Visiting Churches

A New Beginning

The Third Time is the Charm

It’s Memorial Day weekend. Holidays are a bad time to visit a church. Seldom is it a representative experience. The wise decision would be to attend our own church, but I know we usually have the B team on holiday weekends.

We’ve already visited this church twice and know what to expect. With our goal to meet Sara, their new minister, returning this weekend makes sense.

My only concern is that showing up twice in one month will lead some to assume we plan to join their community. We must not raise false expectations.

The weather today is perfect, with the warm sun as a suitable partner for my mood. We arrive earlier than planned, perhaps a result of my anticipation.

A different greeter awaits us. He recognizes us but isn’t sure how many times we’ve been there. After chatting a bit, we stroll into the sanctuary but without him offering us nametags.

Many people come up to thank us for coming back. Not only do I recognize faces, but I also remember some names.

Aside from their friendly outreach, everything else about this church is the opposite of what I prefer, yet something draws me to them.

With this only being my third visit, I’m already comfortable here. It feels like home and these people, like family.

One person scurries over, horrified we weren’t offered nametags. She’s anxious to correct the oversight, and we let her.

This amuses me. Although nametags are important to them, they stumbled on this at all three of our visits.

The New Minister

Now, with our nametags in place and having talked to just about everyone present, we sit down. I spot Sara across the room. She’s exactly what I expect from her picture, yet at the same time, she’s not at all what I anticipate.

Enigma best describes my reaction. The robe she wears is out of place for one so young, yet she bears it well, carrying herself with poise.

Confident, she moves about, conferring with others or offering last minute instructions about the service—all to people more than twice her age.

Amid her solemn countenance, she retains a youthful charm. She exudes peace.

The service progresses like the other two. When Sara dismisses the children for their activities, they pause at the door. She blesses them, and they repeat a blessing back to us.

They leave, and she begins her message, “Contemporary Images for Christian Ministry: Servant Leaders in a Servant Church.”

She reads her message and is the best at it I’ve ever seen. Her delivery is smooth, with a deliberate slowness. Articulate, she enunciates each syllable of every word with unhurried care.

The words she chooses are mature and formal, with a dash of youth underlying them. Only in the few instances when she deviates from her script does her true essence emerge.

Based on Matthew 20:20-28, she teaches on service and serving. She frequently quotes others and weaves in a couple personal stories. While interesting, I have trouble connecting her message with the sermon title and Scripture reading.

However, I can’t fault her. On occasion I’ve had an article idea that doesn’t materialize as envisioned. Yet, with a deadline looming, my only choice is to make it the best I can and hope readers connect with it. Perhaps this is her dilemma.

Or perhaps, the missed connection resides with me.

“All we need to serve,” she says in conclusion, “is love generated by God.”

Questions to Contemplate

Before we leave, she offers two items for contemplation.

The first is to reflect on God as a server. What should we do to follow his example?

The second is to think about where we are serving now. If we’re not serving, where should we serve? If we are serving, is it the right place? Do we need to make changes? Do we need to serve more? How is God directing us?

These are all good questions. I’m not serving as much as I once did. Am I in the right place, doing the right things for the right reasons? Is God pleased with my service or disappointed?

I’m glad for the nudge to consider this. Her strong ending more than makes up for what I may have missed in the middle. She hit a home run.

As we mingle afterwards, it’s clear many people hope we’ll become part of their community. Someone invites my wife to join the choir. Someone tells us about a bus to take us to their upcoming biannual denomination meeting.

They invite us back next week for a special outdoor service. They tell us how they want to grow, and how they yearn to attract younger people. I wonder if they consider us young.

Eventually we talk with Sara, sharing about 52 Churches and our past visits to this church. Hers is a winsome personality, simultaneously mature yet youthful.

She’s a great fit for this congregation, and I see why they so anticipated her arrival.

We have an engaging conversation, and I’d like it to continue but feel we’re monopolizing her. Yet each time I try to wrap up our conversation, we find one more thing to talk about.

By the time we make it to our car, it’s 11:45. Assuming an hour-long service, we talked for another forty-five minutes, but it didn’t seem nearly that long.

It seldom does when we’re enjoying true community with other followers of Jesus. I’m so glad we came back a third time.


Attitude is everything. Is yours contagious?

My wife and I visited a different Christian Church every Sunday for a year. This is our story. Get your copy of 52 Churches today, available in ebook, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

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