Friday, October 4, 2013

I Am Thankful for My Church

    First, I would like to say that I am more so thankful for the Church (big "C") around the world that follows the true and inerrant teachings of Christ, teachings that have not been blemished to fit our own wants and needs, and the truth goes into the world with salt.  For the Church, I am thankful.

    Growing up in South Carolina, I went to an amazing church that really helped to ground me in my faith and walk with God.  I love that church, and they are so dear to me, and when I'm back home, I still visit.  The people from that church are special to me and I love them, and I got my first experience in ministry from them.  I had mentors there and I had great memories, and met one of my best friends.  I love that church.  Such was true when I first came to college; however, I wasn't sure how I was going to find a home-church in Columbia like the one I had at home.  Of course, I could never replace that original home church, but I definitely needed somewhere to make roots and grow from while I was away.

    At first, I had troubles fitting in to some of the churches around Columbia that I was checking out.  Something just didn't seem to settle for me.  Either I didn't feel welcome, I didn't feel comfortable, I didn't feel like anything was being poured in to me, I didn't feel growth, or something along those lines.  In each of those churches, I was able to step and recognize how others were growing, so I knew that weren't  bad churches or something, they just weren't meant for me.  I found a church that I thought suited me, but the longer I went there, the lonelier I felt.  I couldn't seem to find a place to come back from not feeling drained.  I made a list of churches to visit around the Columbia area, and I decided that I wasn't going to return to the church I had found for a short while.  I don't think anybody really noticed...  I started with the first church on my list since a girl across the hall from me also went to this church.  I wasn't sure what to expect, I knew I was taking a step out of my comfort zone with this one.  It's a big roughly 1000+ member church that plays contemporary worship music for the service.  However, when I went to this church, I had never felt more welcomed at a single place in my life.  I felt the presence of God all over, and I learned so much more from that one expository teaching of the Bible than I felt I had learned in that whole semester of Bible college.  I felt at home, just like I did before I left for school.  This was home.  What church is this?

Calvary Chapel Lexington

I have been going there now for about 3 years, Frank started attending there while I was back home two school years ago, and it's the church we got married in!  Here are 7 things, of the many, about my church that make me so thankful for them:

#1.  The Pastor

John G. Hoppe IIIPastor John Hoppe and his wife are simply amazing people.  I am thankful for their guidance and wisdom in our church family.  Pastor John uses the expository method to teach the Bible.  I'm thankful for this because he does not sugar-coat anything.  He tells exactly what's in the Bible, gives the context (doesn't take it out of context) and then explains it in terms that people of our culture could understand.  It's wonderful.  Although I get a lot of this teaching from school already, I somehow grow so much more in my understanding at church!  I am so thankful for the team he and Miss Heidi make to lead our church, under the guidance of Christ.

#2. The Welcoming

During our first semester as a married couple, Frank and I decided to try and start plugging into the church a little more and get to know some more people. We signed up for a ministry Calvary has on Sunday mornings called "First Touch".  The purpose of First Touch is to welcome people on their way into church, give them a genuine smile, maybe introduce ourselves, answer questions if they have any, and just love the people coming and going from the service.  That's one of the things that really drew me to Calvary: all the welcoming people who are there.  I am so thankful for such a loving community in my church.

#3.  Life Groups
Another way our church encourages community and fellowship is through something called Life Groups.  Since we don't have Sunday school classes between services, we meet in groups during the week and fellowship and discuss the Sunday sermon, and other spiritual matters.  We help each other grow and we get to know that we're not alone in the church when we're there on Sunday.  I am so thankful for this; in the Life Groups I have been a part of, time together has been so edifying and I loved communing with fellow believers outside of the church environment.  I am so thankful for Life Groups.

