My husband Ray and I have been looking for a new church home for years. I’m excited about the new church that we’ve been attending, Hope City Church of Harrisonville, Missouri. Why? We’re among the 1/3 of people who used to attend church, but now stay away specifically because they “lost trust in God, the church, or Christians.” (According to a 2019 “Unchurched Report” by Billy Graham Center Institute and Lifeway Research, You Found Me, Rich Richardson, p. 47)
It’s a startling and scary fact that the number of youth (Americans ages 18-29) who have no religious affiliation has nearly quadrupled in the last 30 years, and 59% of millennials raised in a church have dropped out.
There are several reasons that Ray and I and our children were wounded that I won’t go into here, but we’ve had to walk through a LOT of forgiveness. Unfortunately, there are many people in the same boat. My hope is that this new church will be a safe haven for us of God’s agape (unconditional) love, truth, and forgiveness; that we can make new friends; and that we’ll be able to serve in the Body of Christ and use our spiritual gifts, talents, and skills for God’s glory there.
Here’s the reasons I really like this church so far:
- The very first time I attended 4 weeks ago, I felt the presence and the anointing of God – I felt LIFE;
- It’s Biblically based. The pastor, Chad Fagerland, preaches the truth from the Bible and doesn’t water it down or twist it;
- Pastor Chad grew up as a child of missionaries in Africa. The church is missions- and outreach-oriented. Ray and I and our oldest daughter Heather have done numerous missions trips overseas, so this really resonates with us;
- The worship team is passionate for Jesus and seems sincere (not wanting to be seen on a stage performing, but to point everyone to Jesus through worship and praise);
- The people are friendly and the greeters at the door make you feel welcome right away;
- Their logo is “Jesus. People. Coffee.” (This is right up my alley and it alone drew me in immediately! They have great coffee with plenty of creamer.);
- They give you a free, pretty coffee mug and pen and a Starbucks $5 gift card when you’re a new visitor!
- They’re a growing, thriving church, consisting of all ages. On August 20, they’re going to go to FOUR sevices, due to the growth;
- Ray and I have long-time friends who have been attending there for 10 years (Jim and Deann Wolf) and love it, with their children and their grandchildren;
- My friend Debbie and her husband Wes Schnorf attended with me the second Sunday that I visited and have decided it is their new church home – we sit together in church);
- They have a “Growth Track” four-week class for newcomers to meet the church’s staff and to learn more about the church’s beliefs and the Bible. You also take a spiritual gifts inventory and at the end of the classes, they get you plugged into the area where you feel called to serve with your gifts, if you choose to stay there;
- Small groups are starting in the fall. This is important for larger churches so that people can get to know each other and to make new friends, so they don’t feel alone, and to spiritually grow. God didn’t intend for us to be an island unto ourselves, but to be in a community – a family of faith through Jesus.
For the first Growth Track class, they had a Welcome Supper with a free BBQ dinner. It was delicious! We also met Pastor Chad and the staff. They shared the church’s beliefs. We had short ice-breaker discussions at each of our tables with a table leader, who had been through the Growth Track class before. It was fun. (This pastor and the church also encourage having lots of FUN, another big plus!)
There are no perfect churches because people aren’t perfect; only Jesus Christ is. I have visited other churches since Ray and I left the one where we attended for over a decade and brought up our kids in. I have found a couple of churches where I felt God’s presence, but it didn’t seem the right place for Ray and me both. Ray has visited this church several times. He likes the pastor and the church, too.
Normally, I’m a hoodie and jeans (or pj’s) kind of girl, but I really enjoy dressing up each week for church (in actual dresses, since I rarely wear them!). Recently I wore a new Cato’s dress with the Eiffel tower and French words all over it. (I took French four years in high school and have traveled to Paris twice!) You can wear whatever you want, though – I’ve seen many people in t-shirts, shorts, jeans, yoga pants, etc. The pastor himself wears “Hawaiian” style, button-up shirts, jeans, and sneakers while preaching! Come as you are!
Hopefully, this church will be our new home. I’m still “testing the water” so to speak, but I’m feeling drawn by God there and pumped up about the possibilities.
Have you or someone you know experienced church hurt? Do you have a church that you and your family call “home” now? Please leave your comments below.