The last two months have been ones of transition. I made the somewhat sudden decision to step down from my video ministry at Evangel. At the same time, I felt the need to do something new in my spiritual life and connection with the church. It was not due to dissension or unhappiness with how things were that caused me to look at another church. There are a lot of reasons, but none of them negative toward Evangel or the people there. They are my family and friends, and I will consider them that way forever. I have lots of good memories with those people, and I don't want to burn any bridges so to speak. I'm sure I'll still visit from time to time or hang out with some Evangel friends.
I have been going through a time of spiritual dryness. Part of it has been an inability or difficulty to be significantly involved at church. Living across town makes it hard to be around when things are going on. My attention was divided Sunday mornings. It was hard for me to worship, listen to the sermon and fellowship because I ran the video every week. The primary opportunity to connect, grow, learn and get equipped wasn't really happening for quite some time. Attendance at other gatherings like small groups waned due to the inconvenience and expense of driving across town during the week. There are numerous other factors that led to my somewhat sudden decision to seek a church on the westside. I was going through a particularly hard time spiritually and felt that a fairly extreme measure was warranted.
Ironically, while my friend Paul and I were looking at church web sites for inspiration to build our own, one particular site made a distinct impression on me. The impression stuck in my mind and planted a seed of interest. Little did I know that a month later, I would be attending this church.
The name of the church is Ethnos. The website impressed me because the photos showed people that looked real. They looked at ease and comfortable with each other. This sort of camaraderie and small family church atmosphere is something I learned to appreciate at Evangel. I don't think I can settle for less. I don't ever want to blend into the pews and avoid being recognized.
The Ethnos community is a new church plant. The leaders have a somewhat unique vision to follow a Biblical model of doing church. One of the core features of Ethnos is an honest effort to flourish in discipleship, equipping the saints. Each person is encouraged and given incredible freedom to be involved and make a difference in the church. The modern approach to church in previous generations (if not centuries) has been to designate leaders in the form of pastors and elders who do the brunt of the work. While others sometimes "help around the house," they are rarely convicted as ministers or given much opportunity to be an integral part of the body of Christ. Quite the opposite, it is likely that most people can attend a church and do nothing else than sit in a pew, sing songs, and exchange a few handshakes once a week. This is the kind of church life I experienced growing up, and it is probably a familiar situation to anyone who has attended church for a while.
I get the impression the Great Commission is taken quite literally and seriously at Ethnos. This might produce some difficult and uncomfortable situations. It is certainly easier to maintain the status quo of doing very little. But I'm excited at the idea of more deeply considering the commands of Jesus and the model He gave us for His church. Hopefully I will be open to God's work in me through this.
A week or two after first visiting Ethnos, I scheduled a meeting with one of the elders - the one considered the "pastor." We had a nice discussion at Starbucks. I asked some questions and shared some observations after a few visits at the church, and we exchanged stories and thoughts. I already have some good acquaintances and potential friends after just a few weeks. It is impossible to disappear at Ethnos. Newcomers are spotted immediately, and the warmth and welcome are plain as day. Of course I'm a little shy and introverted, so it's hard for me to strike up conversation with strangers. It sure beats feeling like a ghost when visiting a new church though. Almost immediately I experienced the universal body of Christ thing that breaks through all sorts of barriers. I love that about God's people - we are all brothers and sisters in Him, regardless of age, gender, nationality or background.
Another thing I really like about Ethnos is the evening service. Ethnos has no building of their own, and they rent another church. Due to scheduling with the other congregation, evenings work better for them. I adore evening services. Growing up, Sunday night services were by far my favorite. I was horribly sad to see them go. They were never a repetition or regurgitation of morning services, but something special. Perhaps today's answer to Sunday night services is small groups and other intimate gatherings. Somehow it's just not quite the same. Saul good though (well, he started out that way at least... King Saul, not Saul who became Paul).
That about covers the most significant recent life changes. Now for Easter. Easter really didn't feel like Easter this year. I had the opportunity to go to a Good Friday Labyrinth stations walk through at church, but was too lazy. I regret not going. On Easter Sunday, I stayed home all day and had Tuna Helper for lunch :) I did make it to our evening service, furthermore. Mom has been out of town caring for my grandparents, so there wasn't any normal Easter gathering or dinner.