george_hancockstefanThis year during the Good Friday Worship Service from 12:00 noon to 3:00 PM, it was my privilege to hear 7 preachers speak on the Seven Last Words (Sayings) of Jesus from the Cross. As the convener of the Area Association of Community Churches, I had the opportunity to schedule myself out of the preaching platform and that gave me an opportunity to listen carefully to those who preached without concerning myself about what I will say when my turn came.

Listening to seven sermons is a feast for a preacher.  The style of each of the seven preachers is unique.  It involved personality, scholarship, content, and delivery.  It involved barely audible sentences to shouts, from manuscript readings to no manuscripts and no notes, from being fixed and holding the pulpit to dancing around the pulpit or leaving the pulpit area and walking among the congregation.

As I concluded the Good Friday Worship Service I was thinking that in the Day of Judgment when the Lord Jesus Christ will ask, “Why have you not worshipped me with other people?” One of the answers cannot be, “I did not find a church that suited my liking!” In this little community of Atlantic Highlands, Highlands and Navesink we have 12 different churches.  We have two Roman Catholic Churches, two Baptist Churches, two United Methodist Churches, one Anglican Church, one African-Methodist-Episcopal Church, one Presbyterian Church, two Pentecostal-charismatic churches and two Independent Churches.  On any weekend, there are close to 20 Worship Services. Some are traditional, some are contemporary, and some are mixed.  There are Worship Services that are no longer than one hour and there are Worship Services that are over two hours. Almost every church has a Sunday School for adults and children and activities for the youth. During the week, there are Bible studies everywhere.  Our own church has three Bible studies on Wednesday – one at 6:30 AM, one at 10:30 AM and one at 7:00 PM.

My own pastoral advice is two-fold. You must belong to a local body of believers. All of us belong to the universal (catholic) church, the orthodox (true) church and the pentecostal (Holy Spirit) church.  Jesus Christ has only one church, one body, one bride. However, you must belong to a local church where you are sharing yourself and your gifts.

Find the church where God wants you to be and stay there for a long time. There are times when people come to this church and I ask them if God sent them here. Some things take a long time in order to develop and mature. The local church is one of those entities.  If God has sent you to a local church, you will grow, you will contribute and the problems that you will encounter will be small, because God wants you to be there.