People who know me are generally not surprised to find that I am a Christian, generally people suspect it from the get-go. I am what my friends have called (to my face) a goody goody. I prefer perpetual rule follower, but whatever. It is no secret I try to be a “good person” and would prefer that others do the same. Religiosity, aside.
Jesus became real to me 14 years ago this month. I did not really grow up in church other than the occasional Easter or Christmas Eve service, but I kind of always had this feeling that God was a real thing. I do however, remember really contemplating the pastor in robes at church after I found out that Santa Claus was indeed not real. I could understand lying to kids once a year about the existence of a present-deliverer but every single Sunday lying to kids (wearing ridiculous robes at that) about a God just to get them to behave and eat their veggies? I didn’t buy it. He had to be real. That pastor guy had to know something that I didn’t.
I heard about Jesus for what felt like the first time when I was in the 6th grade. I know this is not the first time I heard about Jesus. I frequently visited churches with my friends in elementary school, attended VBS every summer as a kid, was in Awanas in 5th grade and was an expert Bible verse memorizer. It would not be out of character for me to have to be told something several times before hearing it. God knows this and this is a reoccurring theme in the story that is mine.
I remember feeling different this particular time. I was what I am pretty sure was a buzzword for early 2000’s Christianity: On Fire for Jesus. I wore the shirts, the WWJD bracelets, avoided alcohol and sex like the plague throughout high school and tried really hard not to gossip, curse, or disrespect my parents for a long, long time.
Lots of years, several churches later, I was tired of the Guilt Gospel. I was tired of going to church and constantly feeling like I was to worship the pastor in big church more than God himself. I was tired of feeling like I had to do a million things or abstain from a million things just to fit in. Church didn’t feel right anymore. I watched lots of twentysomethings in college get together and say “awesome” “blessings” “sin” “courting” and a million other buzzwords an awful lot to talk about their spiritual lives. I just felt like the church had become just another social scene for college kids to meet their future spouse so they could marry off and procreate as soon as possible. I didn’t feel close to God at church and I wasn’t interested in just going through the motions to feel better about myself for going to church. So I stopped going.
Before Marshall and I were married we went to his parents’ church which was the best thing to happen to me during this time of skepticism. I got a chance to serve and meet nice people who have become near and dear to my heart. They have been with the church since it’s inception so they got to watch Marshall grow up. I imagine they probably weren’t thrilled when he brought a girl home (to church) but they just loved me so much like they’d known me my whole life. This was the first time I really felt like I was part of a community. It was far from where we lived and we weren’t planning on moving there and I just really had this feeling of wanting to live, work, serve and worship in the same place (which, sweet Kellie of 2011, this will not happen for a very long time).
This is what I wanted in a church. Real, true, genuine, authentic relationships. Truthfully, my desire had very little to do with Jesus or the kingdom of God, I just wanted a real, live church family. We decided that after we got married Marshall would stop serving at his parents’ church and we would find a church for us near where we lived. This church would be convenient and would have lots of super cool twentysomethings our age that were also newlyweds that we could share our newlywed life with. We would do super cool fun things like bible study, go to the movies together, serve in a local ministry together. Doesn’t everyone dream of these things? (I know they do not, that was a joke.)
We made a list of all the things we wanted in a church. Basically, we visited to pretty much all the churches in Garner, Raleigh and Cary that had a pretty & functional website (guess whose criteria that was). The music was too cheesy, the pastor was too boring, they didn’t have any local outreach programs, it was too big, too small, too loud, too Pentecostal, you name it, one of us had a problem with it.
Summit Church was not even on the list of churches to visit. It was what I had been burned by before. A mega-church filled with people who worshiped the pastor, that undoubtedly used the word “awesome” a lot and that were definitely proud of the fact that their church was obnoxiously bigger than every other church in Raleigh and Durham. I mean, how self-serving does the pastor have to be to preach and send videos of his message to other campuses? Can he not trust anyone else to preach? Right? I was not interested. No thank you.
I can’t remember why we visited. If the past is any sort of indication, it was probably Marshall’s idea. We both liked it. So we went back. We liked it again. We went back. We tried to join, you know, because we liked it, but the campus pastor said we had to 1) serve in a ministry and 2) join a small group before we could be members. I was pretty perturbed that we had to jump through more hoops to join a church, but I reluctantly started looking into small groups and into ministries we could serve in with our busy schedules.
A year and a half later, we are now real, actual, members of the Summit Church. We were commissioned and our friends from small group prayed with us and we promised to love God, love each other and love our world. I’m getting teary just thinking about it. That Jesus. He’s a great guy. I am so undeserving.
Today, I also understood the multi-site model fully for the first time. More on that later in what will be Part 2 of this story.
So, to wrap up.
In my life, in more than one way, God has shattered (I mean shattered) my expectations or pre-conceived notions of something. I truly believe that if you are wanting to try church and you are giving yourself a million reasons why it isn’t worth it because (insert reason here), it probably is worth it. This can be applied to anything. I wasn’t going to apply to Meredith College because it was all girls (ew) and I was going to go to UNC (yeah I didn’t get in) but I just applied anyway because I had a free alum voucher for the fee and I literally had nothing to lose. Nothing about my life would be the way it is now if God hadn’t literally handed me a free application to say, “Kellie. Go here. Please just listen, would you?"
So, what have you already written off in your life that maybe God wants you to give a chance? Church? A job? A relationship?
From Acts 2:
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.