A church home away from home
By Sparta Live | December 6, 2018 8:55 am
Playl’s Ponderings – By Steve Playl
For the fourth time in the past couple of years, my wife and I walked into the auditorium of Grace Mennonite Church, in Berlin, Ohio. It was cold outside, and I thought about hanging my coat and hat on a coat rack, but there was no room on the rack. So I carried my warm outer apparel into the worship center. On our other visits, we had passed the welcome stations in the foyer and headed straight into the large gathering place, but the slight diversion caused us to enter from a different doorway at the corner of the lobby.
Earlier that morning I had remarked to Sammie that I hoped to meet the lead pastor of the church. Upon entering the auditorium, the first person we bumped into was the man himself, Pastor Larry Kaufman…so, of course, I introduced us to him. I was glad for the slight detour.
“Hey, Pastor Larry, we’re Steve and Sammie Playl from Tennessee. This is our fourth visit to your church, and we really enjoy worshipping with your people. We truly feel at home here.”
“Steve is a hospital chaplain and former pastor,” Sammie chimed in. She’s my strongest supporter. My wife is such a blessing and encourager.
“Yea,” I continued, “we’re Baptists.”
“We’re brothers and sisters in Christ,” Larry added, “and we would love to be your church home, away from home, any time you visit our area.”
I liked the way he said that. The praise service is very informal and welcoming. The people and the presence of God drew us to a time of worship…a true church home, away from home.
Every time we have been with those people, we have been challenged to grow in our relationship with God and His people. Although we do not know anyone in that church, we have always felt connected there.
On our first visit to Grace, Pastor Larry preached on Ephesians 3:20, which reminds us that Christ is able to do more through us than we can even imagine. He challenged everyone there to pray daily at 3:20 AM or PM and ask God to work through our lives. Since that day my phone has been set to remind me of God’s presence in my life and that He wants to use me for His glory…and Sammie told Larry that morning that I had accepted his challenge.
On subsequent visits, we had observed the missionary heart of the church, when a visiting missionary shared his heart, and then we came to church on “biker Sunday” and saw hundreds of motorcycles begin an afternoon ride to raise money for abused family members.
Baptism was the center of the service on our last visit. We were moved to tears as we heard young adults testify of their faith in Christ before, surrounded by dozens of family and friends, each was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Total strangers, they were our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Whether in familiar surroundings or with strangers miles from home, it is worth the effort to join with Christian brothers and sisters to worship God with a common commitment to the Savior. We have had the opportunity to get to know “family members” in different places by worshipping when we travel. Whether in a church of hundreds – like Grace Mennonite – or thousands – like Sevier Heights Baptist, in Knoxville, where our good friend Hollie Miller is pastor, it is good to join with brothers and sisters in Christ and worship. Even if the gathering is a handful of family members, remember the words of Jesus, “Where two or three are gathered in my Name, there am I in the midst…”
…and if you happen to find yourself in Holmes County Ohio on a Sunday, be sure to check out Grace Mennonite Church. You’ll be surprised…and welcomed.