Weeks Seven and Eight: Finding God’s Fingerprints on the Interstate

Weeks Seven and Eight of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!

Sundays #7 and #8, Oct. 19 and 26, 2014

On the road to Florida with my husband, Fred

Messages from  Andy Stanley –

Parts 1-5 of “Starting Point”

and a worship music mix of some of our favorites

Week Seven Finding God's Fingerprints on the Interstate

Fingerprints:

Fred and I were taking a road trip to Ft. Myers, FL, and his work schedule made it necessary for us to cover many hundreds of miles on each of the 2 Sundays we were away. So we took it literally that if two are gathered in Jesus’ name, we got us a worship service, and we had church together in the car both Sundays.

Andy  Stanley’s podcasts provided the teaching, and excellent series (we listened to 5 messages) called Starting Point. He has been explaining how the faith of our childhood often gets battered as we enter adulthood, and instead of just feeling guilty for not believing like we did when we were little, we need to create a new starting point with God as adults. The messages are so very good, and so timely in helping me understand more and more of the struggles my kids have all had carrying their childhood faith into adulthood.

Fred and I had rich conversation after the messages, and then prayed together for all sorts of needs.

He had me make a mix of 35 worship songs on his iPod before we left home, and we sang along and listened and prayed and talked to the music. Particularly meaningful to both of us: Casting Crowns’ “The Voice of Truth.

Personal Notes:

I love traveling with my husband. I love having the time in the car to talk. And I love having church in the car with him. It doesn’t take the place of gathering with other believers in larger groups, but it’s precious. It truly “felt like church” both Sundays!

Week Six: Finding God’s Fingerprints in a Converted Warehouse

Week Six of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!

Sunday #6, Oct. 12, 2014

A Smallish Non-Denominational Community Church with about 100 in attendance

Message: Honor Your Father and Mother (guest speaker)

Finding Fingerprints Week 6

Fingerprints:

The vibe this week was casual. This small, contemporary fellowship was similar to many in which I’ve worshiped over the years. It was easy to feel at home, and a few friendly folks smiled and said hello.

The worship band played and sang well, and the pastor greeted the congregation with a reminder of the importance of knowing The Ten Commandments, the foundation upon which the Old Covenant rested, and which was so beautifully fulfilled by Jesus in the New Covenant. A series on The Ten Commandments was continuing this Sunday, and a guest speaker shared. The pastor had preached on the Sabbath the week before, then had taken a week of rest for himself and his family. I thought that was pretty cool. It is a beautiful thing when people see their shepherds take care of themselves and their need for rest.

We celebrated the Lord’s Supper at the end of the message, and everyone went to the table and took the bread and juice as they felt ready to. It was nice to be able to participate as a body of believers but also feel very much focused on my own personal prayer time as I remembered the sacrifice of Christ for my sin.

An unusual, neat side note was an announcement that was made for a financial planning event to be held in the near future. One of the church members is a financial planner and was offering a free information session to help people figure out what was strong and what needed work in their personal finances.

Personal Notes:
The church meets in a newly renovated space that used to be an electronics repair shop and warehouse. I can remember taking some electronic device or other there when I was a kid for repair. It was somehow really cool to see that space converted into a worship space.

I got a lovely follow-up email from the pastor after my visit here. I liked getting to share with him about my Finding Fingerprints adventure; I’ve begun keeping a list of all the churches I visit on the wall of my office so that I can pray for all these congregations.

(Further Note: This pastor has continued to reach out by email over the intervening weeks, and has been praying for ME and my adventure, even as I’ve been praying for his church. Isn’t that cool? Building unity…building unity…building unity…)

Week Five: Finding God’s Fingerprints in a Lonely Place

Week Five of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!

Sunday #5, Oct. 5, 2014

A Medium-Sized Non-Denominational Community Church with about 200 in attendance

Message: John 3 “You Must Be Born Again”

Finding Go'd's Fingerprints in a Lonely Place

This one is hard to write about.

I decided I’d chosen liturgical services for the last couple of churches so I’d go with a non-denominational contemporary service this Sunday. I’m leaving off the name of the church because the whole point of this adventure is to celebrate God’s beautiful fingerprints everywhere I find them, and never to add to the disunity already running rampant in the family of God.

I checked out this church on their website and read a lot of warm, fellowship-oriented language. A café awaited me, and since I was a first-time visitor I should be sure to take a mug home with me. I arrived 7 minutes before service time. I entered the building and walked through the café to enter the sanctuary. There were probably about 200 people milling about, drinking coffee and fellowshipping. I walked slowly and made eye contact. I smiled. I was clean and had brushed my teeth. I was dressed in a very fit-in-with-the-crowd outfit. I was alone (Fred was sleeping after a night shift).

