Now, some of you may be saying I’m blaspheming and others may be excitedly cheering. However, before you come to any quick conclusions, listen to my story. Then tell me if you believe we heard God correctly or not.
A No-Brainer Decision
After getting married and settling back into our hometown, my husband and I automatically started attending the congregation we grew up attending. Why wouldn’t we? It seemed perfectly natural and logical. This congregation had a lot of things going for it:
- It was the closest location to our residence.
- We grew up in that congregation.
- My mom and dad attended that congregation.
- Since we grew up there, they were our spiritual family.
Before placing membership, we never stopped to pray and ask with which congregation we should be involved. Again, why would we? All the other pieces fit.
Fast forward eight years or so into our marriage: Our prayer life had totally changed. Changed so much so that instead of asking God to bless our ideas or to shut a door, we were asking Him to be our guide and show us what to do in all areas of life. He was turning everything upside-down or right-side up, depending on how we looked at it.
Stop Going to Church? What?
It was not even on our radar when God told us to leave our church family. What? Surely, we didn’t hear You correctly. This is our family–physically and spiritually. It doesn’t make any sense. This is where we’ve grown up. We’ve planted ourselves and our little children here. We are active here. Why? How does this make sense?
Honestly, my first reaction was not one of instant submission and acceptance. Instead, I argued with God and tried to convince myself and my husband that we must have heard God wrong. He would never want us to leave our church home, right? Isn’t that why He created the church, so we would each be part of His church family? Why would He now ask us to leave the church family He put us in? My interaction with God sounded a bit like this:
God, You’re surely making a mistake. This is one of those “test the spirit” moments that 1 John 4:1-3 talks about and since it doesn’t match up to my plan, I’m sure we are misunderstanding what You are saying.
But my tried and true, faithful husband gave me that “You’re being stubborn and digging your cute little heels in where they shouldn’t be dug” look. Did I also mention I’d been working on submission for many years? God was definitely using this as a time to mold and shape my heart to fit His will and not mine.
Heeding the Call to Obey
So after a year or more, I was convicted of something that I never realized played a part in our choice to stay at our home congregation. I realized I was putting my physical and spiritual family ahead of God. Matthew 10:37-38 kept ringing through my heart:
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
How could I not be convicted? I was putting my own comfort of being with “my family” over God! Wow!! That hit me like a ton of bricks. Finally, I was ready to accept that God did intend for us to leave this particular church family. For some reason, He wanted us somewhere else.
Where Should We Go to Church?
I’ve learned that when God asks you to trust Him, He doesn’t lay out His entire plan and then wait for your approval. No!
Instead, He says, “Follow Me. Trust Me. I’ll get you to where you need to go.” So without a game plan or a direction to follow, during the summer of 2012 we began visiting different congregations every other week. We went all over the city and to small towns up to forty minutes away. Where He would plant us, we didn’t know, but we knew we wanted to obey.
We landed in a place that neither of us had ever heard of before, a congregation born out of adversity and challenge. When the church began, they started out meeting at a park, where every Sunday they would pray for God’s guidance and praise Him for how He was working in their lives. Years later, when we came to them, they were located about twenty-five minutes from our house in a different city than where we lived. The first time we walked in. we knew that this might be the place for us. Through prayer over the next month, we realized this was the congregation where God wanted us to be involved.
Why did God tell us to find a new church?
We still didn’t know. We were still trying to obey while He revealed that plan. In the meantime, we got to know people and became involved in the congregation’s work.
The Blessings of Obedience
We have been there a little over 3.5 years. As we look back over our time there and the friendships and family we have made, we can see why he put us there…or at least partially why so far:
- We became adoptive parents of an awesome college student. This twenty-one-year-old student’s father tragically passed away from cancer last year. My husband also lost his father to cancer when he was twenty-one. We feel God put us at this congregation to be a support for this college student. Especially since my husband has been through such a similar situation, he can relate and encourage him more.
- Some amazing friendships have blossomed, stemming from our involvement with this congregation. Friendships that have even affected this blog. Before attending this congregation, I didn’t know Britnie, McKenzie, or Julie, but here we are sharing our lives together publicly because God sent our family to that congregation.
- Our children have had the opportunity to reach out and serve families in a poorer part of Oklahoma City through Cross & Crown Mission. Our family has been fortunate to meet many who are Christ’s hands and feet down there. We were even encouraged to bring our kids to serve with us instead of discouraged because of their young ages.
- We have been blessed to be part of a congregation that rejoices in praising our Lord, is led by the Holy Spirit, and serves without hesitation.
