On a beautiful Spring Sunday in Paradise we visited another local church in our community. Even still, Gail said what we both feel. "I really just want to go to our church". But we're taking advantage of the sabbatical to find out what other churches are doing to reach and teach our community.
What we found was a church gathering we both enjoyed very much. The Church of the OBX meets at the YMCA in the gym - which is a challenge - and has done just about everything they can to transform a gymnasium into a house of worship. It looked great.
The band played some mellow contemporary music and was super. I enjoyed singing the songs because they were familiar to me. Familiar means I can better relate to their message and consequently have a deeper worship experience than if I've never heard them before.
The pastor (a friend of mine) brought a message on the post-resurrection focus of the church; a timely message since last Sunday was Easter. He was easy to follow and well prepared. The challenge to his church was for them to do the same things that the first church did in Acts 1-2. It was great to see the congregation immediately start taking down their chairs at the service's conclusion - everybody was doing something.
Starting around 10:00 (( say "around" because like last week's church they didn't start as advertised) it was over at 11:15. Gail said, "Let's go to NHC (our second gathering begins at 11:00 and we were just 2 miles away) and here Tom tell his story". So we did. And it was a good story!
Our elders are teaching a series in which each of them takes a Sunday to tell his own personal faith story. Doing so is accomplishing several positive outcomes. First, it allows the church to get to know them better. These guys are not normally up front teaching Sunday to Sunday like me, and my Sabbatical has given them a couple Sundays each to teach. That also reinforces our belief and practice that our elders are pastors. Second, their stories relate to the congregation. We often learn more and better from our failures and tests. These guys are transparently sharing those experiences.
I'm not sure where we'll go next Sunday, but I'm looking forward to it.