I had no idea what I was getting into. When my Grandma came to stay at our house, my mom would make me go with her to take Grandma to church. I only went on Sunday morning, which unknown to me at the time, was just “dress rehearsal” for the big Sunday night show. I would come to know this more and more as the years went by. You always saved your “finest” for Sunday night. Anyhow, the preacher would preach about – well I can’t really remember – mostly stories of people losing out, waiting too long, and missing their chance before it was too late. Mostly, I remember getting emotional during these services because I was doing all the things he said were bad.
My early teenage years were spent hearing this but going back out and being “cool”. The Lord was definitely drawing me to himself but in my very finite understanding, I reasoned – after high school – not now. I didn’t want to be weird in high school. Just recently, I had a memory of a guy I met in high school that was unlike anyone I had met – he was a Christian. I went to church with him once but I told him “I know where I am going to church when I start going.” I chose an emotional religion over a relationship with Jesus Christ. God was giving me the chance of a lifetime if only I had taken it…
When I could put it off no longer, I called my Grandma one Sunday night and asked if she would go to church with me. She was elderly, didn’t drive, and only went on Sunday morning. Little did I know, this was the “we’re gonna pull out all the stops” service. They had been in revival services for many weeks prior, so they were really fired up! Imagine, it’s 1973, a young girl and her hippie boyfriend walk into a red hot revival at a United Pentecostal Church. Mostly, all I can remember is crying; crying buckets of tears. All the condemnation that was heaped on me was being washed out in tears. When they saw me crying, they lead me up to the altar where I cried some more and then asked me if I wanted to be baptized. I was taken up and the next thing I know I have been declared to have the Holy Ghost! I came home with a baptismal certificate and the next day I went to school to tell all my friends.
Oh yes, I had lots of zeal, but it was not according to knowledge (Romans 10:1-3). There was no conscious decision made to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Upon leaving, seventeen years later, I was still a baby. I had no more knowledge of the purpose for going to church than when I began. I did learn that there are only parts of the Bible to preach from. Some Bible words like love, grace, and reconciliation; those are for those other churches. I learned that here, we are exclusive, we have “the truth” others need not apply; they are only going through the motions of having church. We are the real deal.
After leaving, I would learn about those words and the purpose of going to church:
He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.
No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love. Ephesians 4:12-16 The Message