Untraditional Church: How we got here.
I have been thinking that I should post on this subject for a while but am leery of making someone else defensive of where God has them.
So before I explain let me say this--What God has for us is NOT exactly the same as what God has for someone else. I don’t know what His plan is for you other than that He wants you to love Him as He loved you and wants to grow you into the very best person in Him that you can be. I am comforted to know that He has called others to this same place and that we are not alone in this. I also recognize that just as He calls some to keep their kids in public or private school, He calls some to stay in the traditional church institution. At this point I think I will be spending Sundays explaining how we got here, what we do, and why–both from the personal view point and the scriptural. To start I want to explain how we got here and where we come from. It is a bit of a long story so grab yourself some coffee and make yourself comfortable.
I grew up attending a Roman Catholic church each and every Sunday–it was a sin not to unless the roads were too horribly dangerous (like 3 feet of snow or ice covered roads) or someone was deathly ill or very contagious. The year before I graduated college God started really working on my heart. After a year of nightly Bible reading and praying I came to my fiance one week before our wedding and told him that God had called me to be baptized in the Baptist church he attended. That was one of the hardest decisions of my life. A few months later I was baptized and became a regular member of that church, attending weekly whether my new husband went or not. Due to health issues and other things it was more often not. To me it was still a sin not to be in church on Sunday and I made that known to him, becoming quite the nagging little wife.
Eventually due to moves and issues within the church we spent the next 6 years attending several different Christian and Missionary Alliance church. We weren’t church hoppers. In fact, when we were in one place we stayed there but we did move a bit and I had little ones (three– two years apart each) that I was trying to get to church each week, often on my own. It was a rough time and with my little ones’ food allergies and other issues it was hard to stick them in a classroom though I tried–I needed the break.
For a while we attended a church nearby which was much easier for me to get to with the three kids in tow and then due to the kids allergies to the basement where the classes were held and my own conviction that God intended my children to be with me in church instead of in a classroom and that they needed training before we tried it we decided to home church for a time–this after He worked on me about the whole “not attending church is a sin” thing.
It started with “playing church” and teaching them to sit still and being quiet for a minute, then two, then working up to 10 and 15 minutes. During that time I would read to them from their little kids Bible or devotional and we would sing a song or two. After they got used to it the service began to take shape. No, it was not a traditional service but we had a time of praying and singing then Bible reading and discussion (which is usually how my kids learn, especially if I use visual aids or have them act something out.) I found all kinds of resources online for teaching children the Bible and used them until I found that the kids had outgrown the basic stuff that most people think that children can comprehend of the Bible. In other words all three were spiritually more mature than what the materials taught. I began to read straight from the Bible and we would discuss what I read. Their comprehension of God’s Word amazed me. Eventually my husband began to sit in while I taught the lesson.
We kept it up for over a year when suddenly we felt that it was time to test what they had learned. We went back to the original CMA church we had attended and tried it out. The teaching was scriptural and if we attended the first service (8 am) it wasn’t crowded. We were so happy with the church that we joined and the girls finally did what they desperately wanted to do–get baptised. The kids wanted to go to classes so I would take the kids to service in the morning (the kids were 4, 6, and 8) then they would go to children’s church and Sunday school (they knew the stuff being taught but wanted to be with their friends) and we would go home. When Shamus would go with us we just went to service–he doesn’t do the Sunday School classes due to his asthma and his allergy to animals and people with animals.
At this point I was very involved in the church and activities there. The kids attended AWANA and Pioneer Girls and I helped run the woman’s ministry, attending both in the morning and evenings on Tuesdays. We also attended evening services on Sunday nights because those were usually more interesting and personal. Yes you read that right–we were at the church twice on Sundays–from 8 am to 12 then from 6 to 7, Monday nights from 6:15 to 8:15, Tuesdays from 9-2 (the homeschoolers had playgroup at the church after women’s ministry) and from 7-9, Wednesdays from 6 till 8. Yup, I spent 16 hours a week at the church–which was a 20 minute drive away. So add in all the driving back and forth and getting kids in and out of the car–the institutional church was eating up about 19 hours of my week. And I knew plenty of people who spent more time there and was often made to feel guilty for not doing more–in fact the children’s ministry leader often called me asking me to sub or take over a class because I had a teacher’s degree specializing in Special Ed. Each time someone would ask me to help with something else I would pray about it and often felt compelled to say no, which upset quite a few people.
