Friday, March 13, 2009

Church Experiences 101

I grew up under the leadership of Pastor Robert A. Culp.  I spent my Sunday School years, Vacation Bible School Seasons, Easter Pageants and Youth Conventions all affiliated with Church of God and the collective members of my family.  In my life, I have had many other relationships with churches since that time.  Watch care while I was in Undergrad, searching for a new church home when we relocated, and once again in our new state.  That process has made me incredibly thankful for all of the lessons I have learned based on the congregations we have been a part of. 

When I think about First Church of God in Toledo, I think about all of the things I mentioned, cell groups and personal connectivity.  When I had my first child I didn't have a representative from the church come - our Senior Pastor showed up to pray with us and extend his wishes to our family.  I will forever remember that kindness and standing at the altar dedicating our first child.  There was nothing pre-made, pre-done or prescribed about the experience.  I smile just thinking about the legacy of a "church home." 

Yet, like all children - I grew up and had to find the best church home as we relocated.  There are so many differences that come to mind - but they build on the foundation that we established in Toooooooleeeeeedo.  Nowadays, I speak to my previous cell group member daily and she's one of my closest friends.  Those days of leadership manuals, cell groups, personal accountability in ministry and outreach have all resulted in a better understanding of the early church - but maybe equally important, God's love made visible in relationship. 

So I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled on a clip about thankfulness from my previous Pastor.  I smiled with warm thoughts of my growing up years.  I accepted Christ as a member of my first church and became increasingly discerning about the quality of teaching, spiritual growth and a desire for ministry made visible.  I remember my aunt preparing for Sunday School class every week, my grandmother's unyielding commitment to tithing and my realization that ministry should reflect the best talents and abilities of God's people - in both our words and deeds. 

I'm thankful tonight for those early influences, and thankful that my Pastor helped me shape a growing and evolving vision for my personal walk with God. I am thankful for ministries like Word of Faith International Christian Center and New Horizons Church, because our growth continues because of them.   As a ministry leader now, I understand just how long lasting those first and early experiences can be.  A message of thanksgiving and gratitude indeed: 

Pastor Culp Thanksgiving 2007.wmv

Looking for a church home today? Try New Horizons Church if you are in the Indianapolis Area, where Pastor Eric Wiggins is Pastor.  New Horizons Church might be the place for you - Where Christ is the Way and the Word is Clear. 

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