Behind the Stained Glass

There’s a large church on the highway not far from my house. It’s something of a landmark in this area. “Take the exit by {the big} church and go left.”

It’s the brunt of countless rumors and the butt of jokes…by Christians and non-Christians alike: “I heard that they require you to…{fill in blank with absurd rumor}.” “Well, you know how they get so many people to go there…”

medium_4141671581 In our small community of less than 20,000 people, that big church on the highway had over 15,000 on Easter Sunday. I know this because that is my church. It has been my church for the last 20 years.

We don’t go there because it’s a “mega-church.” (It was only running a few hundred when I started attending.) We don’t go because they have great music and an amazing band (but they do).

We don’t attend that “big” church because our kids love the incredible kids program (but they do). We don’t go there because it’s a mile from our house and we have friends who go there (but it is and we do). We don’t even attend because the pastor is well-spoken and has a charismatic personality (but he is and he does).

We haven’t “drunk the Kool-Aid” (yes, that’s been said to me). And no, they don’t hold weird rituals or require us to report our annual income (yes, those are actual rumors).

What has kept us there for half our lives now?

1. God’s Word
Quite simply, God’s Word is continually preached in our church…simply, honestly, compellingly. It’s not a beat-me-over-the-head sermon or can’t-we-all-just-feel-good-about-ourselves message. More than a preaching style, it’s a belief that God’s Word is true and able to change lives. (Hebrews 4:12) That truth is taught from the pulpit to the kids’ area. (Bonus for me as a parent: My kids are being taught to know, love, and live out God’s Word!)

2. God’s Presence
A few weeks ago I walked into our mid-week prayer service and the worship had already started.  As I slipped in the back of the room, it wasn’t the top-notch musicians or the talented vocals that caught my attention. I immediately felt the presence of God. The worship experience isn’t about the performance. It’s about entering into God’s presence with thanksgiving and praise (Psalm 100).

3. Prayer
With reports of record attendance for Easter services, over 200 decisions for Christ, and 130 baptized, it’s easy to think that large numbers come easily for a big church. But I have insider information: I know that thousands of people gathered for weeks before the event to call on God. From healing to salvation, from restoration of marriages to financial provision, we believe prayer changes things. (James 5:13-16) We have gathered together, called on God, and seen Him answer again and again.

4. God’s People
Having grown up in a pastor’s home, I’ve seen just about every side of the church…the good, the bad, and definitely the ugly. Unfortunately, it’s the bad and the ugly that’s too common in too many churches. I believe that doesn’t have to be the case.

When I faced cancer a few years ago, it was our church family who stepped in and walked with us when our extended family had to return to their homes and their lives. We have laughed with these people, cried with them, been inspired by them, and prayed for by them.

Church is at its best when people are authentic in their faith and willing to be God’s hands to those around them.

Not everyone loves my church the way I do. Some think the music is too loud. Others find the building too large and intimidating. That doesn’t offend me at all. That’s the beauty of the Body of Christ; there’s no one-size-fits-all formula. God is a Creator; we shouldn’t try to fit Him into a formula.

So, it’s OK if you don’t love my church the way I do. But I hope and pray you have found a church you can love the same way.

Photo source

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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

25 thoughts on “Behind the Stained Glass

  1. You do have a great church, Nanc!

    And I had to chuckle over those rumors you mentioned. There are similar rumors that circulate about my home church in AR and they always just made me shake my head at the absurdity. But I’ve found you don’t have to be a mega-church for rumors to fly. The church we pastor is about the furthest from a mega-church as you can get and yet occasionally we hear a funny rumor floating around about what we believe, too, and I have to wonder where things like that even get started. 🙂

    1. Oh, Lora…the stories I’m sure we could share! Our dads probably have some good ones, too! 🙂

      You’re so right…rumors, and the people who spread them, are no respecter of church size. I’ve heard some doozies in smaller churches I’ve attended as well…sometimes its worse in smaller churches!

      What I hoped to communicate in my post was that it’s not about the size or even the style of a church…it’s about the things that truly matter: the Word, prayer, the presence of God, and the hearts of the people. Knowing you and Vince, I’m sure your church has these in abundance. And I know God is blessing your work there! Love you, girl!

  2. Thanks for your post, it was great to hear your perspective. We were once in a church that was very critical of other churches. We couldn’t see that until we left, we are so thankful that God graciously brought us out of that and helped us to see that no church will be perfect until Christ returns for His Bride. Just found your site through a link up, looking forward to following it.

    1. Nicci, unfortunately, criticism of other churches and ministries is too often the case. I think that breaks the heart of God more than we realize. I know it grieves my heart when my kids don’t get along; I can’t imagine how God feels when His kids do the same! I’m so glad you stopped by! ~Nancy

  3. Dear Nancy
    The one thing that stands out to me about your church, and in the end it is all that matters, is love. How they carried you and your family through your cancer is just wonderful. John tells us that the world was amazed at how the first Christians loved one another.
    Blessings from Laura’s

  4. Loved this – I am also a member of a “mega” church – one that is the topic of conversations for others, not always the nicest… But it is a place that allows for great connection with Christ – I could truly echo your words exactly. I love that even though we are large church, there a ton of little places to get connected, that allow for the church-people to truly walk along side all the ups and downs of life – because that is what we are called to do. Thanks for putting this out there!


    1. Yes, Marissa. I feel the same way. I truly believe that one can “hide” in a small church or connect in a large church…it’s all a matter of connecting and committing to the Body. I love when I find others who love their church as much as I love mine! Sounds like you have a great one! Many blessings!

  5. We go to a “megachurch” too. We first went because of all the “but they do”s about your church. We stay for all the other reasons you mentioned. I believe there are bible-believing churches of all shapes and sizes where you can go and meet God. But I believe that growing churches are primarily growing because they seek and receive his blessing.

    Thanks for sharing. I found you on Janis’s link-up on Wednesday’s Word.

  6. This is amazing – it could absolutely have been written about my church as we are currently going through the same growth and building issues. Through it all, we are seeing that GOD is at work and it’s HIS work and HIS word that is providing the blessing. All glory to Him! This is a beautiful piece, thank you!

  7. Nancy,

    People say the strangest things, don’t they? I’m so glad you love your church home this much. It sounds like a fabulous God-community! You just keep shining the light, lady. Sounds like good work is being done.

  8. Beautiful post! Sometimes it’s so hard to be distracted by all the wonderful things you mentioned (nice facility, great music, good kids programs, location, etc) and forget the true value of a good church. Our church also has a lot of the same characteristics that yours does but our reasons for going there and stay there are because the truth of God’s word is preached, there is a true community and family of believers, and God’s presence can be felt there. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  9. Very well written expression of how so many of us feel about our church leaders and family. Your story is so similar to mine, as my father is also a minister, I could have written most of it, but not as eloquently! Lol Thanks for putting it out there! Blessings. Nancy.

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