I am privileged to have been raised in the church my whole life. Recently, I’ve become aware how much each church I have attended over the years has brought different aspects of my character to light and shaped who I am today. What an incredible journey!
I was raised in what I will refer to as ‘The Temple’: A church (or several, in reality) rich in history that thrived on liturgy and theology. It taught me the importance of tradition (though I certainly didn’t value this as a child or even as a teen). I sang the hymns and folk songs of those generations before me. I witnessed transitions into more contemporary worship. I was taught how to memorise the Scriptures, how to read The Bible in context, and in my teenage years, how to study The Word for myself. I loved learning, memorising and studying.
In my young adult years, I had the opportunity to serve in a variety of ministry teams – Worship and the Creative Arts, Youth ministry and later Young Adult Leadership. This time taught me to love the word of God. I was wide-eyed, keen to learn and gained a very thorough understanding of The Bible. I also had a positive view of the church and how it can function as God intended it. I imagine Jesus’ time as a child in the temple to be quite similar - sitting and listening to those older and wiser men and women, much like I did, memorising the Word of God. While these formative years were a steep learning curve for me, they were definitely an incredible foundation in what was to be an amazing journey with my God. It was normal for church gatherings and meetings to happen in my home. Mum and Dad modelled life in ministry to me from the very beginning – both as volunteers and in varying capacities on staff. Having a passion for and what is now a doctorate in theology, my dad made it a priority to ensure I knew the word of God and understood it, and it’s one of my favourite things to discuss with him as an adult.
When I met and married my husband, a fellow youth leader and friend, we discovered a new model of church. This church started in a home, much like those in the New Testament. The small group grew and moved into a hired facility, one of its guiding principles to use the church funds provided by its members not to pay the staff or for the maintenance of church ministries and property, but to give to those in need in our local and global neighbourhood. We experienced family and community. We learned to serve. We learned to question. We learned about the brokenness of our lives as a result of sin and its consequences. We learned that we were not just breaking God’s laws, that I had memorised so well and had both sustained and challenged me in my former years, but that perhaps more significantly, we were breaking God’s heart. We experienced the kind of teaching that nourished and encouraged growth in our souls, the kind that brought deep transformation. I don’t doubt this could have happened had we stayed where we were. If God is going to have His way in me, He will do it no matter where I am ‘churching’. But this time was precious. With more tumultuous life experiences during our early married life - my husband’s mental health and our ongoing battle with infertility - we delved into the Psalms and experienced the lamenting in The Bible for real. One message that sticks out in my mind was about the depth of anguish King David writes about in Psalm 13.
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
This message changed my thinking and overwhelmed me with the grace and goodness of God. This season was characterised by tears, and later joy, as our much awaited and longingly prayed for baby boy arrived. Along with our own full immersion baptisms, he was dedicated in the very precious church family who had prayed him into existence. When we examined the thought that, ‘weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning'[Ps 30:5] and 'his mercies are new every morning' [Lam 3], we pondered the idea that there may have been quite some time between the pain and seeming absence of God that David experienced in the first 4 verses, and the relief he expresses as he sees the light at the end of the tunnel in verses 5 and 6. This was of great comfort to me:
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
As this season drew to a close and our commitment and service to Him in the key leadership team hit its peak, we found ourselves looking for a new pastor. One who could bring the same depth of knowledge and transparency we had experienced and valued. At this time we couldn’t find an appropriate person to appoint, and therefore we closed the door on that treasured chapter and began the process of finding a new spiritual home. We prayed, and engaged with others at each church we visited, until we were quite literally welcomed home. For us, our spiritual home was somewhere we could grow as a family, where our children would love coming to the house of God. We spent the first year on ‘sabbatical’ soaking in the love of God and his people, but made sure we quickly found our place to have an influence for the Kingdom. These first few years we truly encountered the Acts church, like a breath of fresh air. The people are passionate about living the word of God. All are welcome and can experience the tangible presence of God and His grace. The Spirit of God is seen and heard. These people do life with us in the way, I believe, God intends. They devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to community, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. They pray in tongues, fast and pray for us regularly. We are filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers meet together and have things in common. They joyfully give to anyone who has need. Nothing is too much for them. Just as I read in Acts 2. It’s not perfect. But I consider it an honour to be part of something so special.
I have no way of knowing if I had stayed in the church of my childhood, whether God would have still made a way to show me the many aspects of His great character and his church. I am grateful for the opportunities each season has brought me. And treasure many of the relationships we have built up and sown into over the years. I love the church: The global church - The kingdom of God in its various forms. Our God may be diverse, but Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. [Hebrews 13:8] And I marvel at the work of His hands and His people, as we seek to encourage the cause of the local church and share the good news so the rest of the world can ‘taste and see that the Lord is God.’[Ps 34:8] For I have no doubt that his ‘goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’ [Ps 23:6] Maybe not this house, but we will flourish where we are planted, and will continue to serve Him with joy forever.
I'm wife to my creative, inspiring man, Bradley, and mama to two little superheroes. I mostly stay at home being mama and homemaker, but am also privileged to teach Primary students in a local school Part Time.