That’s the bogus motto our church has adopted this past year. Purpose over preference.
What does that even mean? For a while we figured it mean something manageable like sucking it up when the worship band didn’t play “When Death Was Arrested”. Or maybe keeping our mouth shut when the church foyer was painted more of a mushroom color than than the griege we’re currently obsessed with.
I’m kind of kidding, because those things would never cause us to get our Sunday jeggings in a wad–but I did arrogantly believe that I was beyond such things I assumed the motto implied, because I’m so easily pleased, unconcerned with sanctuary aesthetics, and–dang it–just too good a Christian. Leave details to the professionals, I’m just here to get my worship on.
I love my church. I love the people. I love the preaching, and the worship, and the fellowship and basically ALL OF IT and I couldn’t see myself leaving, even though–yes–we’d gone through a great upheaval and changes were made and people left…in some ways, it felt like a bomb exploded and I didn’t even know what was happening until a year later and everything was different.
It felt like it was going to be a good different.
We grew up in that church when we committed to it in 2009. We were loved and treasured and discipled–hard. We were poured into continuously by some of the most wonderful, faithful people I’m sure I’ll ever meet.
We hung in for three years after we moved twenty minutes away. When our kids went to a different school. Played for different sports teams. We stayed in our church. We learned. We grew. We served. We slipped. We learned some more. And we loved.
And God was with us.
And then something happened.
After finally feeling settled in our new house, we ventured out into our new community, and sometimes we even visited the church nearby, for our Wednesday night convenience after Lucy was born…and the people came.
They came to our house. They came out from behind haystacks. They popped up outta the cornfield. We met them at the ballpark, at the school, at the grocery store, and at the local diner.
Turns out, this family can make some friends when we put our minds to it–and also when we don’t put our minds to it. We just love people.
Children–ages 8 through 15–just materializin’ from thin air and showing up at our house, sitting at my table for Saturday morning pancakes, for fancy noodles on Tuesday afternoons; kickin’ back on my couch watching cartoons, thundering up and down my stairs, giggling, slamming the front door, climbing my trees, shooting me with Nerf bullets…and asking questions.
The questions! The earnest, genuine questions y’all!
For Christians committed to loving people and being the hands and feet of Jesus right where you’re at, these people and these children and those questions can only mean one thing: we were undeniably being called to make a huge change.
And even though I loved my church family in another town, and I loved the children’s programming and the worship and the preaching style, and even though I felt awkward and new at the church down the street, ultimately we are called to put God’s purpose over our personal preference.
The motto looks great on a t-shirt but real-life application is difficult to put it mildly. Leaving what’s comfortable to go anywhere new has not been as easy-breezy as I anticipated it to be, mainly because (shocker!) I am a sucker for my own comfort.
But you don’t pick a church because it’s comfortable. You don’t pick a church because the worship music is legitness, or that green carpet is so very plush, or your friends told you it was where you belonged.
You go to church to worship, and to bring glory to God. You honor Him by loving and serving others everywhere you go; I believe the most effective way to begin is to gather with other believers right in your back yard and to get after it together.
And so dadgummit here we are, at a teeny tiny church a mile from our house, where the teaching is sound and the wood paneling is on point; where people pray, Christ loves, and God moves–in the church building and throughout the little bitty town we call home.
We are exactly where we need to be.