the walls between us.

A dear sweet friend of mine recently wrote a lovely post about all the things about church going that have changed over the years and how she missed some of the things that were long gone...or different. 

She wrote it my head it conjured up lots of yellow sunshine, picnics on the lawn. Laughter and true Joy.  Being with your family and worshiping God together.   

It got me thinking.  It got me a little jealous.  Her post was lovely...interwoven with wonderful memories of attending church with her family...of a remembering a safe and warm place.  My heart aches just a little at someone having those kind of memories...both of family church attendance and of having a down right lovely traditional church experience.  

It got me thinking about how I have never had a traditional church experience that was remotely lovely.  And it reminded me a little about why I get so nervous inviting folks to the kinds of churches that get ME excited for the Lord.  

Let me explain.  I grew up in the Bible belt.
There are churches on every corner...and churches in between those churches.  Many of them full of people who "go to church" but are not really part of the church.  Some go faithfully every Sunday and some only on Easter and Christmas. 
I did not grow up with my family going to church.  I have been in a church exactly one time with my parents...the day I married Doug.  I DID beg and plead to go to church with friends growing up and managed to visit several churches in our area that way. 

And let me tell you...every visit was the same.  Some say it would be best for each church to offer the same experience.  Well this is true of the places I visited.  I would go with a friend and I would stick out every time.  I was the one who never knew when to sit or stand.  Who knew none of the hymns.  Who did not have on a new dress.  Who did not know where to go or what to do and when.  

And with more than one glance or another I was made aware of all of this.  I was made to be aware that God had a set of rules that you had to follow and THEN He would have you.  First you have to sit in a hard, ninety degree angled pew.  Then you had to know the hymns and when to stand and how to be...and oh yeah, go buy a new dress and bring your parents next time. 
Dozens of church going experiences in my neck of the woods let me know that this is what I can expect of God:
me.  wall.  wall. wall. wall. wall. wall. wall. wall. wall.  God.
And good luck getting through those walls.

It wasn't until I started going to college in Radford and fate (yes, fate) brought me to New Horizons.  The second I walked in the door I knew something was different.  People were in jeans.  There were drums and guitars.  The pastor hugged me and was not dressed in anything fancier than I was.  You could drink coffee and have your breakfast as the sermon started.  The joy and energy of the worship team was palpable and contagious.  People stood and sat at their own accordance during worship...whatever you felt led to do.  Some folks would be on their knees...some would move to the back to worship...some would sit and some would stand.  And not an eye would be rolled.  Doctors showed up in scrubs...workers in their students in the pj's.  And it was all OK.  Kids were laughing and having fun with their friends.  God was Joy.

There were no requirements.  Just Love.  

And you know what...God was still respected and revered.  He was still honored and Loved above all.  
I attended that church for several years and learned that this is what God is like:

No wall.  No rules.  No need to be good enough first.  I was good enough.  As I am.

But even now it makes me nervous to bring people to church.  Because I am still drawn to the type of church New Horizons is.  I attend a church much like it now.  I have brought people to churches that I love and been judged as I stood there beside them...could feel them praying for my salvation before the end of the service.  I have taken folks to church with me only to receive an email or letter or call later confirming their worry over my soul.  

Their argument being (essentially)..."how can God and a drum set really coexist?  I mean come on Crystal...the gospel doesn't permit relaxation or comfy chairs.  I'll be praying for you."        

Ugh.  I agree with the statement that the Gospel should be the same no matter what church doors you walk through.  I also believe that you have to have hundreds of different kinds of churches to appeal to the hundreds of ways that God speaks to us all.  Some hear God in a wooden pew and in the comfort of knowing when to sit and stand and knowing every word in the songbook.  Some hear God on a mountain or in a field of wildflowers.  And that should all be OK. 

