I love the church we attend. I could write an entire post giving the reasons why Harvest Bible Chapel West Minneapolis has been such a blessing in my life. That is not the post for today, though. Just one of the reasons, and it’s probably one that is lower on the priority list, is the post for today.
We were introduced to Harvest Bible Chapel three years ago. Our son, a college student in Chicago, found Harvest North and loved it. Although the commute for him was long–he and his friends used public transportation to get there–it was worth having to get up early. We visited him for Family Weekend in October and he asked us to please stay through Sunday morning service. Although our plan was to be on the road by 9:00 AM, we stayed to go to church with him. That Sunday changed our lives in so many ways.
Fast forward to the following summer. My husband and I had just been a part of a miracle God performed in our marriage. For several complicated reasons that I won’t go into, we needed to find a church. Our son discovers a Harvest church plant in Maple Grove. He declares that he is going and that he would love for us to join him. We did. We fell in love with it. Never, in all the years we had visited and subsequently attended church, had we found a church as friendly and welcoming as this one. From here I could launch into many reasons why this church has been such a blessing for us. I will not do that. I will say, though, that because Harvest in Chicago is SO committed to planting churches, not only in the United States but across the world, chances are when we are out of town, there will be a Harvest to attend. And because all Harvest pastors go through a training program with Pastor James from the original Harvest in Chicago, the format and atmosphere of each church is the same–strong, unapologetic Bible teaching, vibrant, engaged corporate worship, and a spirit of friendliness and welcoming unparalleled, at least as far as we have seen.
This weekend found us out of town for my husband’s work. I try to go with him when I can. Because he has to be at the client site by the start of work time Monday morning, he usually leaves on Sunday. To get on the road and arrive before dark, something desirable when driving in unfamiliar places, usually means missing church Sunday morning. This trip, though, we decided to leave on Saturday and break the trip up by spending a night halfway to his destination. It just so happened, that the halfway point was Des Moines, Iowa. And there is a Harvest Church in Des Moines. I actually remember when the pastor from Des Moines, then a brand new church, came to our church last summer. We wrote down the address and woke up on Sunday to attend the service.
It’s always kind of scary walking into a new church. I wonder if the clothes I am wearing will be too casual. I wonder if I can have something to drink with me (an important thing for me due to health issues). I wonder if we’ll inadvertently sit in someone else’s “regular” spot. So much to think about.
Our experience at Harvest Des Moines was a wonderful experience, though. People were friendly. The worship felt like I was at home. And Pastor Ryan’s sermon was just as convicting as Pastor Brent’s always is. 🙂 I came away with a few things that ruminated through my head the rest of the day as we drove to our final destination. Two of them I want to write about so I can come back and re-visit them when needed.
First, Harvest Des Moines welcomed new members yesterday. As the pastor explained the membership process, Dave and I looked at each other. We recently became members of our church in Maple Grove and the requirements were much simpler than those of Des Moines. The pastor went on to say why membership is significant. He also said there may be a chance this summer for any who want to pursue membership. Then he said something that struck me. The usual requirement is 6 sessions, 90 minutes each. He said if he were to do one this summer, he may shorten the 6 sessions to 3 and make them a little longer since “summer is so busy and people have a lot going on”. The first thought that entered my head when he said that was, “When aren’t people busy?” Dave and I talked about that after we left. We both remember having kids who were, well, kids. Ours are all adults now, but there were years that we were very busy with activities–soccer, softball, baseball, volleyball, band, jazz band, marching band, dance, orchestra, theatre, voice lessons, instrument lessons, karate, track, swimming, day camps, sports camps–I could go on. At one point, all four of our kids were involved in multiple activities each. Many, MANY times we were scrambling to find a way to get a kid somewhere because I was tied up with Kid A, he was tied up with Kid B, and Kids C&D both had to be in different cities for something. We had an erasable calendar and each kid had a color–Zach’s was blue, Sara’s was red, DJ’s was green and Anna’s was purple. Most days was a splotch of all colors. This wasn’t just in the summer. We were busy year round. Looking back, I would definitely change some things if I could do over. While our kids did get many great experiences, they didn’t get much family time nor did we ever have vacations. Our money went into fees for the above mentioned activities and costs associated with them–some of which were NOT cheap. For several years our Sunday mornings were spent at an indoor soccer arena. This was during the school year–not summer. Going back to Pastor Ryan’s words, and being an older mom now, I wonder how many families sacrifice important things for activities. Don’t misunderstand. Activities are important. Our kids learned from just about every activity they participated in. That learning, though, often came at the expense of other important things. This is the second thing that struck me from the service.
“We cannot obtain maturity in Christ (wisdom) without other people to help us live it and to spur us on.” Pastor Ryan was speaking from the book of James. Yesterday he spoke on the difference between earthly wisdom and Godly wisdom. The words above really made me think. How many families, like we used to be, are so busy that they decide that something has to be dropped from their schedule–and usually that something is church or something church related. I know when our daughter’s summer soccer team decided that they needed to play all winter at the indoor arena, we agreed, knowing that we would not be able to go to church. At that time in our lives, church wasn’t really a part of our lives anyway, but I also know had that not been the case, we still probably would have chosen to play simply because we didn’t want our kid to be at a disadvantage. It has only been in the past several months that I have realized the importance of having other believers around me. I still have not quite reached the point of complete transparency. Yet, that is what, according to Pastor’s sermon yesterday, we need to do. It is in the trenches of life, the sharing and carrying of burdens, that bonds are built and strengthened. It is seeing answers to prayer requests shared by hurting hearts that faith grows. Going to church is a good thing. We should do that. But just going on Sunday mornings isn’t accomplishing all God has for us as His people. The early church shared completely–possessions, food, and burdens. As Pastor Ryan said yesterday, today that kind of community isn’t happening because families are too busy. What really struck me was the fact that if we really line up our priorities, God should be first. As a mom, that would have been really hard for me to do. My kids came first, then my marriage (hence the near divorce in our marriage), then my own pleasure, and if there was anything left, God could have that. Priorities today are backwards, just like mine were. Oh, how I wish I could do over again.
As we stopped to introduce ourselves to the Des Moines pastor yesterday, we told him that we were members of Harvest West Minneapolis. He asked us how our church was doing, that he heard we had a building now, how long we had been there, and then he asked us something that took me by surprise. He asked if we were in a small group.
I realize that I need to have a few people in my life that I can be real with. I have approached those waters–have even stuck my foot in occasionally–but I have yet to be 100% genuine with anyone. There are things I still feel if people knew, I would be judged harshly or looked down upon. My prayer, after yesterday, is that God would give the strength to pursue true community. Even if that is just one other person who I feel won’t look down on me because of something going on in my life. I need to take that chance in order to grow even more in my faith.