Monday, July 9, 2012

our new church "home"

Our move to The Woodlands took place 1.5 years ago, and since that time, we’ve discussed on numerous occasions the desire to visit a new church -- that our current church at that time was simply too far of a drive and…well..we simply weren’t that invested. We all know how easy it is to postpone things that we aren’t forced to do.  How easy it is to [insert sarcasm] coordinate the family’s schedules to be at the same place at the same time, during the summer with vacations, baby arrivals, weddings, some having to work around the house on weekends, and other obligations. Seriously, it is about as easy as herding cats.  So, more recently, we just gave up and decided that this would be the week we visited The Loft (otherwise we may have never made it).

I was under the impression that The Loft was non-denominational, and it was not until I talked with a friend at work that I found out it was actually affiliated with the United Methodist Church of the Woodlands, located just across the parking lot. This friend explained that the mention of “Methodist” isn’t highly promoted, simply to avoid it becoming a barrier for anyone. She also said that their goal as a church was to reach the unchurched. This, I get.

On the day of our first visit, we were warmly engaged on our way in, which confirmed to me that these people were sincerely interested in getting to know us. It never seemed as if they were “putting on a show” in hopes of attracting some new members, which I have to admit I have felt in several churches I have attended in the past.  Unfortunately some churches can be likened to casinos…they “lure” you in with the pretty lights and entertainment, but once you are inside it becomes less about making sure you leave with more than you came, and more about keeping you busy so that you won’t go somewhere else.  In these churches, relationships and engagement never progress beyond superficial habits into real transformational experiences that lead to a life of committed service.  I do not mean to be overly critical here, but unfortunately the “competition” among churches for attendance numbers is a very real thing (if you don’t believe me, just ask your pastor).

Walking towards the “Garage” (a name given to the youth sanctuary), I noticed a coffee station – ahh, a place where I can fill up on God’s glorious brown nectar of life (OK, so I’m a coffee lover). I also spotted comfortable sofas and bar-height tables for gathering and fellowship. The whole interior of the building has a warehouse feel to it -- stained concrete floors, exposed ceilings, and corrugated metal walls. In the sanctuary, the room dimmed and the up-lighting from the back of the stage gave the room a nightclub rock concert type of atmosphere…where a drum kit, keyboard, and mass of guitars dominated the space.

I would argue that the praise band at The Loft is probably the most talented in the Houston area. Come to find out, the music leaders are accomplished musicians and songwriters. The music was as eclectic as the congregation, which consisted of the most diverse mixture of race, age, and income level that I have seen in a church so far. The songs were a bit difficult to catch on to at first, only because I didn’t know the songs…but at the same time, they are more in line with the style of music that I prefer to listen to. Very much like that of the music played on KSBJ radio. So even though I did not connect through participation, I still connected to the music through “feeling it” (if that makes any sense). I couldn’t belt out the tunes as I usually do (fortunately for those around me)…I was still enjoying and worshiping God just the same.

After worship, a man came up to the stage to deliver the sermon. This person was not the pastor of the church (Andy Nixon) that I read about online, so I can just assume that he is either an associate pastor or maybe a lay speaker. I later found out that the speaker was Rob Renfroe (@RobRenfroe1), the Pastor of Discipleship over at the main church (also known as “the big house). He had our attention with his candor and humor, but more importantly, my husband's attention with "I'm growing my hair out." Rob taught from 1 Samuel, using the David & Goliath story for everyday people. The theme was called, “Facing Your Giants,” and though I won’t even attempt to re-convey the lesson Rob taught (NO, because he was phenomenal!), it was along the lines of shifting our minds and hearts, recognizing that the battle is not ours but is Lord’s, and through Him we can overcome our giants, whether that be problems in the marriage, issues at the office, the lack of a job and/or income, disease, death, and the like. That’s not to say “oh, just sit back and do nothing – God will handle,” but rather use our experiences as opportunities. Rob was so descriptive of his main points, bringing out some important lessons from the Scripture topic and some needed exhortations on living a Christian life. Sometimes pastors can be so polished that they sound phony or insincere, but Rob made me feel as though we were having a one-on-one in the comfort of my living room. It is sort of like me writing this blog -- I am not an accomplished author who has dedicated years of her life to literary studies and amassed an expansive vocabulary in the process (I was trying to sound smart there…did it work?). Instead, I am just a regular “Joe” (Mandi, actually). Nevertheless, it sure is nice to hear someone who I can relate to do the preaching in a church, and also deliver a sermon that you know without a shadow of a doubt is from the heart instead of a sermon that sounds extremely well crafted.  

If I am someone (a visitor) who is hungry for God, would I find Him at The Loft Church? Undoubtedly. How would I be directed there?  Who would help me find the way?  The Holy spirit led my family here, I am certain. If the message that is preached at a church is led by the Holy Spirit, then it must be an indicator of where this particular church is on their journey, how healthy they are spiritually, and their level of maturity in the faith (because God would want the message to be delivered to the right people at the right time, right? Right!).  
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