What we also found was that all these things separated our family instead of drawing us together. Other than the one hour church service on Sunday mornings, everything else was actually undermining our family and family relationships. My kids were picking up all kinds of negative behaviors in their classrooms, which is one of the things we had tried to avoid by homeschooling. The girls’ learning disabilities were also frustrating them as they tried to cope in a traditional classroom. They wanted to go but often came home angry and frustrated because of situations in the classrooms, and Issac, well he didn’t want to go in the first place. He hated it and wanted nothing to do with it–so that more often than not he would stay with me while the girls attended AWANA and other things.
So what happened?
First Rachel got sick. Due to the nature of her sickness and the time spent running back and forth to the doctors an hour away we dropped out of most of the programs. She tired easily while on the medication and needed to stay away from certain triggers when we discovered the SJS and took her off the meds. Then I messed my knee up. I spent 3 months unable to drive and limping around with a knee brace on. Since we were in the opposite direction from the church compared to most of the families I knew I only made it occasionally when a friend would go out of her way to pick me up. The combination of these two factors had us having church at home again with one major change. My husband took over the teaching.
It was amazing. That small change made all the difference in our little home church. Suddenly it wasn’t just the kids growing in leaps and bounds but also my husband and I. God was blessing this. We were praying and researching scripture regarding the church and what a church service should look like and after a time we had a revelation. At the same time that a variety of outside factors helped us decide to permanently quit attending our mega church and we were considering a much smaller church where other homeschooling friends from the original church were now attending God began to teach us what church was. Finally that got nixed. Both of us, not just one of us, but both of us felt convicted over and over that home is where He wants us.
Is this where we will stay? I don’t know. This is where He has us right now and He has given us plenty of evidence that this is where He wants us. He would have to make it very clear that He wants us to go someplace else if that was what He wanted.
Heather, I totally agree that God calls us all to different churches and different kinds of churches. Certainly the first churches were home churches anyhow!
Recently, some people in our church vocalized that they thought our church was more special than other churches (& therefore we should try not to be like them) and that comment really bothered me. I feel that God has installed all types and denominations of churches with all kinds of backgrounds, and who are we to say we are better.
Thanks for sharing your journey. I think I knew bits and pieces of it, but it is nice to have it all in one post.
Its interesting how much it has changed for you in just the past year.
God bless you Heather! it was really neat to read a bit of your journey and all that you and your family have walked through. May we all always go where He leads us. Shalom!
I know the feeling of following where God leads. The uncertainty and the knowledge of being right all rolled into one. I came so undone with traditional church two years ago and have yet to return. How I live my life is how I honor God.
Heather, THANK YOU for sharing your story, I know it will be a blessing to many people. We’ve spent the past almost-year homechurching, after a difficult split with our church. We spent several Sundays going to another church that I really hoped to make our new church home, but too many obstacles presented themselves, notably that the new church is 45 minutes away, and my husband didn’t want to go there. Someday, I’ll have to write about our experience, but for now I can’t, at least not on my blog, because too many people from the church we left read it, and while that doesn’t bother me, it bothers my husband.
But in the meantime, we are learning SO much, and the children certainly learn so much more with Mom and Dad leading “church” than they did in Sunday School – although they do miss going to see their friends and getting…candy. 🙂
Blessings to you – !
I really appreciate your posting this. Sometimes I struggle with the guilt of not being in church even though I know my children are learning so much more (and so much more deeply) at home. Thanks for this boost to my spiritual confidence.
I understand, and I relate!
We are in a church right now, because we believe that to be where God would have us be.
We home churched for several months this fall and winter…and I loved it. It IS deeper, in many ways.
So….I won’t say that I’m envious of you – for I need to be content where God has us. But I am happy for you, and look forward to reading more.
Surfed over fomr BiPolar Diaries….Interesting post. It does seem that the Lord has led you to meet together in this way. He often brings us out before He can bring us in. Personally I beleive that the current means of having “church” in America is broken and cannot be fixed. It isn’t what He has in mind at all. Thank God He is bigger.
i had saved this to read when i had more time … then forgot … then danielle had it up … so i remembered … and now got to read … it was good to read it all together rather than hearing about bits here and there.
i really need to make an effort to do something regularly … we are all three missing out doing nothing.
I have to say that the mornings that it would create havoc to get all four children up and out of the house by 10:15, I don’t feel guilty. We have the greatest Bible lesson (led by the children) and dh gets to be a part of it. It is a treat for us.