be a great setting to have as my church. A place to share in the excitement and growth in God's grace through Christ with some earnest folks.
For baptism they tend away from immersion but will do it in any biblical way one prefers. Baptism to them, just as in the bible, is an outword show of devotion and commitment. I'm putting words in their mouth now, but just repeating things I discovered while chatting with a few of the members.
An hour of Sunday School at 10am, kids in the basement and adults in the sanctuary/meeting room, followed by 45 minutes to an hour of preaching. I couldn't have liked the preacher more. A few young teachers-in-training, one by one, lead the bible study and all of us were asked to comment and contribute at every point. I couldn't believe it. Man this is what I was looking for this side of heaven.
We sang three or four hymns in beautiful relaxed a cappella.
The preacher this morning took us through the OT highlighting moments when and how the nation of Israel was told to listen to the Lord, and how in the NT He shows us how it is just as important to Him today. He just stuck to the word and let it do all the talking, always making the distinction between the era's(his word) of the old and new testament and between the befores-and-afters of our Lord's sacrificing Himself to accomplish what is impossible for us. The guy was very light-hearted and spiritedly either reciting scripture or reading scripture most of the time. I loved the way he taught with it.
It was just a good find today friends.
Oh, just as within any group of folks, it is sure to have it's disappoinments. But I'll try to encourage and to strengthen as well as to be encouraged and to be strengthened. They seem to have a Pastor who is able to lead in that. That appears to be a strong part of their mission statement. His adult kids seem to represent him as a father well. I've seen them in their bulk food store for years now.
My options for a church have been very limited. Turning to the phone book under "churches" I almost found myself finally turning to the local Methodist church. Seeing a church called, Mary Queen of the Universe, was a real revolting wake-up call that this was serious business, finding another church family, even though I love my old one. And there was just about every fractured denomination under the sun there in the phonebook. There was another local bible church which I was somewhat familiar with and I could already begin to count the ways in which I'd be disappointed if I had to call that church my home. I was actually becoming a little dispondent, not for me but for my daughter, when I remembered the sign in front of the new mennonite community church built a couple of years ago about 25 minute south of here, which sort of surprised me when it ended with, "All Are Welcome". After visiting there this morning my hopes were confirmed that my need for an edifying church group of believers may become a reality there. The Pastor invites all guests each Sunday to have lunch with his family. What an excellent way that was to kick things off. I had called down and was informed of that ahead of time.
I'm expecting that they'll allow me to worship and study with them without enforcing a dress code on me, although I'm sure they'll expect some respect for their own Christian lifestyle convictions, and on those terms I'm willing to show them plenty of it. My daughter came away with the suggestion that they would appreciate it if she had her hair in braids. I'm more than willing to do that. I'll try and keep from asking them to stumble from their God honoring convictions toward the Lord as long as in return I'm allowed to carefully exercise my liberty to dress the way I see as equally befitting faithfulness to the Lord. In fact, I will have no trouble wearing a shirt and tie like the rest if some of them would feel more comfortable.
There is absolutely no place for my piano playing at the place and I couldn't care less. They want me to sing then I'll sing. Bass though, just to keep the peace. Their layered a cappella singing was very rich and sweet.
I recall 12 years ago when I was trying to find the Lord I'd heard about in my youth, and how I had intentionally worn a jacket, shirt and tie, just because everyone else was dressing down. Just to show you some of my independent tendencies. Then this gal I was seeing made fun of me for overdressing and I quickly conformed to the fashion of the time.
They seemed about as excited to see a new brother in the Lord as I was to see them today.
The men greet each other with a holy kiss. An optional thing with them that I can't foresee participating in.
My daughter made two new friends today, now her new sisters in the Lord, and is just flat excited about growing in the knowledge of God through Christ with them. She put her faith in dad to find us a good church and dad might just have pulled it off. We spent almost the entire twenty-five minute drive down talking about the Big Book.
I know my mind, and my new Pastor knows his, and both being very different I think may, if we do as we should and are tolerant of one another as Paul prescribes, then be of one joyful accord with one another and see, as well as allow others to see, the glory of God, together in Christ.
I'm excited, and I could see his genuine excitement in talking and preaching about the Lord's teaching as well. What a great week.