While David the kids were in kids church Sunday I went to Sojourn’s “big church.” It was the first time in … ever? that I’ve gone to a new church, for the first time, all by myself. That, in itself, was liberating.
The church is small — 40 or 50 people in worship, I guess. It meets in a brewery, which initially the smell got to me, but I kinda got over that after a while. I’ve had strong opinions in the past about holding church in a place that makes alcohol, and right now I’m not sure where I stand on that. I don’t know that I think it’s “wrong” — I believe like the pastor said Sunday that church is not the place but the people. The place should be conducive to worship, and it turns out a brewery can be. But I don’t think it could be for everyone, no more than than the megachurch or the small country church could be for everyone either.
Praise and worship to music is something I look forward to each week. At my own church the last year or two, I’ve really tried to focus on worshipping during worship and not just singing so I close my eyes when I sing. So at Sojourn, while singing and praising, I closed my eyes and said to myself, as I do often in corporate praise time, “just me and You” to really get my focus where I want it to be. I need help blocking out the distractions of the people around me, the screens, the leaders, my own wandering thoughts even, and so on. So I closed my eyes and instantaneously in that moment I was in His presence, the same He that is there when I zero in “just me and You” from the pew in Meridianville. And that? That was special. I have experienced God in worship deeper and more meaningfully than ever before in the last few years, at Flint River, and while I don’t credit that solely with Flint River, being involved there has been good for me in that respect. So it was awesome to enter into His gates from a portal far, far away from where I usually go. You are God Alone.
The sermon was for me. And it could’ve been for other people too, but it wasn’t just a generic “good to know that” kinda lesson. There was specific application for me. It was on money and stewardship, which argh, no one likes the church to preach to them about money because that just means they need some, right? Money and stewardship, though, are things people struggle with — things I struggle with — and things people need to hear about it.
As I wrote earlier this year for the Refresh project, that tithing is something I’m trying to figure out. I’ve always been taught to tithe, yet tithing is an Old Testament command. We’re now under the new post-Christ covenant, and tithing as it was required in the Old Testament isn’t in the New Testament. And goodness, what a difficult subject. Great cases can (and are) made for either way. So what I’ve been doing the the last 7 months since this to-tithe or not-to-tithe became an issue for me, is I’ve made it a personal decision between me and God, which both schools of thought I think can agree it should be. Note: My question is not a to-give or not-to-give issue. It is specifically related to tithe, that is a required ten percent.
So last April, I committed to giving a certain amount each week that I was at my church, and I did. And I did so on faith and I did so more cheerfully than other times in my life when I tithed. Doing so cheerfully is what the New Testament (Paul) teaches.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” II Cor. 9:6
It wasn’t 10 percent but it was what I felt God was asking me to give and I committed to Him to give it and I was blessed as a result of my giving. I was blessed by just being happy about giving.
So entering the new year, I had already begin to ponder whether I was to keep doing the same thing, more, less, what? And starting my first Sunday of the new year at a church that was not my own was a big part of my 2011 commitment. “$XX every Sunday no matter where I am” is the commitment I made this year, that I felt like God was asking me to make. Other commitments — be a better steward at spending, keep up with spending and control limit; eat at home more, cheaper and healthier; manage my checkbook (“oh, but where do I start?” I wrote out beside that one; it’s a mess, but I’m gonna figure it out).
Umm, other Sojourn thoughts? The music wasn’t as refined as my big church, but it worked for them, it worked for that gathering, and as testified above it was able to used for worship, which is the point. The people? I spoke with only two people while I was there: Wendy, David’s friend and part of the improv troupe, and the woman sitting one chair over from me during the portion of the service where you shake hands with people around you. I tweeted, “First Sunday in 2011 and I’m at church in a brewery. This is a sign, the Lord has big things instore for me this year,” and Wendy replied, “yes he does, praying for you now,” which was so encouraging and made me feel more welcome. Thanks Wendy!
I was tempted to judge the gathering based on their dress or the overabundance of people wearing cool glasses or unusual hair and beard styles, but why? People with cool glasses and long beards and fashionable blue jeans are loved by God the same as me. The pastor called someone “bro” and preacher talked a little California surfer-dude, but that’s nothing too. It’s just different. How boring the world would be if everyone were like me. I am thankful for diversity. I am thankful that God has been doing a work in me that made it possible for me to worship at Sojourn. David can tell you, a few years ago when he first visited there, I was pretty adamantly anti- church in a brewery. I was anti- church in a home and anti- church by a pool. Even when I sat down to write this post I found myself immediately drawn to say what the music wasn’t, what the people weren’t. But even as I’ve written this, He was worked showing me that these are His people too and where two or more are gathered in His name there He is. Even in a brewery.