I woke up this morning thinking about the 4 years of wandering in the dessert God has put us through since the disbanding of Heartland (the age integrated congregation that Shane worked with, and his parents helped to start 15 years ago). And it dawned on me– I would have never made it those 40 years that the Israelites wandered. I would have been one of those throwing my gold into the fire so Aaron could make the golden calf.
We have been wandering for nearly 4 years. I have grumbled and complained all through this experience. I haven't wanted the Manna from Heaven. I have wanted something different. Maybe it's because I tasted the promised land and am not satisfied to settle for 2nd best or 3rd best, or not best at all. Maybe it's because I am tired of being an wandering gentile. Maybe it's because I'm tired of explaining (or hearing Shane explain) to the children why Preacher's lesson wasn't quite right. Or why we will be visiting yet another church. (It's really not been that many, but they don't like change). Maybe it's because I'm tired of being so weird when I shouldn't be. As Christians aren't we called to be different? Not for different's sake, but because we are so radically sold out and committed to living our faith that others notice.
Come to think of it, I grumbled and complained for the last few years before the closing of the doors too. It was very frustrating. It seemed that we were the only ones that wanted Heartland to survive. And while I can't blame those left behind after the split over the former Minister and his family for putting up walls, the walls were impossible to penetrate. We walked into the mess– and what a mess it was. About a year later, there was another tragedy– and that was the “nail in the coffin” so to speak.
There was no hope
There was no recovery.
For several more years, the congregation existed. More people left, a couple more people came. But they were seed planted on the rocky soil never taking root. Eventually, they left too.
The end came when one of the other “founding” members decided to return to the former church because their children “needed” a youth group. This was the end all. This was one of the reasons this church was started. It was like those 15 years had all been for nothing.
This family had lost their oldest daughter in the very youth group that they wanted their other girls involved— and off they went. From my understanding they've basically lost their second daughter too. The jury is still deliberating on the 3rd and last. The father, he's now a deacon in that congregation. Not even gonna go there…
Back to the story in progress….
Shane was preaching solid Biblical sermons. We prayed and fasted for this congregation to survive. Each week we arrived early to pray over the service together. We prayed over each chair and the person that would be sitting in it as we set up. We prayed over the song service. We prayed over the preaching. We prayed over everything possible to pray over. Even little Princess prayed, and Bubba too when he was big enough. We invited others to join us– it happened maybe twice over several years we did it.
We prayed for the hearts that had been hardened. Before the incident with the Minister's family, the congregation had been tight. I mean, tight enough that the ladies all shared their thoughts on undergarments, and the men all spread out and catnapped after Sunday night Bible study while the women talked about said undergarments. It was the way church should be. (okay, maybe the undergarments are a little extreme). Let me assure you that it was not perfect. There were squabbles, and issues, just like most churches. But it was a family.
We are planning to visit the E-free church this Sunday. We are almost certain that God will not release us to leave our present congregation until at least the fall, maybe not until the new year because of some things that we are involved in there. But if it is a likely match for us, we will continue attending Wed. nights and occassional Sundays from now until then.
Do you know this Keith Green song?
My eyes are dry, My faith is old, My heart is hard, My prayers are cold. And I know what I ought to be, alive to You and dead to me.
What can be done to an old heart like mine? Softhen it up with oil and wine. The oil is You, Your spirit of love. Please wash me anew in the wine of your blood.
Many times over the 4 years, I have found myself singing this tune and feeling empty. I am looking forward to having steady fellowship with like-minded believers. Instead of here and there, as I have lunch with my 2 best friends, or attend an Above Rubies retreat or happen to meet someone with like-minded faith somewhere else along the way.