I hear God in a comfy chair, with jeans on, singing at the top of my lungs cause the music is loud enough to drown me out...being infected by the passion of the worship leader and feeling the resounding Joy of the pastor.  
And if a sweet lady walked in, in a new dress and Sunday best hat, I would say 
"Welcome, Jesus loves you." 

And leave it at that.


Anonymous said...

Preach it, Sister. :)

Jessi said...

I don't go to church for the very same reasons you're talking about. Maybe if I found a church like the awesome one you described, I would actually go.

Great post!

Paul and Cheri said...

Sounds like you're at home! Just delight in that~a lot of people never find what you have found in your comfort. AND you get to raise your children in that love, joy and comfort. That is very sweet. I personally think there is nothing better than sipping coffee whilst listening to the lesson of the day. AWESOME! xoxo

Ali said...

This is a fantastic post. Just what I needed to hear right now, Thank you

LibraryGirl62 said...

God is not in the building, He is in the People. He also knows how to reach over the walls that we build between us. For some that is reverence and hushed tones and Sunday Dressing and brick buildings. For people like you and me, it is drums and guitars and clapping and jumping and come as you are and laughing and JOY OUT LOUD. The trick is to find the way and place God speaks to you and listen and be. Those who judge your way to Him are not listening.

Janel said...

Amen Crystal!

I grew up in a church just like your friend, and those are some of my MOST treasured memories!

I now attend(not as faithful as I should-working on that)a church much like you are describing now. It is called Church in the City, in the heart of Denver. You can be in jeans, dressed up, or homeless and stinky, it doesn't matter. ALL are welcome! And there is the most amazing music and worship, the church is full of God. HIS presence hits you like a ton of bricks the minute you hit the santuary. I love that! If I am moved to tears the minute I enter, it is because I feel God and it is so strong, I can't help but be moved by the sheer beauty and the humbleness of HIM. Every sermon is just what my heart needs and that is what it is all about. A place to rest your soul, heal your soul or fill up your soul. A place to really worship all that HE is and all I am thankful for. A place to know that I am truly forgiven.

That is what church is to me.

erica said...

Great post. I'm so glad you found a church that sets your soul free to worship. I know exactly what you mean about both kinds of churches. My family and I have found a jeans wearing, drum playing church that we absolutely love here in Austin.

Jennifer said...

Agree with you! I love my traditional hymn-singing church. That's me and it's okay that we're different! But as a youth small group leader, I do get tired of people judging (because of course that's what they're doing) my girls for what they're wearing. So what if they are in jeans or flip flops or their hair is purple. Shouldn't they be made to feel welcome at church too? God knows their heart and loves them just as much as the people in their fancy dresses. Great post!

Heather @ Life Made Lovely said...

this is one of your best posts yet! I didn't have a traditional church experience when i was growing up so i relate to the walls you speak of. i'm so thankful for the church we attend now because it is the exact opposite. blessings to you!!

Krista said...

I just finished reading a really GREAT book, 'So You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore' by Wayne Jacobsen & Dave Coleman that addresses how by just being in a church means nothing. So many people think that just by going then they've got it "in" with God and how wrong it is.

It talks about how much it is truly between you & God, nobody else and how he wants you to fully trust him. It's just a really great read and I highly recommend it!

Trish said...


Our Church has drums and I love them... although a lot of the older crowd does not... they even don't like the guitar. i just don't get it, but to each his own in worshiping God. I just love seeing young teenage boys up on the alter with their bass guitar worshiping God. Amazing!

Mainly a midwife said...

Great post. I grew up in a stuffy, traditional, VERY fundy church in NY. Not only did Jesus have a very specific set of did the Pastor. No dancing, no card playing etc..
I found grace in a seeker type church that you are describing. We have been going there for 15 years. It's very welcoming. But Pharisee roots creep out. It's weird. I love my church and yet I yearn for really indepth Bible study. I have just learned to join Beth Moore Bible studies in my area.

Jeannette said...

I completely agree. Personally I like the structure of the standing and sitting and I love communion... but it turned out that the best people I have found are at a "non conventional" church with guitars and slide shows. To me, the people and atmosphere won out over my love for order.

