“Be open to everything and closed off to nothing.” One of my dearest friends shared these wise words with me recently. Ironically, I was able to nearly immediately put them into practice.
Last Sunday, I visited a church that a year ago I would’ve rejected. The denomination is one I would’ve classified as dull and dry. My home church is one with electric guitars and fog machines during worship; videos and skinny jeans adorn the messages. Conversely, the church I visited had pews, an organ and hymnals. Enough said.
When I walked in, I reminded myself of my friend’s words. I made a conscious decision to set aside my preconceived notions about what I might expect. I kept an open mind and opened my heart to receive whatever the Spirit might have to say to me.
Being raised in a Charismatic church (in the eighties, mind you), I was led to believe the Spirit of God chooses only to speak through interpretation of tongues and dramatic encounters of the rolling on the floor kind. Looking back, I don’t think I was taught to listen to the “still, small voice.” But rather, look for flashing neon lights of sorts.
This week, as I sat in the pew, listening to the teachings and singing along to the hymns (all this over the dull roar of restless children), I felt a peace that I can’t describe. Later, when I joined the women for a class, I was moved by the authenticity of the ladies and their desire to be the hands and feet of Christ in the community through whatever opportunities presented themselves. Isn’t that what the Gospel is truly about?
The services were simple and the people so kind. In fact, at a couple intermissions, I felt a bit like a rockstar. It was obvious that I was a visitor and rather than breeze past, people lined up to introduce themselves and offer to show me around. I had 3 people in a row offer to show me where my children would go for Sunday School. I was overwhelmed in all the best ways. I felt welcomed and wanted.
At the potluck following service, my children and I sat with a lovely family to enjoy the meal. While the children carried on in lively talks, the mother and I had the most engaging, authentic conversation. I think the last church potluck I attended was in elementary school. But it was wholesome and enriching. Why did we ever stop this tradition? When did we get so busy that Sunday services became an entertaining in-and-out event?
That sweet woman even invited me to join in on choir practice. Oh how glorious it was to sing in a choir! I didn’t feel like an outsider one bit. They were thrilled to have another alto and I was delighted to participate. The Christmas hymns with piano, organ and a cello resonated in beautiful harmonies. I almost giggled to myself at the thought of the drastic contrast to my normal Sunday digs.
I started out this Sunday, open to see God through another perspective. Admittedly, I was nervous initially, not knowing what to expect. However, I certainly did not expect to spend 5.5 hours at a “traditional” church, being ministered to through simple talks and hymns.
One thing I know, I felt loved and appreciated by people who would receive no benefit from loving a tattooed, single mom. It wasn’t just the sweet people who met me and enveloped me in kindness that Sunday. It was the Holy Ghost Himself. The light of Christ shown through that congregation in such an unexpected way. My children skipped to the car, begging to go back next week (did I mention we were there 5.5 hours?). I floated out of the doors, feeling a peace that surpasses understanding.
At the end of the day, we all worship the same God. Whether Charismatic, contemporary or traditional, we all follow the same Jesus. Rather than drawing lines and distinctions between the various denominational differences, we should appreciate the value in a lively service as well as the full sound of an organ. The Spirit of the Lord is present with those who desire to seek Him. As believers, we should unite over the commonalities. And as a follower of Christ, I encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone and worship where that “still, small voice” might be leading you.
“Be open to everything and closed off to nothing.”