Imagining there is one perfect church out there for each of us is as naive as a newlywed thinking her husband’s scents will never offend her and his words will never hurt her feelings. It’s a romantic notion, but completely unrealistic.
When Jack and I moved back to our hometown after having left Shreveport as kids and returning as married-with-a-kid grown-ups, we had enough church experience to know this. So the question wasn’t which church was perfect for us, the question was to which messy congregation we should throw our church membership hats. In the end, we left it up to God which- long story short- landed us at our right-around-the-corner denominational church. Over the past eight years, we’ve ridden the roller coaster of First Baptist Church of Shreveport life (which, if we’re honest has been more uphill climbs than anything else) and while it is far from perfect, we love our church. And I’ll tell you why.
I love First Baptist Shreveport because it knows us and it’s a good thing to be known, to belong. They know that my husband has a knack for bringing out thoughtful discussion of scripture in small groups of people. They asked him to teach after our first visit. They know my children- Asher as a little wild and Anna Grace as a creative type and Zeke as a little quiet but deep. They know that I like to take pictures so they ask me to use my gifts and capture things. When we’re out of town, we’re missed. Our Sunday School class has had my spinach dip at parties more times than I can count and I’ve had so many First Baptist faces around my table- the thought of it makes me smile. My love for FBC sometimes sounds exactly like names- names like Rendi Wiggins or Terri Roberts or Bob Brubaker or Shai Ewing and I could go on and on and on. So many names. FBC and I, we belong to each other as Christ would have us belong. And it feels good to belong- we’re not like a family, we are one.
I love First Baptist Shreveport because it supports us in so many ways. Like a springy diving board, we have an idea and FBC launches us. Want to start a small group ministry? Sure, we’ll set up childcare. Want to have an impromptu play date in the gym for to relieve some cabin fever on a snow day? Sure, we’ll be there with a key. Of course, the support we receive comes in all the traditional forms- prayer, children’s ministry, venues for service, Bible study and formal worship but it’s the knack we have for rallying around those who feel called to do this or that which is so exceptional.
I love First Baptist Shreveport because it challenges us. This one is a given since let’s be honest- at its very core, doing life with people is hard much less trying to live life as an effective, efficient, and missional church. In that sense, it challenges us deeply without even trying if you know what I mean (maybe committee meetings are your love language but it sure isn’t mine!). But it also challenges us on purpose, too- to love God first, to love the poor, to love our city, to love each other, and to throw our love and support fully and completely behind the sharing the Gospel by engaging in the Great Commission. Calls to this kind of love come from the pulpit and Bible study classrooms and even around the supper table as we’ve shared our lives in the context of a struggling but steadfast church over the years.
But most of all, we love First Baptist Shreveport because Jesus loves First Baptist Shreveport. In fact, He gave His life for hers and He hasn’t given up on her.
Early on in our membership, I was running by First Baptist on an unusually cold Saturday morning in March. As I ran up the little hill to the front of the sanctuary, I saw that a shivering bride was trying to take her bridal portraits. While the photographer adjusted things, the bride’s mother came around her, rubbing her bare shoulders while she folded her arms. All I could think to do as I ran past was to smile and shout, “Think warm!” I descended the other side of the hill and it hit me- the shivering bride was a lot like our church. We have been pounded by the winds of hardship and struggle, but we are so loved and we are headed to our Bridegroom if only we can endure and encourage one another on our journey down the aisle to the only One who is altogether lovely, altogether worthy- whose scent is pure and whose words only bring life. I don’t love our church because it is so perfect or because serves me like a waiter, bringing me exactly what I need when I need it. I love it because Jesus does and He’s called us there, to love it when it’s easy to love and when it’s hard.
Certainly, there is plenty to love about First Baptist Church Shreveport and just as certainly, we're not perfect. But we serve a God who loves us perfectly and I’m so glad to experience real love with my real and beautiful brothers and sisters at First Baptist Church. I love it.
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