What is Essential?

Our lives have been reduced in the last six months. Besides the closing of many small businesses, movie theaters, and salons, here in Silicon Valley, churches are online or extremely limited in-person capacity. Have you missed gathering?  I’ve been to three in-person church services over the past month. They were unique settings in different cities but they had one common denominator.

We looked up a church to attend while traveling in Idaho. “Let’s try something different,” I told my family. We chose a small Pentecostal church. Arriving, we realized it was PENTECOSTAL, as women wore dresses, no makeup, and some wore little doily head coverings. Instantly I regretted my bright red lipstick. Our family grinned at each other, rolled our eyes a bit, and expected little from this odd group of people. “Man looks on the outside, but God looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) Guilty here! The worship was sincere and pure. The message was genuine, thoughtful, and Christ-centered. We were surprised and refreshed.

The next service we attended was a mountain chapel in Twain Harte, California. I had been invited to preach and to bring my book, Gracious Living. It felt so good to worship at church together. I was pretty certain about the message God had put on my heart and could see the chord it struck in people by their heart-felt responses. I felt fully alive!

The third service was a Wednesday night women’s meeting in South San Jose. A rockin’ worship band played and we sang our guts out (not easy to do as we all wore masks). The sermon was an interview of mother and daughter pairs discussing their relationship with each other. They shared with honesty and raw vulnerability. It was inspiring and also informative.

The differences within these meetings were profound: we were white, black, and brown. Democrat and Republican. Rich and dangerously poor. Solid Christian families alongside many from very broken backgrounds. Pentecostal to charismatic to evangelical. The common denominator? Jesus in the room! Being fully present with people and God. Tears. Many cried at these meetings, encountering the pure love of God through Christ. We experienced His speaking voice in our hearts. We shared our stories and discovered we all have hurts in this life, but Jesus brings restoration. My friend, worshipping together with Jesus is the real deal!

“The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I have hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.” (Lamentations 3:24-25) 

“and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together.” (Hebrews 10:25) 

Is church essential in your life? For me, these three services were some of the most genuine, transcendent moments of my month. What’s happening in your walk with God these days? Are you gathering in-person to worship? Are you feeling connected to God and people or are there adjustments to make? I would love to hear about your journey.