Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Church Search - final(?)

Okay, obviously February to almost August is a long time and in all honesty, part of being a bruised reed was me not wanting to come back and write more. But I've decided to do it, although maybe not daily.

I left off with the Reformed SBC. There were quite a few churches in between then and now, and I can't remember most of them. Or rather, I can't distinguish them.

I wound up at an SBC church for a while. My daughter (6) liked it, but when I asked about why, it was because she could go play with kids in Sunday school. I asked if there was anything special about those kids. Or anything special about Sunday school. She said there wasn't. This contributed to me considering resuming my search.

I can't say there was anything wrong with this particular church. Sermons were Biblical (which was more than could be said for some.) The adult Sunday school class appeared to have a great desire to learn more. It was a mixture of ages, and ethnicities, as well as churched and unchurched. All things that I looked for. I don't want to be at a "white" church, or a "young church" or an "old church" If the SomeBaptist Church of Omaha is to reflect Christ's bride, it needs everyone.

So sitting in the service, realizing I had no joy in attending this church, did not feel particularly fed, and feeling little enthusiam I set out again. Back to google.

When I was at Caterpillar, one of my cube-mates gave me the nick-name of "The googler" Because I could find the answer to almost any question on the first page of my first try at googling (from obscure trivia, to engineering related questions.) So why have I had to go back to google, time and again to see what is out there for churches in Omaha.

One Saturday night I was doing some work and tried googling "Reformed church Omaha." I was nervous. I didn't want to end up in a James White church (I agree with some/a lot of what he writes, but his attitude has always come across to me as a militant Calvinist -- not a good match for a bruised reed).

Anyway, the typical churches for American Reformed Baptists came up, and other reformed (paedo-baptist) churches. I was dejected. Then I clicked on a link for Coram Deo This church was interesting. At the same time, I was excited and nervous.

There was a church in Louisville called Sojourn which I'd heard good things of, and one of my favorite professors was a member there. And in some ways, Coram Deo reminded me of Sojourn. That was the exciting part. A church, deep in the heart of Omaha, that seemed to be reformed. Preach the Bible and care about people.

What made me nervous was that Coram Deo claimed to be different. I don't have a problem with being different. I have a problem with being different for the sake of being different. I've been to too many churches (here and in Louisville) who seemed to try to be "The church for the unchurched." The problem is, they quickly stopped being a church (in the Biblical sense) and rarely had unchurched people in their doors. Was Coram Deo the same thing?

So the next weekend came and I invited my brother-in-law to come with me. He is interested in finding a church to be a part of, but often feels like an outcast in most churches, because he's a sinner, and not baptist-born, baptist bread. :)

We get there, there were chairs making up the auditorium part. There were also couches, a coffee section in the back and a couple places that made it look more like a coffee shop than a church. My first thought was, "yeah, I've heard about these churches."

Then we started singing. I don't remember all the songs, but I know it was a mix of old and new hymns, psalms and spiritual songs. Then, what's this? A confession of guilt and sin read by the congregation? I haven't seen that since my days at Clifton with Chip Stam. That's refreshing.

Then they did something really weird, they actually read the scriptures in the service. That's not something that gets done much. Oh sure, the pastor reads the section he'll preach on. But they actually read a chapter for the call to order and another chapter just because (okay, they had a reason, but it wasn't the sermon).

Then the sermon came again, and my heart sank -- again. Instead of using the musical stand as a podium, a coffee-shop table and chair were put up there. And I thought, "Ah, probably not much preaching here. More story telling I bet." Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong. The man did not only preach, but preached a Biblical sermon.

So at this point this church has a couple things going for it that the other churches didn't. But what happened next was down right amazing. The sermon was on Peter's denial of Christ and really Peter's entire relation to Christ as shown in the book of Mark. The Elder (another plus) called on us to identify with Peter (yet another plus -- call us to realize we're the sinfull deniers). One of the things that stuck out from that sermon was the preacher said "Have you ever committed a sin and said 'I'll never do that again'? And then you do. So you make a promise 'I promise I'll never do that again.' If you could stop yourself from doing it in the future, you wouldn't be doing it right now."

Wait, what's that? The Gospel isn't just the entrance into the church (thanks to Mark Seifrid for that one). You mean, the Gospel is just as relavant to me as a believer as it is to the unbeliever? That was the HUGE difference that I saw at Coram Deo.

Some churches claim to be gospel centered churches. What they mean is that if you don't accept the gospel you can't be a member. But the often fail at how the gospel plays out in your daily life.

But maybe that was a one time fluke? Point taken.

I went back the next week. The main elder (amazingly enough the Mark message wasn't by the preaching elder) preached on the Sabbath as part of a series on renewal.

If possible, this message was as gospel centered if not more so than the Peter and Mark sermon. A sabbath sermon that incorporated the gospel. Scratch that, a gospel CENTERED sabbath sermon.

Have you ever heard one?

Have you ever heard the sabbath explained from a Gospel centered paradigm?

I have. Twice.

One at Coram Deo, and one in my intro to Biblical Counseling class at SBTS.

Since 2004, I can think of 2 periods that I've been excited to go to church. The first was when we briefly attended Russell Moore's Sunday school class at Ninth & O. The second was when we attended Eric Johnson's sunday school at Clifton. I think I can add a third time to that list.

Perhaps my Omaha church search is over.