Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in over 20 years. I went to Church on Sunday.
Now, before someone rushes to correct me, yes, I pastor a church and am there most weeks to try to build up others and to pray for people’s problems. Yes, most Sunday afternoons and evenings I’m off to be a guest speaker in another church somewhere. Yes, I go to major conferences where, as part of the conference programme there is a Sunday service.
But what I’m trying to say is that yesterday, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I simply went to Church. I was on holiday in the west of Ireland, I had nothing planned for the day, and I woke up on Sunday morning, wondered what I would do that day, and thought to myself, “Hmm, I’d like to go to Church this morning.” Not to preach. Not to be the guy in charge. Not because I was a delegate at a conference. I just wanted to go to Church.
So I went on line and tried to see if there were any bible-believing churches close to where I was staying (Cliffs of Moher, County Clare). I found the website of North Clare Community Church which is in Ennistymon (site of some spectacular river falls). The website was clear and gave me a good idea of the flavour to expect.
The driving directions on the website, with the help of my GPS, got me safely to the right location. It was a much smaller gathering than I’m used to – but the size of the building and the way the seats were laid out still made the place feel pleasantly full without being overcrowded. People were friendly and welcoming, and I really enjoyed the worship. It wasn’t a big worship team or anything, but it was tuneful, heartfelt and the Holy Spirit was in it. The Church seemed to have a strong sense of community, and a lady (I’m presuming she was the pastor’s wife) shared a story for the children.
The preaching was informal in style – think preacher wearing jeans and sitting on a barstool – and I felt very at home. It appeared to be part of an ongoing exposition of Mark’s Gospel and we looked at the Transfiguration. It was biblical, balanced and I enjoyed it.
Afterwards there was opportunity to fellowship. I felt quite anti-social because I had to meet people for Sunday lunch so I had to slip away without partaking of the coffee or contributing to the time of fellowship.
As I drove to lunch I found myself thanking God at such expressions of faith springing up in communities, towns and cities across Ireland. At one time it would have been next to impossible to find churches like this in so many rural areas. There is a quiet revolution taking place in our land – and it is largely through the faithful planting of new congregations across the country rather than through one or two well known ministries or megachurches.
I really enjoyed going to Church yesterday.