Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Let Us Not Give Up Meeting Together

Hebrews 10:25 tells us, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another -- and all the more as you see the Day approaching."  Attending church is important to us.  It is where we are encouraged and fed and get our strength for the next week.

In Niger we were involved in a church-planting ministry which was difficult, rewarding, frustrating, blessed.....you name it, every emotion is involved in that kind of ministry.

In Niamey we were involved in a much larger international church. 
Because it's in French I struggle to understand much or to get very involved, but I still benefit from fellowshipping with Africans and Europeans from all over the francophone (and anglophone) world. 

In the USA, we are members of Trinity Covenant Church
in Manchester, CT.  This is my in-law's church and so I married into it, so to speak.  We know a lot of people there and many, many of the members support us.

The church I feel most at home at is Grace Bible Church in Dunmore, PA. 
We have lived near this church during every one of our home assignments and over the years we have gotten to know a lot of people really well.

Since college I have not been in a situation where I had to CHOOSE a church, with the exception of the time John and I studied French in Quebec.  

When we first arrived in Niamey back in 1987 there weren't many churches and we just went to the SIM-related church that spoke French.  I have to admit that church was a real drag for me then.....it started at 11 a.m. and went until 1 p.m. .......the hottest time of the day.  Not only was the building hotter than blue blazes, the benches were backless.  And I didn't understand a word and I felt totally lost.  Well, things have improved since then.  The service is earlier and the backless benches have been replaced with plastic chairs.  Yes, it's still hot but at least you don't have to try to hold yourself up!  Also, the music has really improved and I understand French a little better.  So going to church there is enjoyable now.

In our ministry in the village, we were the church-planters, so we didn't really have a choice about what church to attend!  Especially since there was no church.

On home assignment, we just attend churches that support us, such as Trinity and Grace.  Over the years we have built up a relationship with all of our supporting churches and enjoy each one of them.

So, then we move to Maryland and we don't know where to go to church.  We don't want to spend months "shopping" for a church.  Of course, the prerequisites are that they preach the Gospel, that they are doctrinally sound, and that we enjoy the worship service and benefit from the pastor's messages.  But aside from those things, how do you know if a church "fits" you?  

One thing that is bothering us is that the churches we've visited (two mostly white and one all black) is that they don't seem to reflect the demographics of the area.  The US Census tells me that Prince George's County, where we live, is 65.6% black, 28% white, and 4% Asian.  So, in an ideal world, the church should reflect that.  It seems to me that in a church of 100 people, about 66 of them should be black, 28 should be white, and 4 should be Asian (I know that isn't exactly 100).  But that's not the way it is, at least not in the churches we've visited.

I think the reality is that even if we aren't racist, we still like to hang out with those who are most like us.  And yet, the church is made up of people from every tribe, every language, every nation, every color.  Maybe I'm being idealistic......  And maybe a church with a bigger mix exists in this area and we just haven't found it yet.

We're praying and talking and hope to make a decision soon about which church to attend.  We would appreciate your prayers.  And I have a new-found sympathy for people moving to a new area who are trying to find a church!


Kim said...

Wow, Nancy, I hear you! In recent years I've partnered in worship ministry with a dear friend who is an African American gospel singer. One key tenet of our ministry is multi-cultural worship, and it's not easy. Multi-cultural churches, as great as the idea sounds, just don't exist demographically speaking, at least not that I've seen in my travels. Sure, I hear about the rare experimental one on occasion, but I wonder about the longterm success.

I wonder if the whole biblical charge that the church be comprised of every nation, tribe and tongue doesn't more refer to the Church as a whole, the Bride of Christ - rather than the individual local church bodies. The first thing that pops into my mind would be an obvious language barrier - even in the US. Hartford has a pretty hefty Hispanic population - but if they prefer to worship in a Spanish speaking church, I don't see that as a bad thing - nor does this detract from the whole "every nation, tribe and tongue" thing, at least not that I can see.

Don't really know where I'm going with all this, just that I've thought about this subject a LOT. Not so sure I know, or can even guess, what the answer is.

Beka said...

hey nancy,
my sister in law and brother in law go to a very small, very diverse church in maryland. it is called city of hope. maybe you can google it and see if it is near you... the pastor there is GREAT! we have enjoyed our times with them a lot.