I am really thankful for Renovatus. My husband and I have been going there for a little over a year now and are really blessed to find a church that centers on every core belief we have in our marriage and in our relationship with God.
When we first attended this church we weren't even looking for a new place but we had a guest speaker at our current church and Randall had listened to the Pastor Jonathan Martin on the podcast and wanted to check it out. When I heard the message that day, I was intrigued. I had always somewhat felt alone in some of the ways I questioned my Faith and even scared sometimes to admit that I had doubted. Yet here was a preacher who seemed just as lost in his introverted thoughts and even welcomed real emotions and doubts. Not trying to have "correct" answers to everything and even embracing a lot of the ambiguity of God and the bible.
From Renovatus I learned it's okay to be myself. It's okay not to fit in, it's okay to dream of different things and its okay not to be perfect. I learned to dive into Grace and find an even deeper love affair I never knew existed between me and this infinite God who will go to Hell's Gate and back again to show me that he loves me for me. The refreshingness of freedom in that Love is truly unbiding and I still don't comprehend everything that God has to offer me but Renovatus has taught me we can all join in this journey and take faltering steps toward little glimpses into the ever moving heart of God together.
On days where I feel like I might have outgrown my Faith I realize I am not alone and God has sent me a church where I don't have to feel like I have to perform. Others voice their own internal struggles and together we listen and support each other. It is this reassurance that helps us stand even in the mist of change and uncertainty.
When we started attending this church on a regular basis I thought it was the perfect church. A few months into it, I realized it wasn't. Shortly after I had come back from a ladies retreat I had heard the pastor announced to the church that he had had an emotional affair with a married associate pastor woman. He took 3 months off and worked on his own marriage. There was never a physical affair but it disappointed me. Here, I had finally found a church that if I could dream up an ideal church this would be better and then this bombshell happens.
But while most of the time this sort of thing would split a church up, in the following weeks I noticed something that I really didn't think was possible. The church thrived and it became stronger. We learned more of how deep our mirrored Grace of the Father was in us. We learned that when one of us falls the others pick them up and we learned to not give up on people and to definitely not give up on what God had intended to be complete in Renovatus. The following Sunday after the announcement was one of the most moving worship services we ever had. We came together and worshipped God for defeating the enemy and thanking him for what he was going to do in the future.
When my pastor finally came back, we were so happy and welcomed him and his wife Amanda with open arms. He preached with a new humbleness that no matter what happened the church would do fine with or without him. I didn't realize it until Easter Sunday when he made another shocking announcement: He was leaving Renovatus, that those messages were gearing us up to keep at it and finish the work God started at Renovatus without him. I was even more sad and felt like I was going through a break up. Disappointment happening all over again and though the pastor jokingly said he didn't want to be the "grinch that stole Easter" he was to me.
My family came and I was so excited for them to hear my pastor speak for the first time and then he announces he is leaving. I felt almost embarrassed because I had visitors and "Oh well, I guess we learned together that my pastor is leaving." Then I started wondering: How am I going to tell my friends, who were wanting to visit the next week what had happened. The church I was so proud of now kinda embarrassed me.
Then one night while I was discussing my frustration with my husband, he said "The path in the Christian walk is always winding. Just when you settle in and like where you are God throws another wrench in the plans and you never know whats coming. Since we've been at Renovatus it has been like that. We haven't stayed the same, and if you do just stay in one place in your walk then something is not right." God really used my husband to open my eyes to the goodness in this situation. Yes, my church struggles with issues and yes sometimes I don't like the changes I see. But following God is not going to be a bed of roses and he is going to take you places you don't feel comfortable and that's okay. In fact, its GRAND! It reminds me of my humanism and how I want to control where God leads me instead of letting him have free rein.
Through all this God has shown me it is not about a man. You could have the best preacher in the world, which Jonathan was to me, but in the end if you have the moving Holy Spirit present in your church you will be just fine, wether that preacher is there or not. I think in some ways I have leaned on that man a lil too much anyways and now God is showing me again to lean more on him. I will miss Jonathan and Amanda deeply for helping me in my Faith but I'm ready to stand alone with God and with my church.
As for now we WILL stay at Renovatus and we will fight along side her. We believe in her and the foundation the church was founded on: A place for Liars, Dreamers and Misfits. :)