Why I Love My Church


LUVCHRCH License PlateWishing to counter the sanguine nature of last Friday’s “downer” post (“Killing the Messenger“) with something not only more upbeat, but in defense of good churches, today I reveal why I love my church.

Cerulean Sanctum is a blog about helping the Church in America be the best Church she can be. As such, it can be critical, but I pray that one of the distinctives of this blog is that I don’t criticize solely to criticize. If I don’t have at least a solution or two, I typically stay mum on an issue. Sadly, you can’t throw a dead 404 link on the Web without hitting a Christian blog that is critical for no other reason than to be critical. If this blog ever gets to that point, I’ll shut it down because it will no longer be honoring to God.

God doesn’t need more whiners and moaners; He needs a glorious Church.

I go to Clear Mountain Community Church in Williamsburg, Ohio. It’s an independent Pentecostal church that is one of the most unusual churches I’ve ever encountered. What makes it unique is that it is a church merge (as opposed to a split—that in itself is rarer), but it’s the merger of a Pentecostal church and a Church of Christ. Yeah, you read that right. I’ve been there a year-and-a-half and I still can’t believe it.

But the Spirit of God makes it work. That combination makes the church exceptionally strong in that the diversity of folks in the church mitigates the weaknesses of both those traditions, allowing the better aspects to shine through. While some churches have theological blind spots, ours is better than some in reducing that due to the merger.

There’s usually a social disparity in those two traditions, too, but the merger has broadened the demographic swath from what would normally be found in a Pentecostal church or Church of Christ. You’ll find farmers and engineers, hairdressers and scientists, rich and poor in our church, all in a mix that’s probably better than any church I’ve been in. (Our lack is the fact that we’re about 98% white, but then so is the neighborhood for miles around—rural areas in the Midwest aren’t known for their racial diversity.)

Some churches have elders of varying quality, but ours are uniformly outstanding and from a wide variety of backgrounds. Our church has been through a lot, including losing the previous pastor to colon cancer in his mid-forties after what seemed like a total healing. But the elders held the church together after the death of the pastor and other tough losses, and this not long after the merger. That says quite a bit about the character of the men involved They made it work by the grace of God.

Our current pastor was one of those elders. He’s been in that church for more than twenty-five years. I like that—a lot. Any church that can hire from within has a successful discipleship program. Too many churches have such poor educational programs they couldn’t raise up a pastor from within if they used a crane. Our pastor is the real deal, though. He brings the added benefit, at least in my opinion, of not having been professional clergy all his life. He worked for a tire company, so he understands the working man’s existence.

He also understands the Scriptures and preaches Bible-laden sermons. My wife and I first visited the church back in December of 2004 and one of the elders told us that they’d called a new pastor. When one of the elders got up and preached a sermon that impressed me greatly, taught me a few things I hadn’t heard before (and I couldn’t remember the last time that had been the case), and generally placed a fire in my heart, I told my wife it was a shame they couldn’t make this guy the pastor. His command of Scripture was excellent and he preached the Gospel with no hesitancy of mixing in the tough parts with the nice ones. Little did I know we were in for a pleasant surprise!

Pastor Mark hadn’t even been installed when we got an invitation to come to his house for a home-cooked meal. We’d been at the church for two weeks and he and his wife were already inviting us over. (If you’re a pastor reading this, that’s a strong hint right there!) He was installed the next Sunday, and the next day we were the first guests he and his wife had over after being made official. I can’t tell you how much that meant to us.

It’s the single biggest strength of my church: genuine concern for people. The retired pastor (of the Church of Christ portion of the church from before the merger) and his wife went out of their way to show us around and talk with us in the cafe after the service was over. All the elders introduced themselves and talked with us. We made several acquaintances that first Sunday who have gone on to become good friends.

I watch the folks in my church and most do an excellent job of talking with newcomers, letting folks know that we’re so glad they chose to worship with us. Megachurches that pride themselves on being friendly should stop by our church sometime to see how it’s really done. Our church has fellowship lunches after the service at least once a month, and more like two and a half times a month during the summer. The men’s breakfasts are well-attended and the women’s ministry is strong. Everyone takes pride in the church as a body of worshiping believers and you can see the love not only for the regulars, but also the new folks and the visitors. We’re not afraid of our “special people”, either. I’ve been in churches that try to hide their “weaker parts,” but at our church, we’re not ashamed of those folks who are different. In fact, we treat them just like we treat everyone else.

And as my church is giving of their persons, they’re also giving of their money. I’m routinely astounded by how much money this church can raise for benevolences to others. We’re not big and we’re not rich, but folks put their money where their faith is. After some of the things my church has been through, at another church it would have been a financial death knell. But not here. Very generous people.

Very generous in speaking about Jesus, too. People at my church would never expect the pastor to be the only one witnessing. They’re out there speaking about Christ to others. Huge supporters of missionaries and other ministries, too. An understanding exists that it’s not “our church” and “their church”—we’re all believers in Christ—so however the word gets out is fine, even if it means that someone besides us benefits.

