(ROCKWALL, TX — July 9, 2019) The beautiful church on a wooded hillside is only two country miles down the road. We’ve quickly warmed to the friendly congregation and their down-to-earth pastor who’s over sixty, like us. My husband and I appreciate the traditional worship service, although we’re less fond of the song selections, which take us back a few years—maybe a few decades.
Our move to the country brought plenty of changes, as Jim and I expected after our big retirement adventure last year. Grocery stores are smaller. Gas stations don’t join price wars. Restaurants are scarce and feature fewer menu options than desired. Churches, however, appear everywhere—easy to spot by their classic steeples and stained-glass windows.
We had no concern about finding another church since our son and his wife lead worship for a congregation in the closest town. Strategically planted in the historic downtown five years ago, the church mainly consists of young families and singles who gravitate to the trendy area. We love the contemporary worship, and we appreciate the relevant, through-the-Bible preaching style of the thirty-something-year-old pastor.
In one sermon, the young pastor supplied a sobering statistic: only 14 percent of residents in the county attend church. This fact made me look harder at all the quaint looking churches we passed on our ten-mile trek on Sunday mornings. Too many parking lots were mostly empty.
In time I also realized that churchgoing is not a priority among the neighbors in our small subdivision. Since all the residents are new to this country development, we enjoy regular get-togethers at the clubhouse to discuss nearly every aspect of personal life—except for faith and politics, which make folks clam up and reach for the finger food.
I hoped that one neighbor, Jane, might be a fellow believer. The older widow with kind ways has a light in her eyes that suggests friendship with God. A few weeks before Christmas, I noticed a sign in her yard: Live Nativity. The church name and address were familiar since we’d seen its beautiful campus during a recent country drive.
One rainy, near-freezing Sunday morning in January, it seemed unwise to make the hill-and-dale journey to town. Instead, we drove the short distance to Jane’s church, which surprised and delighted her. After the service she introduced us to the long-time pastor and many of her friends—most of them members of the rural congregation for more than 30 years. Jane also expressed her desire to invite our fellow neighbors in need of the gospel.
Currently, with the blessing of both our town pastor and our country pastor, Jim and I benefit from fellowship with both churches, though we’re not a perfect fit for either. Like the country mouse in one of Aesop’s fables, we are slightly out of our element in the town church, with its younger crowd. And like the city mouse of the same tale, we might inwardly sniff at the comparatively simple fare—worship songs—of the country church.
In other ways, we’re a perfect fit for both churches, which, like countless others, faithfully preach the gospel. They offer what we most need: participation in Christ’s body, which he is sanctifying and cleansing to present to himself without spot or wrinkle, according to Ephesians 5:25-27.
The Apostle Paul called the church “the household of God… a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15*). The church is God’s dwelling place in this troubled and confused world. Whether contemporary or classic, in a mega-facility or a tin-roofed hut, it’s where we belong.
*English Standard Version
By Patti Richter. Patti writes and edits Christian faith articles and has co-authored Signs of His Presence: Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering (March 2019). Read more of her essays at blueribbonnews.com/category/faith.
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