I've been reading through a book called The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel as part of blogger and pastor Tim Challies's "Reading Classics Together" this summer. It had been a long time since I read a book by a Puritan so it has definitely been tough adjusting to and understanding the use of the English language in the book, but I have so greatly benefited from it. God's Providence is truly amazing and I want to seek to keep a record of it, so today I am sharing about God's Providence in leading us to our new church home.
Ben and I have been married for almost 7 years (August 23rd). We have never been church members together. We faithfully attended a wonderful church here in Memphis for 5+ years and so valued it and still do. The church is a beacon of truth and has such a wonderful and biblical legacy and heritage. We were grateful to be there for the time we were. I am still very close to several of the older women from that church and one of Ben's most adored mentors goes there. I can't really tell you any specific reason that we never joined. We went through the membership process, but something inside of us several years back just longed for something smaller and more intimate. There is nothing biblically "wrong" with the church we were at, but we just felt like the way God had wired us and due to personality and preferences (that were hopefully Scriptural), we began visiting around at smaller church bodies.
Over the past 2.5 years I think we visited about 5-8 churches around Memphis. And let me tell you, there are some absolutely wonderful and biblically solid churches in Memphis. If you are looking for a church home I can point you to some of the "hidden gems" in just about any part of town. The problem for us was that we had trouble finding something close to our home that was on the smaller side. We truly desired somewhere that we could plug in and do community with people, so driving 30 minutes to church just wasn't going to be our ideal choice.
Also, in visiting several church plants, or young churches, we found that a lot of the plants were not very generationally diverse. This was a non-negotiable for us. Many don't mind this and that is fine, but this was something the Lord kept laying on our heart that we personally needed in a church. We had been spoiled by a massive amount of older men and women at our previous "5 year" church and we knew the benefit of the older generation. So many churches nowadays don't seem to care much about the value of the older generation and seeking their input. Many churches seem to care more about the style of worship and being relevant and trendy, than they do about seeking wisdom and input from older brothers and sisters in Christ. This could be another post for another day so I digress...
All that to say.... it was a really hard 2.5 years of church searching. We knew that we were probably being too picky and over analytical. We know that our sin and preferences probably got in the way some. I probably worried too much about difficult logistics with children when looking into churches that were a further distance, but God used all of our sinfulness and fickleness and led us to the church that He desired for us, in His perfect timing.
As we left the last church we had attended for about a year we felt particularly discouraged and a good and trusted brother in Christ recommended a smaller church body about 25 minutes from us. We visited it and really loved it right away. The preaching was solid and expositional, centered on the Word and Christ, and the people were warm and loving. We were ready to look into membership after a few weeks, when the Lord through us a curve ball.
God's amazing Providence: We were visiting that church one morning and after service I was trying to corral the kids and get home, but Ben insisted I meet a girl he had spotted and knew from Bartlett (where we are currently living). After chatting with her for a bit she told us they would soon be moving to Bartlett to help with a church plant. Now, I tried to play it cool and not bombard her with questions, but on the inside I was hopefully excited and super curious. Ben and I had kept saying that there had to be at least one church in Bartlett that was evangelical and tended towards reformed theology and was a little more on the orthodox side. (We're old souls I suppose). We kept thinking and looking around at the churches we knew of to no avail. On the way home we looked up this church's website and "on paper" it looked like it had major potential to be our new church home. Redemption Community Church.
We visited the next week and have been there ever since. This was around Easter time, and they had only planted a few weeks before. We met with the pastor's family and felt so comfortable and confident in them and their vision for the church and walks with God. In God's Providence he had been burdening me with the need for biblical counseling in Memphis, as well as the pastor and his wife. It really seemed too good to be true. It is truly a Christ centered church that is based on the Word of God and makes no apologies for that. There are several older couples. The worship is Christ centered and simple--- lots of hymns and songs with rich theology. The family and children's aspect is so very thought out and intentional as well. We are so blown away by God to have led us here in the way He did, and to have the privilege to plug in and serve the body and raise our children here.
Another really neat aspect to this story, is that when Ben and I decided to move to Bartlett in March of 2014 we knew we were moving further away from the churches we knew of that we thought we would go to, but it turns out that Redemption is .9 miles from our house. We could walk you guys!!! Blown away. A like-minded, Christ centered, Word saturated congregation, that we get to do life with! I mean, God seriously gave us everything we had been praying for and so much very more! I am still absolutely blown away by His Providence in this situation.
This morning at breakfast Ben explained to Brooklyn and Annalise that we were going to become members of Redemption today. We had drug them around from church to church for 2.5 years so I am sure in whatever capacity they could understand they were relieved to not be visiting around anymore, but to be "home". They stood with us this morning as the church covenant was read and we affirmed it, and at lunch Brooklyn asked to pray. It was simple, but profound.
"Thank you God for Redemption Community Church. And thank you that we are members."Amen Brooklyn. Amen.