Yesterday I went on a little rabbit trail about a favorite preacher while mentioning a book of his that I had recently read. I wanted to say a little more here. There are a few preachers whose ministries through radio and writing have blessed me a lot over the years. Alistair Begg and John MacArthur are two men whose radio ministries have been a real treat to hear for the past seven years or so. I began listening to both these men when I lived in Florida after the birth of our first son when I began to stay home full time. I was very thankful to have solid Bible teaching to listen to as I cleaned the house and changed diapers. I have learned much from both of these pastors over the years, and there have even been times of drought spiritually when I really was glad to have that extra teaching.
But I would be remiss if I did not say that radio and book ministry in no way can ever take the place of the local church. When we lived in Florida, we were so blessed to be members at a church where we were learning and growing. It was the first church we visited when we moved to the Tampa Bay area, and we never discerned the need to go anywhere else. It was hard to leave there, but I can see, in looking back, that we needed to be pushed out of that nest and to have the next seven years’ growing experiences.
When we moved to Indiana, we really struggled to find a church. We visited quite a few, and when Drew got the call to go to Bosnia with the Army National Guard, we still had not joined a church. After he left, I and the boys, who were just little then, visited yet another church and found it to be the place where I was to spend the next year while he was away. The people were so warm and the preaching good, and I knew I needed that support network as I was dealing with all the struggles of being new to the community and missing my husband. I joined the church without Drew, and by the time he came home he had already accepted a new job in South Carolina and we were in the midst of planning to move there, so that local church was a haven for me and just loved on me and my boys during a true wilderness year, and I treasure the brothers and sisters who became friends that year. But Drew was never a part of that since we moved away a month after he came home from Bosnia. This was strange for us.
Once we moved to South Carolina, we really thought finding a church wouldn’t be all that hard. It’s in the deep south, Bible belt to the max, or so we thought. We were sadly mistaken. We visited tons of churches and finally joined a small church that we thought would be a place where we could plug in and serve. If you’ve been reading here for a long time, you know about our struggle there when we finally came to the realization that we could no longer stay at that church after four years because we just didn’t feel it was a safe place spiritually for our children, especially since we believed at the time that we were probably going to be living there for a long time. I’ve deleted most of the posts I wrote about our church struggle during that time, by the way. I just didn’t feel they should have been on the blog. The last year that we lived there we did find and join a good church where the preaching was good and the children were growing. That year was a time of healing for Drew and me and a time of much growth for our kids. We are thankful for the ministry of that local church and the year we got to join with them, and how it prepared us for where we are now.
One thing I’ve been meaning to share here is how I really believe the move here to St. Louis has been a very good thing, for us as a family and in the area of finding a local church. Drew and I were talking the other day, and we were agreeing that the reason I was miserable in our last place wasn’t that it was a small town. It was that we had such a hard time fitting into a good, solid church family. To me, what makes any place ‘home’ is finding that group of believers with whom we can fellowship and serve together, and we had four years of wilderness in that respect there. I’m not saying I didn’t grow and learn from the experience, however. God graciously uses all things for good to those who are called according to His purpose. I’m not saying otherwise. We did learn and grow and we needed the wilderness time, I believe.
But I can also say that God has richly blessed us here. The first church we visited was so obviously ‘home’ that we never went anywhere else. This place has been a true balm to our souls. And while I’m talking about great pastors, I have to say that we really, truly love our pastor here. He is a godly man who preaches the Word, and we are truly blessed to hear the teaching God leads him to bring each week. He and his wife are a true team, and the way his wife leads the women of the church is precious, and we love them and our church family here so much. Not since our Brandon days have we felt so truly at home with our church family, and we are grateful.
So, though I’m thankful for the great teaching of men like John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, Al Mohler and others, they are not my pastor. I’m grateful for their willingness to share their teaching, and I truly appreciate hearing it as a supplement to what I get to hear each week, but I’m also very grateful for the pastor in my local church who knows my name and my husband’s name and my children’s names, and who opens God’s word faithfully to our local body of believers each week. I’m thankful for the people who make up this local body of believers, and I’m very thankful that God led us to Parkway Baptist Church that Sunday in December when we first began looking to move here. I’m only trying not to think too much about the fact that we know that our stay here in St. Louis is temporary – we know the Army will move us on before too long. But until then, we will be faithful here. May we be faithful to serve wherever He plants us and bloom with His grace as lights pointing others to Jesus.