I often find God while soaking in a hot bath. It's calm, DH is taking care of the crying baby, and I can listen to Him.

Thanks for the post.

Big Yellow Dog said...

This is such a fantastic post and something that has really been on my heart lately. There are things in scripture that clearly talk about worshipping together (like prayer, teaching on the Word, singing praises and fellowship with other believers) but there is no mention of a specific way of doing all that. Early Christians met in each other's homes--not in a big, stuffy church buildings. Ministers sat with the congregation, not up above them. I didn't have a pleasant memory of traditional church growing up--I went to a very STRICT church and Christian school. I honestly hated it. It is only by God truly revealing who He is to me that I am a follower of Him today. I have lots of friends that I went to high school with that want nothing to do with God or the Gospel because of their experiences with legalism and the very things you are speaking of. I am so thankful that i have found a body of believers who meet to truly worship and serve together--not fight over rules and bylines.
Great post!

Kari said...

I loved your post and am so thankful that God loves us no matter what we look like or where we're going to church. I'm also glad that you've found a place where you can worship the Lord in a way that is real to you!

Just a head's up...I have a rinky-dink little blog and on Monday's, I feature blogs that I think are magnificent. This upcoming Monday, I've featured yours :). I realize that you've had much higher honors, but I wanted to show my friends how cool I think you and your blog are :)

I hope you have a good weekend!

Anonymous said...

I agree with your post completely and SOOOO hear you. My only thing is that 'some' people who attend churches like New Horizons tend to be very judgemental of the ones who are not like that. I agree that it takes all kinds of churches to meet ALL kinds of people and the most important thing is that the gospel is NOT being altered or watered down one tiny bit. How sad people think because your church had drums, jeans or donuts that it wasn't preaching about God and how sad when people believe if you go to a church with stained glass, wooden benches and a piano playing it's 'stuffy'.

KatieSmyth said...

I really don't know how I found your blog...but I really relate to your style and most of all your faith. Loved the true...keep the good stuff coming! It's definitely encouraging:)

Smilie girl said...

Lots of great comments there. I like the comment that God isn't in the building, He's in the people. Different people do respond better to different styles of worship. Worshipping our awesome God is the important bit.
My family are not church types either and I know I felt a bit on the outer as a youngster going to church. Especially on the holidays. But some of that was me and my insecurities too.
Heaps of love to you and keep on doing what you do - you are great!

Nesha said...

Your post was so refreshing, honest, and candid. It is a great feeling to be in a church where you feel the presence of a loving God.

I attend a church where you feel like you're being hugged the moment you walk in the door. It doesn't matter what you were, what kind of past you've experienced, or your social status. You are loved for who you are.

All I can say is that if loud music and praises makes people "uncomfortable" then they are going to be very "uncomfortable" in heaven because the Word says the praise will sound like thunder and will last forever...WOW! So let's start practicing now.

Elise said...

AMEN!! I would consider myself a "spiritual mutt", as my mom would drag us to all kinds of churches growing up. We eventually settled on a Baptist one that we loved for a time, but after a while I got to be judgmental that everyone that wasn't Baptist was going to Hell. When we weren't Baptist, I thought they were hypocrites. My how my mind goes. I do recall, though, at that same church the choir having a dress code-the men had to wear a suit and tie. Kind of ridiculous as the Bible never mentions any of that. We go to a church similar to your's now and love it!! I love that my daughter can wear whatever concoction she comes up with or I can just wear my jeans and flip flops. No more pantyhose!!
Yes, it does take all kinds, but isn't that what's great?? We're all free to worship as we feel comfortable.

asnipofgoodness said...

