Church Experience #10 – March 6, 2011
Lookout Valley Baptist Church, Chattanooga, TN
So everyone knows that a married man should always make decisions based on what is best for the whole family, and when his wife wants something, it’s probably best for the whole family that she gets it. Up until this point in my ChurchSurfer journey, I have been making the decisions (often through listening for and following what I think are God’s leads) on where to go to church on Sundays. That ended this week. One of Laura’s friends from work invited her to church, so of course, that is where we went :). I’m sure you understand why I didn’t argue (I’m still amazed that she is going on this crazy journey to visit 50 churches in 1 year with me in the first place). One of the Christian life lessons I’ve learned over the years is that if you want to hear the Lord…His direction for you, His words of encouragement, His expressions of love…you need only to listen to His people. As it turns out, using Laura to suggest which church we attended this week was one of God’s leads.
The McDonald’s Theory
The invitation from Laura’s friend, Tammy, was to Lookout Valley Baptist Church. We pulled up for the Sunday morning worship service without much time to spare, and as we approached the very typical looking, red brick Baptist church, I already knew exactly how this Sunday’s experience was going to go. We would go in, shake a few hands, sing a few hymns with organ/piano accompaniment, listen to a sermon about the pitfalls of sin, and then shake some hands again on the way out (I apologize to all Baptists in advance). So much for the string of consecutive ChurchSurfer weeks of producing some pretty interesting content for people to read. So much for my desire to experience something more than just regular old church. This week was going to be bland and accomplish absolutely zero, except to feed the non-believer’s view that there is nothing “happening” in the Christian church. It’s just like the McDonald’s theory, except applied to churches. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the McDonald’s theory, they attribute most of the company’s success to the fact that you can go to any McDonald’s in the country and have basically the same experience…the same food, the same atmosphere, the same service…they work very hard to maintain this consistency because if you like McDonald’s, you know exactly what to expect no matter which one you go to. So the same can be said for red brick Southern Baptist churches, right? Not so fast, my friend.
We entered the very typical looking sanctuary and found seats with Tammy and her husband Dan. A few of the men in the church circled the room greeting and shaking everyone’s hand with sincerity and a warm smile. The worship leader kicked off the music, which surprisingly did not include an organ (a staple of the old Southern Baptist church), but did include guitar, bass, piano, and drums. The music was contemporary worship, and as we went through the songs that included one of Laura’s favorites, I was refreshed to experience real worship with many in the congregation lifting hands as they praised the LORD. As the worship concluded, pastor Troy Walliser announced that as part of the church’s ongoing “names of God” study, he would be beginning the day with a healing service to glorify the LORD through His name, Jehovah Rapha, which translates into “The LORD our Healer”. Pointing to the Scripture, James 5:14, pastor Troy called up anyone in the congregation who was sick…physically, mentally, spiritually…to be anointed with oil and prayed over by the church elders. People came up by the bunches, and here is a synopsis of the prayer that happened, if you would like to join them with additional intercessory prayer on their behalf…
Troy (not the pastor) for heart attacks he has suffered, Judy for arthritis, Dan for lupus, Mike for debilitating physical deformity caused by a car accident, Darlene for bulging discs, chronic pain, and upcoming knee replacement, Clint for a strong mind and heart for Christ, Suzie for attacks by the enemy on her loved ones, Wallace for his right side, Mark for cancer, Lonnie for stomack ailments, Jackie for lifelong arthritis, Judy for psoriasis and hearing loss, Willie for arthritis, Jim for a kidney transplant.
As pastor Troy anointed each one with oil, he prayed over them with the church elders surrounding them and laying hands on those who were suffering. As I later told my wife on the ride home, I have no clue why every church doesn’t do this. Prayer works, people. We have a God who heals. Does he heal everyone who asks? No. He heals according to His will. We may have the opportunity to glorify God more in sickness than in health, so why then would He take away that opportunity for us to serve His purpose? All things on earth are temporary, except for us. Sickness doesn’t exist in heaven. Christ suffered more tragically than anyone, considering He didn’t deserve any of the affliction He received. Why then would we not expect the same while here on earth? God’s intention isn’t to hurt us. He can’t be blamed for “allowing” us to suffer. He shouldn’t be criticized when bad things happen to good people. He should be honored and glorified, that His people persevere through all earthly circumstances, solely focused on what is to come after this life. Does it not make it easier to go through adversity if you already know what the outcome will be? It does for me. I am happy and thankful to experience life and all of its ups and downs, with the confidence that my Lord has already prepared a place for me in heaven. But we should still pray for healing, so that unnecessary suffering doesn’t take place, and so that the power of God may be demonstrated through His miraculous healing.
