Actually, that's not completely true. I had been in churches before--for a wedding, a couple of times with an old boyfriend, and once with my step-mother's family. A total of five times previously, I had "gone to a church." But at that time, I had no interest in what was going on "religiously." It was just a place to go. I guess a better thing to say is that a decade ago I first entered a church as a seeker.
I'd become interested in Christianity a bit more than a month earlier, and had recently read through the entire Bible (Old and New Testaments) in three weeks. I had many questions about what I had learned. Now, I had decided, it was time to go to a church and see what it was all about. It would be more than three months later before I came to Christ.
A lot of things about that first church service still stand out in my mind, even after all the time that has passed. I thought I would share them with you.
- I was quite impressed with the friendliness of the people there. Several (some of whom became very dear friends) came up and greeted me personally. It was a very nice welcome to a place where I truly feared I would be extremely uncomfortable.
- There was no "prayer book." In every Jewish Sabbath service I had ever been to, there was a prayer book that had several different 'Sabbath services' in it. We would go through one of them, verbatim, each Sabbath. Other than the specific passage read from the Torah and the sermon, there was no deviation. I liked, very much, the fact that this service seemed more flexible, and less ritualistic and "orderly" - probably not the right word, but I think you know what I mean!
- There also was no Bible. I'd never had to bring my own copy of the Torah or my own prayer book to a service before - they were just sitting there in the pew in front of me. I didn't have my Bible with me so just winged it (of course, I later realized I could have gotten one, as spares were stored there--but I didn't know at the time).
- I had no idea what to do with the offering plate (besides pass it down). It came as a surprise. Again, something that was outside my usual experience. On a fun side-note, I was given a "new member packet," and asked to put my little card in the offering plate. Since I didn't know what one was, I couldn't oblige. More about this later.
- The one thing that made the biggest impression on me was the sermon. It was actually relevant to real life. Most sermons I'd heard in synagogue were big on doctrine and very small (if not nonexistent) on practical application. Pastor Sluys (still a VERY dear friend!) preached, among other things, on physician-assisted suicide. There was a ballot issue on this very topic on Michigan's ballot just a week and a half later. How's that for news I could use?
- It seemed my "story" was pretty interesting. When I had no idea who to hand my new member card to (see above), I had to walk up to the only person I was SURE ran the place--the pastor. I handed it to him and introduced myself, telling him I was raised Jewish and was looking into Christianity--that I'd read the Bible in three weeks, and was now investigating churches. I think he said "Oh, my" at least three times. He also seemed (and WAS) genuinely interested in what I was going through, but was not pushy (which was definitely a fear of mine).
I have definitely had ten years of blessing attending church. I look forward to many more decades, God willing, of attending services, where I can worship, learn about Him, and fellowship with fellow believers.
Heavenly Father, thank You for reminding me of this anniversary of sorts, and for keeping that very first service so fresh in my memory. Thank You for leading me to just the right church, in just the right place, at just the right time. Thank You even more, Lord, for using all those circumstances, and more, to bringing me to a saving knowledge of you. In the precious name of your Son, who died for ME, I pray.
AND, on an unrelated note, I have a true story printed in a new anthology of "God-incidences," called It Happened By Design, by my dear friend, author and Virtual Assistant Coach and Trainer Kathie Thomas. It just came out, and can be ordered by clicking on the button on my sidebar. It just became available today, and will be listed on Amazon.com in the very near future. I'm very excited about it!