Very thought provoking post, thanks for sharing. I have recently been mulling over a post from the other side of the wall:)! Being used to a "traditional" church, my family have only found churches in our new home town to be more like what you enjoy. Just like you felt in the traditional service, we feel judged for our Sunday best, and my girls smocked dresses and patent Maryjanes. We are not comfortable wearing jeans, or Pjs to church, or swaying to the loud music and flashing light. We also feel out of place, and perhaps not cool enough to fit in. You may not judge, but there are some around you that do. We grew up in church, and see it more reverently. My husbands tie, and my heels are just one more way to us, that we set the day apart. It is good to hear the other point of view from you.
I am glad that there are different ways of worship to suit different needs, if as you said, the gospel remains the same. I just wish we could find one nearby that suits ours!
Thanks again for sharing!

Erin said...

What a great post to read on the first Sunday of Pentecost! Thanks for writing about the unity we have (or should have) in the church.

Lee-Anne said...

psst.. go check out 'today's creative blog' :) you're amazing!

Lori R said...

wow...really thought provoking. i grew up in a traditional church, but in CA not the Bible belt, so maybe a little less "stuffy"'s a good reminder that the guy sitting next to me in the pew/folding chair doesn't necessarily have the same background as me, so be welcoming and don't make assumptions!

and those walls you mention--i'm so sorry they are there and that they hinder. not a one of us is "good enough" even if we wear the "right shoes" or whatever...we never can be good enough! but God is gracious, and Christ is perfect, and through him we can gain acceptance :)

ooh ok, enough preaching :) glad to have found you!!

PS i love my rock and roll church where i can sing loud and off key and nobody cares!

sara luke said...

"how can God and a drum set really coexist? I mean come on Crystal...the gospel doesn't permit relaxation or comfy chairs. I'll be praying for you."

This made me laugh out loud.

Courtney Walsh said...

I grew up in church, but when I was in college I couldn't find one that was welcoming at all. I had such a hard time --especially with the one that actually asked me to stand up (in front of everyone) and tell them my name. I was a college kid who wanted to keep a little Jesus in my life and I was totally embarrassed.

I think sometimes people mean well, but they aren't able to meet people where they're at. I'm now married to a children's pastor, and I am atypical when it comes to the ministry. meaning. I have a career and a life outside of his ministry. I help him where I can, but HE is my life. His job is not. Also, I believe God has met me wearing yoga pants, no makeup and sipping hot coffee when I've just woken up in the morning.

Just love your thoughts here and wanted to tell you. That and oh, I'm praying for your soul.


Christi said...

Well....... our church won best choir in America this past year..... and drums were for sure involved...... and hundreds of people have come to our church for the first time ever because of the media exposure of the competition..... Hummmmm, I guess those drums payed off and helped a few more folks come to know our Lord & Saviour, Jesus Christ! My step dad thinks the same way. He's like "nothing but an organ and hymns or your going to hell"..... But I have to say that sometimes, I'll be singing to my children with NO music, and those happen to be the sweetest moments ever!

trish said...

Your post absolutely captivated me! Not being from the bible belt myself, but living here now, am amazed that church is a habit vs. a relationship with Christ, for so many.
Thank you so much for sharing your experience and I totally love how you typed the words "meGod" because that is exactly how it is! :o) Love it!
Sincerely ~ Tricia

Siobhán said...

What a beautiful post! I'm blog hopping this morning and found your blog--love it--and this post really touched me. I am what is called a "cradle Catholic"--and extremely proud of it. I think it is important to find God in whatever church, denomination, faith, building, meadow, whatever, that you happen to find Him in. Teach Him to your kids, that He loves them. That's the message. I'm glad you found that. I love my church community, even if the parish of my heart is in the country of my birth and not here in the parish that I attend now... but He is here in my heart, and that's all that matters. Good for you! :)

Keeping Up With Kaegan said...

This post is by far the best most inspirational post I have read in 2 1/2 years. As recently I have been finding my faith with god, this has answered a few questions and opened up a few new doors for me in the ways of understanding. Thank you for that, thank you for you, thank you for your faith, and most importantly thank you for you love of jesus.

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