Monday, January 14, 2008


What Elizabeth Means

You are friendly, charming, and warm. You get along with almost everyone.
You work hard not to rock the boat. Your easy going attitude brings people together.
At times, you can be a little flaky and irresponsible. But for the important things, you pull it together.

You are relaxed, chill, and very likely to go with the flow.
You are light hearted and accepting. You don't get worked up easily.
Well adjusted and incredibly happy, many people wonder what your secret to life is.

You tend to be pretty tightly wound. It's easy to get you excited... which can be a good or bad thing.
You have a lot of enthusiasm, but it fades rather quickly. You don't stick with any one thing for very long.
You have the drive to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. Your biggest problem is making sure you finish the projects you start.

You are incredibly wise and perceptive. You have a lot of life experience.
You are a natural peacemaker, and you are especially good at helping others get along.
But keeping the peace in your own life is not easy. You see things very differently, and it's hard to get you to budge.

You are usually the best at everything ... you strive for perfection.
You are confident, authoritative, and aggressive.
You have the classic "Type A" personality.

You are full of energy. You are spirited and boisterous.
You are bold and daring. You are willing to do some pretty outrageous things.
Your high energy sometimes gets you in trouble. You can have a pretty bad temper at times.

You are a seeker. You often find yourself restless - and you have a lot of questions about life.
You tend to travel often, to fairly random locations. You're most comfortable when you're far away from home.
You are quite passionate and easily tempted. Your impulses sometimes get you into trouble.

You are truly an original person. You have amazing ideas, and the power to carry them out.
Success comes rather easily for you... especially in business and academia.
Some people find you to be selfish and a bit overbearing. You're a strong person.

And here I thought Elizabeth meant "Consecrated to God"... I have to say, though, except for the fact that I don't think I'm an overbearing Type A personality, this has me pegged pretty well.

Monday, January 07, 2008

What's in a Church?

For the last four and a half years, we've been attending the E-Free Church of Bozeman. When we moved here we shopped around some before we finally settled on E-Free. We started with the First Baptist Church where a friend of ours worked. Given the Baptist reputation (at least everyplace I've lived) I assumed it would be a conservative, safe place to start our search. We were sort of startled to find that a) they had a woman pastor, and b) the service was basically empty for the first part because the congregation doesn't like to sing and showed up after that part of the service was over. So, um... no. Then we visited a church that was WAAAAY out in the boonies and, while it was fine, it took forever to get there on long windy roads, so we didn't see that as a pleasant winter option. We tried the church that was within walking distance of our house, too. We liked it. The people were very friendly and they were a fairly young congregation. Lots of young couples. Just like us. Unfortunately, the pastor was about our age, too, and had never been to seminary. Call me old fashioned, but that wasn't something we were particularly comfortable with. We knew someone who attended E-Free, so we visited there and decided to give it a try.

Now, both Leif and I have always attended small churches. Congregations around 150-200 people. You know everyone and there is a familial aspect to it. KBC was like that, and so was BRBC. E-Free has hundreds of members. They have multiple Sunday morning services just to accommodate the number of attendees. But we decided to give it a try.

We tried for a couple months. After two months I started to freak out a little. We still didn't know anyone. It was like we were all alone in a room full of people. One thing we did like, though, was the preaching. Pastor Chris took a verse-by-verse exegetical approach to the scriptures and we both appreciate that. But after two months of great preaching and no fellowship, I felt like I needed more. So we kept looking.

We tried the Baptist church in Belgrade. I don't remember exactly what it was that we didn't like about it. It might have been the preaching, or it might have been that there weren't any young couples there. I don't remember. But I do remember that we decided to go back to E-Free and try to get connected somehow. The preaching was good; it was the fellowship that was lacking.

So we went back to E-Free and got plugged into a young married couples group. We met once a week and were led by an older couple with many years of marriage and life experience behind them. Glenn and Lyla were like surrogate parents to our group. It was in that group that we first met Todd and Andrea, Jose and Shannon, and Daniel and Eva. These are the people that we have remained friends with. We met as a group for about 2 years. Then Glenn and Lyla took up another ministry in the church and our little group stopped meeting.

It was around that time, though, that E-Free started having a Saturday night service. It was a much smaller service than the Sunday morning ones, and it was followed by a fellowship dinner each week. We got the benefit of Chris' teaching combined with the smaller congregation and opportunity to meet and talk with people over dinner each week. It was great. And it lasted until this summer. Then the Saturday night services stopped.

One of the reasons we liked the Saturday services, too, was that they fit very nicely with Ellie's schedule. Our options for a Sunday morning service were 8:30 or 11:00. 8:30 was still pretty early for Ellie to be up and ready (since until recently she liked to sleep in until about then) and the 11:00 service was always so packed full that it was almost impossible to find a parking space or chair. Added to that was the fact that the church got unbearably hot for Leif in the summer with the packed 11:00 service. But, most Sundays we were able to get ourselves up and going in time for the 8:30 service, even if we got there late. After a while, though, it became a little more hit-and-miss, and by the holidays it took concerted effort to make it to church each week.

You see, we'd lost our fellowship again. We were no longer meeting with our small group, and we were no longer fellowshipping with people over dinner each week. We still appreciated Pastor Chris' sound teaching, but this fall he announced his upcoming retirement.

A couple years ago, shortly after we started attending the Saturday service, E-Free did a church plant in Belgrade. I remember several families leaving to attend that church, including our friends Jose and Shannon. The church seemed to grow steadily, and two years later they have rented out the third floor of a building in our subdivision. It has been converted into a sanctuary and classrooms and they have about 150 people who meet there each week. We decided that we would give it a try after the holidays.

That brings us to last Sunday. We visited New Hope Bible Church and found it full of families with young children. We saw the Morales and the Vidmars there, and lots of people introduced themselves to us. In fact, I think more people talked to us there last Sunday than talk to us on any given Sunday at the church we have been attending for the last four years. Ellie stayed with us through the first part of the service (and danced along with the music) and then went to the nursery. It was the first place I've visited that I felt I could be a part of in a long time.

The downside is that the pastor there is no Chris Blackmore. I remember not being terribly impressed with him when he first arrived and preached at E-Free one Sunday. His sermons are more topical in nature and they don't have the structure behind them that I appreciate. They weren't heretical, or even fluffy-fluffy, but they were a little more emotional than I care for. I prefer sermons that speak of the God I know and love and less about me and what I may or may not be going through right now.

And that is what brings me to this question: What's in a church, anyway? Is it a place of teaching, or is it a body of believers? Obviously, both aspects should be present. But which do I consider more important? Which to I base my decision on? I need both solid teaching and good fellowship. But right now I feel that I need the fellowship more than the deep sermon. After all, if all I needed was an exegetical walk through the scriptures, I wouldn't be searching outside of E-Free. But without the fellowship I feel no connection. I feel no family there. The friends we've made at E-Free we will keep. Our get-togethers are no longer church related anyway. And though a good teacher is to be desired, his teaching does no good if I don't even make it to the service to hear it.

I have not completely made up my mind on whether to return to E-Free or continue to attend New Hope. But I am leaning toward New Hope. I have already signed up for a women's Bible study this quarter. I did that through Shannon before we even visited the church. I realized this summer that I need Christian women to fellowship with. I tried a study through E-Free this fall, but it felt forced. And after the 10 weeks were over, I didn't know anyone any better than I did when I started. In fact, I missed the last 3 weeks an no one even noticed. Or if they did, they didn't comment. So I'm going to try this group. I know God intends for His people to fellowship together. And I know that He will provide all I need. I know that He is faithful, but am I? Therein lies my struggle, I think.