Charismatic and rural can tend toward some charismania, but there’s not a whole lot to see. Sure, there’s a few things that maybe go an eensy bit overboard, but I’ve seen a lot worse. What I appreciate so much about the folks in my church, though, is that they don’t go the other way, tightening down the hatches so tight that the Holy Spirit can’t work. Everyone understands freedom in Christ is not license, yet it’s still freedom. That’s so refreshing to find a Pentecostal church in a rural area that isn’t tied down by legalism.

And lastly, I appreciate the willingness of the leadership to acknowledge people’s gifts and ask them to lead. There’s a gratefulness for everyone who contributes, and also a willingness to let someone else take the reins. There was a mix-up with a speaker we had scheduled for today and one of the “laypeople” in the church was asked to preach in his stead. You don’t see that too often.

Our church is firmly open to God’s direction. There’s a rare expectancy compared with many of the churches I’ve been affiliated with over the years. We earnestly desire to meet the Lord in worship and we know He’s going to do miracles. I’ve seen so many positive, godly things occur since we’ve been there that it’s hard not to think that every day will be better than the one before. We’re baptizing folks, the Gospel’s being preached, and we’re growing. Sure, we’ve got about 300 people there now, but that’s up probably fifty since we came on. Easter brought in almost 380.

I love my church. I’m grateful to God that He led us there after we wondered if good churches still existed. Do we have issues? Certainly. But the thing that impresses me about my church is the willingness to address those issues and act to fix them.

So if you stop by Cerulean Sanctum and read one of my blistering critiques of what is going on in the Church in America and think that I’m just a church-basher, know this: I love my church. Great churches like mine do exist. And more than that, I love the big “C” Church and pray only the best for Her.

Do you love your church? Leave a comment here and let us all know what you love about your church. And if you’re looking for a church, mine’s not perfect, but we’re blessed in many ways and God is moving in us. What more could we ask for?

Have a blessed week this week.

13 thoughts on “Why I Love My Church

  1. Add me to the list of Church lovers! I love my Church… Dayton Vineyard. They started out meeting in each others living rooms, went through change after change after change… and 15 years later I see so much fruit. Yes, we are pretty big… 4 services and anywhere from 1500-3000 on any given weekend… but there are places to plug in… a place for everyone… well, almost everyone… and they are truly trying. If you take the time to get to know some people there, you see God’s hand in this place. I’ve seen so many people come out of addictions… hands raised.. praising God. I’ve seen children soaking in the Holy Spirit (young children!). I’ve seen a handful of God-fearing-loving men keep this church focused on showing a community that God loves them. We do odd stuff… we hand out stamps on tax day, cold bottles of water on hot days… we bring groceries and prayer to the not so nice areas of town… we go TO the people… instead of waiting for them to come to us. We hold festivals in areas of town that aren’t our own parking lot! We GIVE to our community purely to show Christ’s Love to them. We show up at peoples places of work with a flower and a prayer or chocolate and prayer… just to love on people at work and brighten their day. DV respects peoples differences… I remember taking a friend one day and she saw one guy hands raised high praising God with leopard print hair. We aren’t respectors of people, and our pastor is one of the most servant hearted and faith hearted people I know. I just want to serve these men and walk hand in hand with them. I’ve seen maturity in myself here… and DV allows you to “grow up” into who Christ wants you to be. You can walk in the door covered in mud if you have to… they won’t care… they will hand you a fresh cup of coffee and offer to help you clean up. Like all big churches… there are ups and downs… but if you make yourself available… you can always connect… you can always find like minded people. They welcome the Holy Spirit, but don’t expect to find people laying all over the floor. It may happen… but with everything… there is balance here… Scriptural teaching and the Holy Spirit… great worship and worship leaders that are worshippers, not performers… and bring you into worship rather than have you watch it like alot of big churches. Can you tell I love my church? *G*

  2. Amazing, a charismatic and a COC? Wow. As a member of a COC (and a part of what was once the most exclusionary branch of the COC’s, the ICOC), this blows my mind.

    I too love my church, I’ll post more on that later, but I want to know something. The COC’s are known to be pretty dogmatic about certain salvation issues, namely baptism. How was that resolved in this merger?

    I know that reasonable and God loving people dissagree with the COC’s on the role of baptism, but it’s something that I have studied several times and hold dear because of what I’ve learned from those studies. I also know that baptism has been used by many COC’ers as an excuse to condemn and judge, which is certainly not what it was intended for. I’m very interestend in building bridges, and would love some insight into how this divide was bridged in your fellowship.

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  4. Grant

    I grew up in a church that I loved. I loved the people and the way mature Christian men took an interest in me. They treated me as a friend, checked in with me, and wanted to know how I was growing and struggling as a young man. That was great.

    Sadly, some of that changed. Not all of it. After a while I kind of lost the joy of fellowship because programs replaced those special relationships. The emphasis on excellence of teaching replaced the wonder of the Holy Spirit moving naturally amongst a rag tag collection of God’s kids. Hard to explain.