I was never once greeted.

It was like I was invisible. I thought, “I need to make sure I look open, friendly, and also a little lost. Those are the marks of a visitor.” Slowly I made my way all the way across the back of the wide sanctuary, pausing to look at the bulletin I’d picked up, looking around to read the signs on the walls, catching the occasional eye of someone and smiling tentatively. I was completely ignored.

I took a seat on the aisle on the far side of the sanctuary. The service began, and the lights went down. Stage lights lit the worship band. The sound system worked well. The words flashed on the screen. All the elements of “the production” were solid, but honestly the musicianship was pretty poor. It seemed as if they were trying so hard to put in every possible guitar riff, every instrumental bridge that they’d heard on the professional recording of the song, that their focus was just stretched thin and they were out of their depth. They looked at one another frequently trying to get their timing together. It was mighty distracting, and I was truly trying to worship.

I knew the songs. It wasn’t hard to sing along…but I was so distracted by the production that it WAS hard to sing along.

A missions report, a message that was casual, conversational, and completely confusing (even though it was intended for those in need of salvation and should have been clear to anyone)…I began to pray for SOME evidence of God’s fingerprints.

All I could see was a club; it was a club of which I was not a part. The café and casual atmosphere gave them the illusion of warmth and welcome. The conversational tone of the folks on the platform gave the false appearance of relationship with the regular attenders and a desire for relationship with the newbies. So disheartening.
I did find one lovely fingerprint, though, and it must be spotlighted.

Fingerprints:
Monthly this church offers a dinner for foster parents in the community. They cook and serve, and babysit the kids in another room while the foster parents have time to talk to one another and share encouragement. They are caring for orphans that way, right in our community.

Isn’t that beautiful?

Personal Notes:
I was so sad that I looked that hard and found so little of God’s presence. I don’t doubt that there are people in that church who love Jesus and want to live for Him. But something was wrong there; somewhere the priority got moved from substance to surface. I am praying that they will remember what it really means to love God and love others in ways that will show His fingerprints to all.

Week Four: Finding God’s Fingerprints in Corporate Prayer

Week Four of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!

Sunday #4, Sept. 28, 2014

A large United Methodist Church at a lightly-attended Liturgical Service (about 40 people for their final of 3 Sunday services)
Message: I Cor. 13:1-8a “Radiating God’s Love”

Finding God's Fingerprints in Corporate Prayer

Fingerprints:

The building is huge and like a maze, and we parked in the rear and came in through the back door, so we were quickly lost. The people were very friendly, and in no time a lady offered to be our guide. They have a contemporary service meeting in one hall in the building at the same time that their third liturgical service meets upstairs in the sanctuary. An usher greeted us with coffee mugs and cookies and another warm welcome; nice people.

Formal, beautiful sanctuary, but the congregation is small at the 11:00 Liturgical service (maybe 40) so the pastor came down into the center aisle and kept the service conversational rather than staying in the pulpit. I loved the music; I like how Methodist hymnals have songs with tunes I know (classical pieces, old folk songs, etc.) with lyrics to the glory of God.

The prayer time was most remarkable to me. Before the morning prayer time, the pastor shared items from the news in the last few weeks, reminding us of our responsibility to pray for the community, the country and the world. We lifted up together by name victims of violent crime in recent news, the countries of the Middle East where the crisis seems hopeless, and we together declared God’s sovereignty over all of those situations.

The Bible message was short and sweet, teaching from a well-known passage on love, but still offering something real to chew on. Fred and I both found personal challenge in his image of “radiating” God’s love; that when we are filled with and guided by God’s love, it not only shines to light darkness around us, but it gives off warmth to anyone who gets close to us. He talked about a love that radiates warmth in spite of irritation, kind words in spite of frustration. It was timely for both of us; we’d had a frustrating and irritating evening the night before.

Personal Notes:

Getting out the door was, of course, a challenge. Jonah’s graduation party was at our house at 4:00, and I was up early cooking like mad. I never made it into the shower, but I got cleaned up enough to be presentable and we rushed off. It was well worth the effort. We visited with the senior pastor (he came right to us at the close of service) and found him to be warm and genuine and easy to talk to.

Oh, and the organ Toccata Giocosa (Martin) that was played for the postlude literally made me cry. The power of God, reflected in music!