Sunday, July 24, 2011

I Hate this Church

I normally like to bring to these articles a passion for something we believe in before we do it, but this one is different.  I am writing Before the event because by the time it is over, I will have PC'ed it into perspective, and the ability for me to learn will melt like snow, so  to speak.

This is more in the nature of a expose' on what is wrong with how I think about churches (not THE Church) rather than the issues I have run into at a Church, though they are somewhat related, in a  Newtons Third Law kinda world. (Cause and effect.)

So, we are in New York, and since everything that is NOT New York city is Upstate, we are upstate, though we are less than 40 minutes from the center of the earth, near the United States Military Academy at West Point in fact.

We have been running back and forth from home to hospital for a sick and aged family member in NY, and the 3 - 4 hour drive every 4 days prevented us from charging our battery at church.  This day, we can not push the need off any longer, and we are going to church.  As dumb as it seems, these are the things I am worried about and the steps we are taking to decide which church to attend.  (Keep in mind, we do this with absolute certainty that Romans 8:28 is the law of the land.)

Here are the Steps and Issues we at least thought of, and the resolution, if there was one yet:

1) How to pick a church.  We were told to go to the phone book and look for one with a display ad that attracted our attention, but who uses Phone Books anymore.
   Resolved: We drove around until we found a church that "looked" cool.  One of our favorite churches, other than our own, in MA has a sign that tells you, when you leave it's parking lot, "you are now entering the Mission Field."  This church had that sign.  So we picked it.

2) What if they don't believe what we believe?  What if their doctrine is not up to snuff with ours, in other words.
Resolved:  We went to the World Wide Web, and looked them up.  The believe what we believe, as in they believe in salvation via Grace.  They also believe in some other stuff, in addition to what we believe, and the Devil is in the details.  So we had a long and theological talk about these additions, and what they might mean to us, if we attended service at this church.

2a) They believe in "Faith Healing."  They believe, in other words, that they Holy Spirit can and does heal people, as in Peter at the Gates of the Temple, Acts 3: 1-9. I know that this is actually a bone of contention with many of my friends.  One of my Pastors, in his quest for his doctorate, has just learned enough about this topic to require further study.  I get it.  Yet.
   Resolved: "Wow, that would be cool."

2b) They Believe in "Speaking in Tongues." 1 Corinthians 12:8-11, for example.  This one is more difficult than the first.  I have actually been in  church where they "teach you how to speak in tongues," as in, they have a class.  Since it is a spirit thing, that kinda gives me the creeps. They don't believe that you MUST speak in tongues, they just believe that it is possible.
   Resolved: "Really? I would like to see that."

3)  What about the dress code?  I only have shorts and Anne only has capris.  What if they want dresses and suits.  What if that is part of their respect to the Lord.
  Resolved: "We will find out."  I will let you know who that turned out, and about the rest.

Why did I leave this note?  Because some of this stuff actually scared me.  Almost kept me from going to church away from home.  I don't want to insult others. I don't want to be taught things I don't think I believe.  I don't want my prejudice on anything to keep me from God anymore, either.  That pompous attitude of "I have the right," and "I already know," is what kept me from Christ for 35 years. 

But it is NOT feelings that matter.  It is action.  Jesus brought the Gospel of Love.  God's Love is NOT a feeling, that I am hooked on.  It is a love that requires action.  He acted, and continues to act on our behalf, and we must live out the Gospel with our actions. 

Off we go.  

Love the Lord.


The After report:

Have I told you that I have a brain injury?  For me to last through a church service that is longer than 60 - 70 minutes normally involves 3 bathroom trips, an unplanned nap or two, and a ton of loss of focus and perhaps some anger.  Really.  (Working on the anger thing --  called loss of impulse control.  See It Keeps Hitting the Fan for more on anger and God.)

This service started at 11:00am and ended at 1:23pm ... no kidding.  I did not know all that time had past.  There we some moments of challenge and growth, but 2 1/2 hours passed with me being awake, engaged, and not knowing about time loss.

Let me take you through what happened, so you see how weird God's sense of humor, timing and teaching are.

a) We drove in at 10:50am, and saw people leaving, everywhere. Tons of people walking away. So right away we are worried that we have the wrong time. Perhaps a summer schedule change. So we stop, and we ask someone. Again, I have TBI (Traumatic brain injury ), so asking anyone anything is VERY hard for me.  Wet my pants hard, but my wife forgets that or is amused by that from time to time, and this was one of those times. To make it worse, he was huge.  He also wore an affect of "leave me alone," and when I asked him if there was another service, he acted like he did not understand English. So I said it again, with head motions, hand motions and a pleading look in my whole body.  He said, "yea, sure" and kept walking.  Yea.  Feeling good.

b) We get in and sit down.  Place is empty except for those from the last service, and they have two giant screens for multimedia projectors, with events and activities flashing by every 10 seconds or so.  We were ignored. 100%.  No one even looked at us.  Good, I am thinking.  Nor personal interaction, though we still don't know if there is a service or not.

c) Big countdown clock shows up on the screen when there is 5 minutes to go before 11:00am.  Music team shows up.  Keyboards start low key.  Yea, there is a service, and we now know when.

d) The next 5 minutes is jammed with people greeting us when the nearly empty church expands to 200 plus people in no time at all, and none of them know us, so they all say hello.  TBI - Feeling like puking now.  Looking for the way out.

e) Then it starts.  The music minister leads us in about ten 7/11 songs, as my daughter taught me when she was in college.  7 lines sung 11 times.  The place was rocking.  Unreal.  Flags, tambourines,  hopping up and down.  It was like we stepped from the empty church into the set of "The Gospel,"
movie.  I can't hear most music.  (TBI)  Not my favorite part of church.  Yet, this was it.  I had no idea I was hopping around singing until I noticed Anne doing it too.

(a Trailer for the Movie "The Gospel"  -  get it -  Awesome)

f) The Jr. Pastor gets up and makes a plea for money for their college scholarship funds.  100 or so go for it.  Pretty cool, but I hate the collection part, if it comes with a sermon for why you should give.

g) Sr. Pastor gets up, and the clock stops for 90 minutes.  3 lines of scripture covers 90 minutes, starting with  Jeremiah 18:6,  which just happen to address and solve every major issue in my life at that very moment.  Awesome.  Where was this place?  Solid Rock Church in New Windsor NY.  If you want to listen to their sermons, click here.

What did I learn.

God was telling us to go to church.  We are his sheep, so we know his voice.  We went.  I was not happy about it when I got there.  It was NOT what I wanted to see, feel or hear.  I was wrong.  God, surprise, was right.

God Rocks. So Does this Church.  I love this Church. God willing, we will be there next week, and and any Sunday we are in the area in the future.  Wow.  They gave us gifts too.  Two churches have given us gifts when we visited.  This Church, Solid Rock in New Windsor NY, gave us a coffee mug and coffee ...  pictured here.  Temple Baptist Church, in Cherry Valley MA gave us a mug and chocolate .. wow again.  Loved both churches, though the coffee an the chocolate had less to do with it then the word, the feeling , the message and the people of the Lord.


  1. Paul thank you for sharing, I really enjoyed reading it and it also reminded me to be praying for you and Anne during this difficult time. We miss you on Sundays <3

  2. Thanks Lisa ... starting to feel like we are living 2 lives .. between not having church and the driving, somewhat disconnected. The pastor of this church actually said that he considered himself a "bapticostal." Pretty cool. Though that P. Fred was the only one.