Down Home Feel
After the healing service, the associate pastor, Greg, gave the main sermon, teaching on Jonah 1 and 2 about God having a mission for us that we often run from, affecting not only us, but those around us. Pastor Greg delivered the sermon with sincerity and conviction, and from my outside perspective, with an intent and purpose specifically for this congregation. Lookout Valley Baptist seemed like that kind of small town church, where the members all know each other’s families, and the pastors really know their members and tailor their teachings specifically for what the church needs at any given time. In speaking with pastor Troy, it was very apparent that he is passionate (and emotional) about serving as the shepherd for his flock. Although he takes responsibility for leading, protecting, feeding, and nurturing, he doesn’t go at it alone…he relies on the support of his church elders. Churches like Lookout Valley Baptist that have that small town atmosphere always seem like a weekly family reunion. The people appear open and honest, willingly letting others into their lives, sharing their struggles, offering encouragement, and rejoicing together in good times. When you forget about appearances, let down your guard, and take people at face value, you begin to understand what being a church family is all about. It is my hope that Lookout Valley Baptist and pastor Troy can continue to cultivate that down home feel among the congregation and take joy in knowing they are fulfilling God’s true purpose for them just by doing that…loving each other unconditionally through the good times and the bad.
After an awesome experience on Sunday morning, Laura and I came back for the Wednesday night “names of God” Bible study with pastor Troy. This week’s name was “Adonai”, which is translated into modern Bibles as the word “Lord”. The word “adon” means lord or master, and Adonai is the plural of adon, which represents both God’s plurality which is the trinity, and it also represents God as the Lord of all lords, or the supreme Lord. I learned something from pastor Troy this week that was completely new to me, and that was that there is a difference in the words “LORD” and “Lord” in the Bible. When you see the word “Lord”, it is translated from Adonai (or Kurios from Greek in New Testament texts) and means Master or Owner, but when you see the word “LORD”, it is translated from Yahweh, which is the name of God. So in Scripture, where our modern Bibles say “Lord” (Adonai or Kurios), it is actually a reference to God and His characteristic as our Master or Owner. This same relationship is evidenced in the New Testament by Paul, who refers to God as “Kurios” (Owner) and himself as “doulos”, which is translated in the modern Bible as “servant” but could also be translated as “slave”. Read the Scripture, Luke 6:46, and see if that doesn’t reveal a little more about what Jesus was saying there. Pastor Troy went on to teach that we, as Christians, need to submit to the fact that there is a big difference between our Biblical understanding of being a servant to our Adonai and being a slave. The word “servant” implies being hired, while the word “slave” implies being owned. If you are a Christian, you are owned by God. He bought you with a price, plain and simple. Don’t let our tainted, modern American understanding of what an owner and slave relationship is come between your relationship with the Lord.
When you begin a prayer with the word Lord, think about what you are really saying…I hope you mean it. Our God, Yahweh, deserves to be acknowledged as our Owner, Master, Lord. If our souls didn’t require a price…the ultimate sacrifice…then why did Jesus hang on the cross? Why was He beaten, tortured, and humiliated? Why was he buried as dead? Let me tell you that you have only two choices in life, and that you are a slave no matter which choice you make. If you choose to live for the world, you are a slave to sin. If you choose to believe and follow Jesus, you are a slave to Love, and through Love you can experience the best of what life is really about. You can realize your true purpose that you were created for. You can enjoy true fellowship with your Creator and all who follow Him. You can experience true love from your Father who created you. You can look forward to eternal life with Him in heaven, and that is my hope for everyone.
If you would like to talk about any of these issues, I’d love to get together with you, just contact me through the ChurchSurfer Facebook page. You can also contact pastor Troy at Lookout Valley Baptist Church. He will be happy to welcome you in to their church!
Please share the ChurchSurfer blog with anyone who may be interested. I truly hope you enjoy reading about the ChurchSurfer journey!