The goal of this blog series is to motivate people to find redemption in Christ and to believe in the local church again.
*Key names have been changed for privacy purposes. This post is rated R (if you are a teen, please read with a parent or guardian)
Dating Frank, I got a glimpse into a world many didn't see - the Pastor and his daily home life. The Smiths were the first Christian family I had been close to, so I was intrigued by them.
Mrs. Smith took pride in extravagant Sunday meals and would eat in community with other church families. She worked hard to prepare a feast and to listen to people who sat at her table. Prayers before meals and talk of heartache, dreams and passions would follow. More often than not, the buzzing of the telephone would put the vulnerability on hold.
The phone rang at all hours of the night at their house. On the other end were people battling addictions or facing deep tragedies. Being listed as a Pastor in the phone book meant strangers often called in desperation. People were seeking answers and needing counsel, prayer and support. Pastor Smith went out of his way to invest in the unseen on the other end of the line.
One Sunday after dinner, Frank and I took solitude in the shade as the sun peered through the trees. Being in the same state together was a rarity that only summer could bring. Frank was home from bible college and interning at his dad's church. We spent the days catching up on dates, helping out the youth group and dreaming about our future.
“I’m preaching a sermon at youth group on Wednesday."
"What's it about?" I asked.
"Being free from shame and sin. I’ll bring a boat on stage and cast things off the boat. It’s going to be epic!” Frank proclaimed as he strummed his guitar in the background.
To this day, I remember that sermon and the impact it had on those kids.
There was nothing he wanted more than to be a youth pastor and invest in the younger generation. I wasn't sure what God's plan was, but we both walked in confidence knowing that we were together for a reason. It seemed my life-long dream of working in Hollywood was slowly fading to black.
“I’ll teach you this card game my family likes to play. Go get some playing cards,” I said as I tossed my magazine aside.
Following him inside Frank opened a drawer in the kitchen and rummaged around.
“My parent’s got rid of all the cards because we don’t gamble.” He shuffled through bills and other odds and ends looking for some hidden cards in the back. On top of all the junk lay a marble colored glass pipe.
“Ohhh ... A member in the church asked my dad to hold onto their weed pipe,” Frank replied as if that was their normal.
Pastor had kept this man's addiction safely confined to the junk drawer.
A church is sacred ground where people go to encounter a Holy God and in the process find identity. If you study through Acts in the Bible you'll see the birth of the first church, the Gospel being spread and people empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Frank's dad, was a great communicator and valued the power of the Holy Spirit. He was forward thinking in his ministry and embraced the arts as a powerful tool in a church service. The church he lead, made a tangible impact in the community through loving people like Jesus did. It was the first time I had witnessed the power of the church, and it wasn't my last.
Within my circle of friends and working with churches across the nation, I have seen God use the Church in remarkable ways:
- God-given words have been spoken over people that have made them feel known
- Sermons have equipped people to live a life for Christ
- People have been miraculously healed from diseases during church services
- The church has provided Earthquake relief in Haiti and partnered with Orphanages in other countries
- The church has empowered victims of abuse and has championed people into their God-given dreams
- Prayer nights at church have brought freedom and built faith
- The list is endless and are all radical expressions of a God who transforms.
Frank grew up in the church and saw countless demonstrations of the power of prayer. One time he fearlessly lead a group of us downtown. Rocking his pleather pants and guitar, we followed him through the city praying. It was Pied Piper-esque but instead of rats, we were a group of twenty-year-old, white kids.
I felt radical enough even being there so I went with the silent prayer strategy. I decided I didn't want to look like a crazy person aimlessly walking the streets talking to herself.
Frank lifted his hand from his guitar as I was in the midst of analyzing my prayer life … I mean … praying, and pointed to a run down building. Through the broken windows I could see darkness hugging the walls.
“That’s a crack house and prostitutes live there,” he said boldly. He rallied our group and our prayers intensified as we saw a glimpse into the brokenness.
We were praying and believing God could change our city.
God had used Pastor Smith's church to reveal Himself to me. There were endless moments in that space that marked my spirit and shaped my identity. It was an encouraging place and for two or three hours a week, it felt like heaven invaded earth.
But who knew the people in this Holy place would cause hurt like hell?
Stay tuned for Part 3 next Monday.
Download the free colorful journal page to guide you in processing your thoughts.
Invite God into this process. Read through Acts 2:42-47
- Think about your local church or the church as a whole. Make a list of all the ways God has used it to shine His light into the world.
- How has God used the church to build or strengthen your own personal faith?
- Bonus: If you don’t know God and want to, ask Him to make Himself real to you.
I would LOVE to hear your response and comments below.