    I’m blessed now to be a part of a church that is discovering the joy of both quality teaching and the joy of fellowship. We are making every effort to carve out a place of fellowship for the coming years and it is thrilling. What excites me most is that the leadership is on the same page about it.

    I love both churches… one for what it once was and could be again and this new church for what its becoming.

  5. I’m depressed. I don’t have a church to love. A friend of mine doesn’t either. My friend and I have gone through two churches together. Just found out that they and a few elders had left our PCA. If I had a church to love, it would comfort and support me in my belief in God’s inerrant Word and it would stop making up “who God is”. I just don’t want to have to go to church and filter through the deceptions/false teaching. God is good though, as He strengthens us inspite of it all.
    I put a post up today with some thoughts.

    • goldie

      don’t be depressed that you don’t have a church to love. I don’t either but sometimes God just wants us to love Him so much that he takes away that “wonderful church feeling” He is a jealous God too and so often we end up with a spiritual country club cause we’re having such a good time. hang in there friend. there is a body of believers out there for you….

  6. Great post. After I got over the shock of a Church of Christ merging with a charismatic church (I grew up in the slightly less legalistic cousin, Christian Church ), I could really relate to a lot of what you said. What you describe is a really healthy church, but there are so few of them ot there.

    I, too, love my church. It’s an Evangelical Covenant Church and has been a wonderfully welcoming place for us. One reason we stay where we are is that I can’t imagine finding as good a church home as we have now. It is also a healthy church — and it’s also a church that has been bathed in prayer. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

  7. I grew up in a very legalistic environment — not my parents, but many around me. Through the years, God put me in less-and-less legalistic churches, but the church that I am in now is the one that blessed my theological socks off. It was as if God said, “OK, that’s enough. He can handle the truth now.” Everywhere I turned, God kept saying (through my pastor or other folks in the church), “Not law, grace.”

    I have remarked to more than one person that the last three years have been filled with moments where I thought, “Ya know, I always thought that was wrong (whatever “that” was), but I could never put my finger on it.”

  8. Philippa

    Hi Dan,

    I love your blog and I love my church.

    I’m from the UK. My church is an Anglican church in a South East London suburb. It’s a predominantly white area, with a few middle-class Asian families. My little church is amazingly multi-cultural; (not amazing for London, but amazing for our particular area) – we have: a Nigerian family, a Zimbabwean family, plus one German, one Finn, one Canadian and one American.

    The church is evangelical and low-key charismatic. I’d love it to be more charismatic but I’m grateful for the solid, practical biblical teaching. Our vicar is quite Reformed. He is also very much into every-member ministry and has a team comprising four Readers (in effect, lay ministers), one pastoral assistant and many more who faithfully serve the church in a variety of ways, including our very talented worship band.

    What I love about my church is its authenticity. People are warm, welcoming and genuine.

    What I worry about is that the church is in a bit of a rut. It’s too easy to be complacent.

    But yes, I love my church – and the Church with a big †˜C’.

    Your church sounds great!! Not perfect, of course, because nobody’s church is. The Church with a Big C is not perfect either … not until she weds the Bridegroom.

  9. andrews

    andrews Boakye
    box 27
    eastern region
    Dear In Christ,
    Greetings of love to you in the name of our Master and Lord
    Jesus , Who died to cleanse us from all our sins.
    To introduce myself , I am ANDREWS BOAKYE and a young
    Christian. I have no Bible and I want to please request you to
    send me a Study Bible. There is always sadness in my heart to
    go to church without a Bible ,. and when it is time to read
    a passage from the Bible I only become a spectator. The
    worst part of it is that I cannot devotionally read the words
    of God daily at the comfort of my home.This has affected my
    Christian life in the negative way.
    Please, I need you to help me out of this situation. I am
    begging you to send me a Study Bible.
    Please remember me in your daily prayers. I want to end here
    with much greetings.

  10. Kate Ashcraft

    I believe the charismatic part comes from the former Pentecostal Church that resided there. Pastor Mark Otten was a member of that church, which is the one I had attended growing up back in the 80s. In those days, Pastor Jerry and his wife Wanda led the Pentecostal church. It was never short on revival music, a very strong youth outreach program, and many, many brothers and sisters you could rely on. Pastor Mark and his wife Lisa were part of that strong sister and brother make up. I attended school with their daughter Heather and was babysat by Lisa a number of times. I would think these influences stayed with Mark over the years and has had a great impact on the merger with the Christ Church.

    I wonder about the baptism myself. I remember when the old Pentecostal church had their baptismal pool installed at the back side of the old building. It was a big whoopty doo back then and I was one of the first to be baptised in it.

    I am not 100% sure on how they bridged the gap, but I know the older Pentecostal church did indeed split. My parents and I left when that happened. Pastor Jerry and Wanda left the church. I was about 7 when that happened. Maybe the split helped them open their minds to working more with other churches?

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