Wide is the Gate

After much more of a response to my last entry than I anticipated, I found myself wanting to write back to every person individually, and to clarify some things even more. The trouble is, as I started writing out a reply, I realized it was getting pretty ridiculously long – and that would have been obnoxious. So, I decided it would be fitting to write a different entry more relating to the topics raised in everyone’s responses.

To be honest, I had never heard of Adrian Rogers, Charles Stanley, David Jeremiah or John MacArthur, but I did look them up shortly after the suggestion that I should study their teachings before I choose a church. After reading up on them, I can say that I disagree with some of their theology, especially where spiritual gifts are concerned as I believe they are such an important part in our Christian lives and in what God has in store for His people. Whether you believe spiritual gifts are for now or not, or whether you believe only some are given spiritual gifts, scripture is very clear that there is a place for these gifts in the church, and Paul also states that he wishes we all spoke in tongues like he did. Personal study of scripture and personal prayer rather than what someone else believes or says should always be the source of our beliefs on all matters. Advice and opinions through fellowship with others is absolutely necessary and good, but we should never just “take someones word for it”, especially in matters of faith.

Then there’s the matter of what some call “weird churches”. Of course, any church can be “weird” if God is not being consulted and if the pastor is not sure how to lead his flock. Each congregation is different – whether it’s an advent christian church and a nondenominational one or two baptist churches side by side. Things will be run differently, God will move differently, and services and fellowship will be conducted differently. Problems arise in every church and the “weirdness” can manifest in many ways in every church because the congregation is made up of people who will make mistakes on their journey to being who the Lord has called them to be – the leadership and pastor included.

My father is an Advent Christian pastor and has pastored in Illinois, Florida, North Carolina, Maine and now New Hampshire. All of the congregations were very different though they were in the same denomination. While in college, I attended a nondenominational church in Boston and then a branch-off of a Nazarene church in Quincy. Over my summers when working with the Appalachian Advent Christian Summer Ministries, I’ve attended Vineyard churches vastly different from one another and some of the loudest, happiest southern baptist congregations you’ve ever seen.

I’ve also been in my fair share of churches that are not doing well and that are full of “weirdness”. However, I always check myself to see what the weirdness is – is it that I am uncomfortable because I have not seen God move in the way the people in this congregation feel him move or because I don’t like it? Is it that they are too loud or too mobile? Those reasons are not good enough reasons for me to move on and reject that church as a possible home. I will always ask God and myself what it is that makes me feel weird, and if it is the lack of His presence or the misuse of His name or Word, then I will not return to that church. But if it is simply because I don’t like how things are working or because I feel uncomfortable, I need to further examine why I am made uncomfortable and what the Bible has to say about the things that are taking place as well as pray for what God sees.

A couple years ago, I first heard someone mention the importance of asking for a spirit of discernment from God – the gift and ability to discern what is good and of God and what is not of God. I continue to pray for this spirit and its strengthening in all my choices and decisions as well as in the situations (and, in this case, congregations) I may find myself in that I may make the right decision.

Another friend of mine was preaching at a service in Keene a few weeks ago on how often some people will enter in only so far and sit at the gate of God’s blessings and the life He has planned for them. Wide is the gate and narrow the path, and it is so important to ensure that I don’t just go somewhere because I am comfortable and it’s what all other believers are doing. I don’t just want to make it to the gate of God’s blessings for my life as a Christian, for while becoming a Christian brings salvation, God offers so much more beyond that and through the gate that I want to get into. I don’t just want to stand in the gateway because it’s comfortable – I want to walk down that narrow path.

I’m not going to lie, it’s been a very hard journey walking down that narrow path, especially this past year. God never said that walking down the paths He has created for us would be easy. He came to give us life more abundant. One of my favorite comedians growing up was Mark Lowry. I remember my family and I watching his videos over and over – Ken Davis’ videos as well. One in particular comes to mind where he’s talking about life with Christ and how it’s not supposed to be easy. As he’s talking about life, he’s moving his hand up and down in a wave pattern showing how in every life there are highs and lows. And then as he talks about the Christian life in which God says He has come to give us life more abundant, the waves become bigger. Higher highs and lower lows. I’m not saying at all that we have a right to be sad or depressed or anything – we have something on our side that most people don’t – GOD. And higher highs with Him are absolutely and completely incredible and life changing. Getting to those highs may bring us through extremely difficult times, but we can rejoice knowing that we are growing and learning and that God has a plan.

That’s all that I hold on to as everything just seems ridiculously hard for me. And no, I’m not saying my life is hard. I have a great job that brings in money to cover all my expenses, I’m paying off all my debts and bills, I have a wonderful apartment with great roommates, I have such a blessing of a man in my life that sometimes I think God’s kidding me with how great he is, my family is absolutely phenomenal and they’re all so talented and blessed by God, I have amazing friends some of which I see often and others of which I wish I could see more than once every few years. The only struggle in my life right now is to know God more, figure out His will in my life, figure out what He has to say about the everyday doings in my life and to know in my heart that His promises ARE real and that I can do all things through Him – funny how that can be such a struggle sometimes. : )

I think I’ve gone a bit on a tangent, but I hope this was able to touch on the responses I received in emails and in comments. This next Sunday, I’m planning on going to Crossway Christian Church where I just found out some friends have started attending. : ) Derek is also coming with me for the day and we’re going to have lunch after with them in their new apartment (they’ve been there for a while, but we haven’t seen it yet). Then on the 24th I’m planning to attend Calvary Chapel where I discovered I also know someone – Mary. : ) I still haven’t decided if I am going to attend all the churches before making a decision or if I am just going to attend one at a time until I find one that seems right. We’ll see how God directs. I hope your weekends were as wonderful and gorgeous as mine!

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2 Comments to “Wide is the Gate”

  1. Where did you attend today? Or is this plan being set in motion next Sunday?

    • Oh wait. I’m slightly ridiculous… Forgot you were home. Pretty sure I know where you went to church. Interesting Pastor there. His wife is a little…interesting as well. Don’t know about the kids. 😛

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