We visited Heritage Grace Community Church today. First off, I can't tell you how welcoming & sincere everyone was, especially Trisha Ramos (the lady I mentioned in our last blog that we met at the conference in Tulsa...she's also the pastor's wife).
The second thing we noticed was the worship service. Their website states, "We desire for our worship to be God centered & not man centered. Our songs all undergo a Biblical litmus test so that we sing only that which we believe is truly reflected in Scripture." Many churches today reduce the praise & worship down to songs that are all feeling driven rather than focusing on what Christ has really done for us & who He is. That is the whole point of praise & worship is to focus on what Christ has done for us, for who he is, not how He makes us feel. Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" And, Psalms 150:2 says, "Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!"
Another thing we thought was great, was also stated on their website and evident in the service: "Some child care will be provided during service especially for younger ages (3 and under/nursery). We believe the older children at HGCC should be in corporate worship and hear the preaching of God's Word. However our church is not family integrated, family focused, or family centered; HGCC is above all Christ centered." Anthony & I have discussed how many churches are "family centered" & how, as singles, we would hear that, & struggling with not having a family of our own, it made us feel less accepted & vital and that was not the reason we came to church. We wanted a church to preach Christ, not how to be a better spouse or parent (not that those aren't occasionally appropriate, as long as it is turned back to the Gospel; but, for the most part, those type sermons should be reserved for small group studies).
Finally, the sermon. Pastor Emilo Ramos gave an excellent sermon about proper church discipline. Essentially stating that the end purpose of church discipline is to win the sinner back into the congregation; the church to exercise love, compassion, & mercy; and to purify the church. He also stated several times that is is church discipline, not church abuse. Many people who are against church discipline are so due to churches who have abused their authority, their members, & misused/misinterpreted the Word of God.
We are desperate to find a home church but we want to make sure that it is a good, Bible-teaching church. We don't want to get into a church, make friends, make commitments & then discover something that isn't doctrinally sound & have to leave. We have visited SEVERAL churches & have only found, up to this point, 4 that we are interested in. No church is perfect, we know that, but choosing who is going to feed you spiritually is a very serious matter.
We really liked this church so it will go down on our VERY small list of the good churches that we are considering making our home church. Again, we know that no church is perfect & that is because man is not perfect but we want to find the church where we can be fed properly by the pastor, fellowship & be strengthened/encouraged with a warm family of brothers & sisters in Christ, be discipled & disciple others, and serve. This will take a lot of prayer. And just because we eventually choose one church over another, does not, in the slightest, say anything negative about the other churches. It will just be the church we believe God is leading us to.