Sunday, January 17, 2010

New Church

Cindy and I decided to try out a new church; we like our old church, but we really need to be a part of a church that's closer to home.

We attended Alliance Bible Fellowship this morning, and it was a wonderful experience. I felt as if I'd been fed for the first time without realizing I'd been hungry.

Senior Pastor Scott Andrews gave sermon from Romans 1:24-27. He spoke first humorously on the strides our society has made technologically in his own life time, summating with the line "We've come a long way."

The humor faded quickly when he counterpointed the many avenues that these advances have created to allow sin into our lives. He quoted Alexander Pope's Essay on Man:
Vice is a monster of so frightful mien
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
Paul spoke of a large number of vices in this very short passage, and how the ultimate expression of evil is not only the performance of sin despite the knowledge of the penalty of the act, but the approval of such acts in others. I found myself thinking back to Jesus speaking of the millstone in Capernaum.

I found myself sitting in a service that was engaging me on an intellectual level for perhaps the first time in my life. Please follow me carefully on this, because it would be very easy to insult the many pastors and churches I've known, and that's not my intention. But it must be said that a great number of churches speak largely or entirely on an emotional level. They discuss what being a Christian feels like, and to be frank, that's always left me out in the cold.

I love Jesus. I love God, and it is an experience that deepens over time. That said, I was not raised in faith, I am still somewhat new to my faith, and to attempt to witness to a convert almost solely on feelings is very much like trying to teach airline pilots the same way mother birds teach baby birds. Granted, this approach does indeed work for some people, but I found myself sitting in the pew thinking, "OK, now what? I don't feel what I'm supposed to be feeling, does that mean I wasn't really saved? Maybe I should sneak out?"

That feeling wasn't there because of the people, mind. It wasn't easy, leaving our old church, which was filled to overflowing with some of the kindest, most wonderful people I've ever met. Had it not been for the love and acceptance that they showed me, I don't believe I ever could have seen my need to ask to be baptized in that creek behind the church. I love them all, and I know that God has and will richly bless them.

Anyhow, Alliance also has Children's Church, which means that you check your children the same way you check your coat. While I'm kidding, having not experienced this before (other then one visit to a Baptist church a while back), there was a pang of guilt for a bit. Alliance, however, does this in one of the coolest ways I've ever seen.

When you arrive, they have a check in desk. We (ok, Cindy; they can read her handwriting) filled out some paperwork, and they printed out stickers for each child with names on them, and a second sticker with us w/ a matching number, then assigned us a volunteer from the congregation to show us the classrooms that our kids would be spending the service in. Alliance used to be a Christian school, so there's plenty.. more on this in a bit. The stickers have numbers. They told us that if the child should need us, then in the worship center, on the screens (still getting used to the fact that they have them), they pop up the name and number of the child, so the parent knows we need to head back to attend to the little'un. They told us that after three visits, they'd dispense with stickers and give us swipe cards for checking in; I guess they figure after three visits, we mean it.

Alliance is growing; by that, I mean you can see that the bones of what will eventually become the worship center stand outside the current one. They need it; they're currently holding three services every Sunday morning. It warms my heart to see a growing church, folks.

"Gosh," says all two of my readers, "he's certainly going on a lot about a new church, isn't he?" Yes. Yes he is. Today felt like a homecoming, and for a guy who spent his whole life moving around, that's saying something.

Geek note: Alliance has a podcast, so if we should have to miss a service, we can hear the service, which is absolutely awesome. What is not quite so awesome is that they only provide an iTunes link, not a direct RSS feed, which means that for those Linux loving Christians out there (all seven of us), subscribing is a bit of a hassle. (Alliance's web site does list using iPodder, but getting iPodder, or Juice, to work under Ubuntu 9.10 or Debian Sketch proved beyond the 30 minute threshold I allotted it; I left off at seeing that the python xmms client libraries apparently are not the same libraries provided by apt).

In case Google directs you here, or if I need it later, the link is : http://alliance.goboone.net/ABFMessages/abfmessages.xml

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