91 days later, and today is the final day of my three-month sabbatical.
It felt right to finish the sabbatical by worshipping at EBBC this morning, after spending twelve Lord's Days at other churches in Chester County.
I'm glad Becky and I had the privilege to visit other churches in our area. In this final post of Sights & Sounds from Sabbatical, I thought it might be helpful to share six observations/lessons we took away from twelve weeks of "church hopping."
There are other good, gospel-preaching churches around us. At the risk of stating the obvious, there are many gospel communities (local churches) near EBBC. In fact, you may not know this, but there are five, Bible-preaching, churches within a 2-mile radius of our church. It was helpful for me to see firsthand God's gracious work and blessing in other nearby local churches.
It will be some time before I'm judgmental about folks being late for church again. :-/ I must admit, that I've had a bit of an attitude toward those who are repeat offenders of showing up late to church on Sundays, especially those who live close to the church. In the second half of the sabbatical, however, I noticed that nearly every Sunday, I was leaving the house late, and arriving at the church we were attending, halfway through the first song. Ashamed.
"...a kind, friendly, welcoming church has very little to do with programming and catchphrases, and nearly everything to do with the people in that church. "
Friendly churches are exceptional. In the age of church marketing, first-class technology, amazing worship spaces, and greeting ministry teams donning slick logo lanyards, you tend to assume that churches will be friendly. That's not what we experienced though. Instead, we entered and exited most of the churches we visited without anyone engaging us in conversation. It was a stark reminder that a kind, friendly, welcoming church has very little to do with programming and catchphrases, and nearly everything to do with the people in that church.
Congregational singing for the win! We enjoyed some excellently done music in many of the churches we were guests at over the past three months. A few of them were so well done, we almost felt like we should have paid admission. It was concert-level. But, it was on those Lord's Days, when we enjoyed simple accompaniment, singing songs tried and tested for congregations, and in a key chosen to serve the congregation more than the worship team, that was unforgettable. Heavenly.
BYOB (Bring Your Own Bible). We had just moved to PA and Becky and I were trying out a restaurant in West Chester (our favorite town to have a night out, BTW) when we saw a sign as we entered that had the letters "BYOB." I wasn't sure what that meant. I found out later that it meant "Bring Your Own Beer." I've since thought that churches should perhaps "Christianize" that acrostic to mean, "Bring Your Own Bible." At more than one church we attended, we didn't see any Bibles, anywhere, not even the digital versions. That was disappointing. It was a reminder of how necessary it is for a church to be like the Bereans, who searched the Scriptures, even fact-checking the great apostle Paul. (Acts 17:11)
Belong to a church. Visiting other churches was kind of fun, for the first three or four weeks. It was cool to see, in small part, the Church universal. Every believer is part of the BIG "C" Church. Then, we started missing our church. Don't get me wrong, again, we experienced some great preaching, and stirring musical worship at some of the churches we attended. But, there is one church where we belong.
There's one church that is our family.
There is one church, despite its imperfections, that we call "home."
And, we are so excited to be back!