- My husband and I believe that God can restore any marriage if a couple is willing to let Him work. I think our willingness to stick our necks out, to get to know people and be intentionally prayerful and encouraging in their marriages, even when they are falling apart, is part of the why too.
I’m sure there are some that I’m missing or things I just don’t see yet, but one thing I know for sure. Without obedience we would have missed so many blessings.
A verse from one of my favorite hymns resonates one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned during this experience…
Trust and obey,
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus,
But to trust and obey.
Have you been trusting God in your life or have you been dismissing His calling?
Don’t miss the blessings that obedience brings. No matter how uncomfortable it might make you, the rewards are so much greater!
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The timing of this article- this is just what I needed to hear today. That was for me. Thank you.
God works in mysterious ways. Praying for whatever journey He is about to take you and your family on!
Very well written – I fully believe God has control and if He tells you to go to a different church, its for good reason. He doesn’t always make sense to us but in the end He IS faithful. Great story!!
Thank you for your kind words, Rene! And yes, I’ve learned that the best stories God could ever write are stories that we could never even imagine…..I mean who would think up that the King of Heaven would leave to be born a baby, walk the trials of this life so He could really understand all our burdens and sufferings, and then die to save us from ourselves!!! He is the best writer of All!
God is in control of our whole lives! 😀
Amen to that!!
Gulp. Our family is in a similar place with our church home–the place our girls have been attending since they were days old, the place my husband I met, the place we’ve been for 20 years. We are not sure, though, if it is the place we are supposed to stay. It is a very complicated situation, so we are seeking God’s wisdom and trying to listen for his voice. Thank you for sharing your perspective and story…stopping by from Christian Women Blogs on FB!
Thanks for stopping by and you are doing exactly what you should be doing – seeking God’s wisdom & guidance. It makes my heart do a joyful dance when I hear people letting God instead of their emotions lead them. It is so difficult to know what to do sometimes. The Bible story for my kids’ devo this afternoon was from Numbers 9:15-23: “15-16 The day The Dwelling was set up, the Cloud covered The Dwelling of the Tent of Testimony. From sunset until daybreak it was over The Dwelling. It looked like fire. It was like that all the… Read more »
I know that many have been blessed by your family coming to our church, including my own family!!
awe!! You’re so sweet! Thanks for your kind words. We have definitely been blessed by your family and many others too.
I feel like my circle of family just got bigger….and there is still a whole world out there to know and love!
What an interesting experience but not unfamiliar! I had to take a break from church myself back when I was extremely involved in the physical activities of church. I was the pastor’s admin assistant, and church became both work and a social event to me. I had to move away for a bit to be silent and reflect on my relationship with God. Trust and obey, indeed. Looking back, that really did heal my soul.
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Sometimes we do allow ourselves to get so busy that we don’t have time to listen to God. Glad you were able to step away and be still with God again!
It’s amazing how God can stretch us. Even in areas we don’t really want to be stretched in, areas we think we have covered just fine, thank you very much! I’ve been there too. 🙂 Kudos for you for being willing to listen and obey even when it doesn’t make sense at the time.
Thank you, Katie! It’s so true that if we truly give ourselves to God, he will stretch us in every area, even the ones that have already been stretched. I think it’s vital that we share our stretching stories with each other. These stories show God’s grace and patience in the midst of our confusion.
There are many, many seasons that God brings us through to teach us the lessons He wants us to learn. Sometimes it takes totally re-thinking how, when, and why we “do” church, and totally focus on religion out of relationship to make us understand that the relationship is the purpose – the worship, praise and following of Jesus Christ flows out of that.
Very true, Beth!
What a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing! Thanks for serving!
Thank you, Mikki! I appreciate your thoughtful comments.
[…] Venezuela and many other times when I decided to fight God’s will (did I mention I’m stubborn?), I realized […]
I love this because so many people don’t follow the Lord’s leading when it comes to attending the right church!
So glad that you are listening to the Holy Spirit, or you would have missed out on so much that He wanted for you! Going through the motions of what seems logical (staying at the previous church) was not God’s best for your family, and you were willing to step out in faith.
With this story, you challenge us to pray big, listen and obey when it’s hard, and wait and trust God to provide. Thank you for this!
I think it is great you are both so sensitive to God’s call. This is just the beginning of the Holy Spirit moving in your lives. Obedience always brings blessing and then more instructions.
Your faith is amazing! I can just imagine how difficult it must have been to change churches. I love that He just wants us to follow and trust him. Sounds so simple, but is so difficult to put into practice!