But first, the bad news.
For years, I sat beside him in church staff meetings, served alongside him in church services, prayed with him, knew his family--wife and four beautiful sons. Turns out there was a whole lot more going on in his life than ministry--he also went after young girls. How could this be? He was the trusted, kindly pastor of a good-sized family church in my Southern California town!
One of the big complaints non-believers have about Church is well founded: hypocrisy. Yes, it is true. The church has its share of hypocrites--those who profess one thing and do another.
And then there is the most common remark I hear when folks want nothing to do with Church--“I’ve had it with organized religion.” While I know in part what they mean, it is an ignorant comment. It is not the ‘organized’ part that has disillusioned them, it is something else. So when a person tells me this on an airplane, or in a taxi, or at the gym, I ask the next question: “what do you mean by ‘organized’?” It is not the organization of the thing that is bad; after all, we would not want to work out at a gym that lacked organization or attend a school that was in chaos, right? No it is not that the church is organized that is our problem, but something else.
That something else includes other objections like ‘the church is just a business--they are always asking for my money’. Okay, but same thing - every entity requires financial support to operate, right? So it is not the collection of money, but the false auspices for taking such moneys or the gross appropriation of that money/lining someone’s pocket in such a way that materialism becomes more important than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes ‘organized religion’ means rules that are not godly or good, the exclusion of people - seen in bigotry, misogyny, favoritism, ageism. People are flawed.
I get it. I have been terribly hurt by ‘the Church’ . . . but, that does not change who God is or his heart for his children.
It is God’s plan that we honor Him by keeping the Sabbath
There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the Lord. Leviticus 23.3
and that we gather to worship in his name--
to hear the Word of God preached and to sing praises to His name,
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10.17
to share in the Lord’s Supper (this do in remembrance of Me),
“Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
1 Corinthians 11.24
encouraging one another until Jesus returns.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5.11
And here is the great news - most of us have the means to travel to a church near us where these things take place: gathering to listen to the preaching of God’s Word, bowing our knees in prayer and lifting our hearts and voices to praise the name above all names, and doing so alongside others who are obeying God by doing the same. While there is no perfect church, to be sure, there is one where you will fit.
Almost a year ago, I moved to North Carolina and began the search for the church where I fit. Moving into Southern Baptist territory, I tried those churches near me first. I did not fit. Why? There is no place for a woman who ‘pastors’. Am I looking to pastor a church? No, Sir. However, in 2008, a local businessman contacted me because he and his business partner wanted their international business to ‘count for more than the bottom line’; they wanted to honor God through their business. How could they do such a thing?
In all candor and openness, I asked ‘Well, could you tell me about your church involvement… your personal prayer life… your Bible study?’ In honesty, he indicated he would like to have more of all of that but was constantly on airplanes and did not even know how to go about such things. Hmmm, what to do? On that day we prayed for God’s wisdom and direction--that He would make it clear how the owners of the company could honor Him in these ways, thereby making their business count for Him.
I prayed about it on my own as well. Was there something I was meant to do to facilitate God’s work in their personal and business lives? Then I had a really basic idea--take Scripture, write an inspirational application and send it by email to the pair; that way they could access it, no matter where they were in the world. They loved the idea. So I started in the book of James in July, 2008. Then we started meeting weekly to discuss the Scripture and pray for God’s guidance in the company. I became their corporate pastor - a pastor is a servant shepherd who leads and guides others to grow in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here we are, February of 2022, and I am still serving in that role. There is no denying what God has done as a result of what took place all those years ago. I am a woman shepherding these corporate brothers of mine still, (yes, brothers--men). Can I tell you there has never been an ounce of impropriety or innuendo? It has been a pure endeavor that only God could have wrought. That said, choosing a church for me means I know that their doctrine supports such a thing--indeed, that my new pastor would respect what God has done and not condemn me because I am a woman. In seeking a new church to be a part of, I had to fit. And I have. But hear me - it took persistence and diligence - and a conviction that being a worshipping participant in a local church is good, godly and vital, and an act of obedience.
I pray that you too will not miss out--get into a community who loves and worships God - a place where you can invite people and also serve. Amen.
Testimony - great song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NyH9mDYECk