#4.  Women's Bible Study

Women's Bible Study has been such a blessing in itself.  I have never been a part of a women's Bible study before and I wasn't sure what to expect in going to one.  Well my friend and I have been going for the past few weeks and overall, we have really loved being there.  Even in these few weeks we've been meeting, I have felt so encouraged by ladies who come from backgrounds like mine, they have been so uplifting as I've slowly started to share bits and pieces of myself, and they've prayed for me too.  I have loved getting know the ladies in the women's Bible study at church, and I am so thankful that the ministry to women exists; I never knew what it would be all about, but now, I understand.  I am so thankful for the ministry and for all the ladies involved in it.

#5.  U-Turn for Christ

u-turn logoU-Turn for Christ is a ministry that the Calvary Chapel movement does all over the country.  There's a U-Turn campus stationed at Calvary in Lexington.  What is it?  U-Turn for Christ is a ministry that reaches out to addicts of all kinds by taking them in, helping them detox, and training them in the way of God's truth and love.  While they're in the program, they do service around the church, attend every church service and Bible study and they receive personal counseling to help them work through things of their past.  All the while, they are encouraged to learn and grow towards their Creator.  I am so thankful for this ministry!  There have been so many good, good-hearted people who have come through that program and are making such great differences in the world for Christ now!  And I am so thankful for the people I know who have come through that ministry, and who are now serving as Christ-lovers in our church!

#6.  Auto Mechanic Service

I did not know this little ministry existed until recently.  Calvary Chapel has on-campus auto mechanic maintenance offered to the staff and congregation of the church.  How did I find this out?  Our car died this week :(  We just got the oil changed and they told us it would be a good idea to get a new battery soon.  When it wouldn't start the other day, we figured it was the battery.  Well this morning Frank texted the youth pastor, Oakley, asking for some prayer for provision since our car died.  Oakley then called me asking where the car was and what we thought was wrong with it.  I said it was the battery, and he said that he and the mechanic there would come and see what they can do with the car.  Wow!  When they got here, the mechanic, Timmy, realized a few things: the battery was loose, there was a rat's nest in the engine block (no rats; it wasn't from us in the time we've had with it - we've only had it since May.), and the fuel pump was out of order.  There wasn't any pressure on the fuel thingy anymore!  Timmy told me of some things he would be able to do to help me, in labor and financially.  I'm so thankful for the service he and the others provide, and for the integrity they show in their work.

#7.  Youth Ministry

The Youth Ministry program is where I first got plugged in to Calvary.  I went to the youth group on Wednesday night for an assignment given to me in one of my Youth ministry major courses.  I was a little skeptical going there because it was an entirely different atmosphere than what I was used to.  But after witnessing the fellowship of all the students, and talking with the youth pastor, Oakley, I noticed a completely different light of God shining through here that I hadn't seen anywhere else.  Now, students from all over Lexington are bringing that light of Christ into their schools on their own, wanting their peers to know the love of God like they do.  I am so thankful for the work God is doing in the Youth Ministry, and the work He is doing through  the youth of Calvary!

I don't want to lose focus of my true love by simply saying, "I love my church!" The fact is, I love God and love all the work He is doing, and I love that He has blessed the ministry of the Church globally!  The congregation I attend is only one small part of this kingdom God is building for His glory, but I can see what He is doing in this community through our little vessel of believers.  I am so thankful to call Calvary my church-home!  Praise God!!!

If you're ever in the Columbia area and need some fellowship or communion, stop by 1156 Barr Rd.!  We are a big family, each member having problems, and every other member waiting to help.

To learn more about our congregation, visit!

Although I began typing this blog post before October 3, 2013, I want to dedicate its contents to Pastor Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, who passed from earth to heaven on October 3, 2013.  His ministry began with hippies in the 60's out in California, and has grown into 1600 churches worldwide by the grace and power of God.  He has revolutionized seeker-sensitive worship and has heavily impacted the expository teaching style in church.  All because of the work God has done in and through him.  He is gone from the world, dead in flesh, but more alive in Christ than he ever was here.

*I do not own any photos in this post.  All credits go to

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