What is Church? It's not the building, or even the organization, it's the people. So, Light of the Valley is made up of many "kinds" of people. The people that make our church have some awesome stories to share.
Some are people who left the faith, or were just busy doing other things until, one day it hit them...they felt distant and empty. Not being around a group of people who are centered on hope can be draining. Little by little, we lose that connection and then one day, it's gone.
Others are families who are looking to find a place for their little ones to have Christian friends, learn Christian stuff, and sing church songs like they did when they were younger.
People have found us by seeing a sign out front, looking for a pastor to do their wedding, wanting to learn about the Bible before they even believe, or believing before they have ever heard of the Bible, people who Jesus visited in their dreams.... People from all walks of life, many backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, and whatever phases of life they are in. God seems to just bring people to Light of the Valley and we are thankful for that.
One of my favorite quotes is about our idea of who should be welcomed in any Christian church is from Mark Driscoll. He said,
"To the gals and guys in clear heals, the drunks, the addicts, the perverts, the victims, the porn stars, the prostitutes, adulterers, thieves, the obese, glutens who think that the waste is a terrible thing to mind, the twilight fans, the murderers, momma’s boys, the losers, the freaks, the geeks, people who think wrestling is real, red necks, guys who own action figures, chain smokers, everyone who does not use a turn signal when you are texting and/or talking on your cell phone while they’re in their car, men who live with their mother, women who get paid in $1 bills, dudes in dresses, democrats and republicans, the guys in the gym who walk around the locker room naked singing Bon Jovi’s “livin’ on a prayer”, Mormons and anyone else who wears sacred under-britches, whoever is responsible for the creation and the ongoing sale of men’s lycra biking shorts, guild leaders, yoga instructors, witches, potheads, meat-heads, crack heads, deadheads, and meth-heads, Trekkie, people who don’t recycle, the rainbow loving, tree hugging, Prius driving, leftists, and the religious people who do not know what I am talking about because these subjects were not on Little House on the Prairie or covered in their home-school coop…I have good news for you. You’re welcome at [our church] and you’ll fit right in because Jesus left the comfort of heaven to be with all of us messed up people because He loves you, He loves all of us."
We pray for and work toward being the kind of church that practices this openly as an expression of our love for all people. Like any church, ours is filled with humans - we acknowledge that we are sinful, Christ offers forgiveness, and we trust in His promises as His forgiven people. All are welcome here and we hope to see you soon.
The Lord’s Supper is given to those who repent and believe that the true body and blood of Jesus Christ are present in the bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins. Baptized believers who confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, accept this statement of belief, and agree with the teachings of the Lutheran Chruch--Misourri Synod are welcome at the Lord’s Table.
If you come to the Lord’s Table and wish not to receive the Sacrament, please cross your arms over your chest and Pastor will speak to you a blessing. If you wish to receive communion from the common cup simply notify an Elder or the pastor prior to the distribution of Holy Communion. For more on what Lutherans believe, teach, and confess on the Lord’s Supper, click here or see pages 326-327 & 329-330 in the Lutheran Service Book. Our practice is guided by 1 Corinthians 11:27-29.
As I was talking with a friend in a brewery one day, he asked me, "Christians talk about being 'saved' and that confuses me. I mean, saved from what?" Considering all the recent statistics
on how many people don't even have one Christian friend, this doesn't surprise me at all. Some people know more about Christianity from watching the news or educational TV than they know from actually reading the Bible or talking with a Christian in person.
Among Christians, people often speak of being "saved". I think that being "saved" is one of terms that Christians also just assume everybody understands. Well, it's not. That carries a big question mark when it’s said around people and it isn’t as universally understood as it was when North America was much more populated by Christians.
The hope that I have is that people would actually discover what it means to be “saved” from the people who are the specialists…ie. Christians. The way that Christians, especially Lutheran Christians, try to view things is through the teachings of the Bible. This means taking into account all the writings contained in the authoritative writings of our faith. That being said, if you don't believe what the Bible says to be true, perhaps that's yet another question to address...just not here and now.
So, the Bible teaches in many places that mankind is sinful by nature, or has "original sin". That means that no matter what you do, no matter where or to whom you were born to...we are all sinners. In fact, In Psalm 51, it says, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." So, we are sinful from conception. Why do I need to be saved?
For starters, we have to look at what sin is and what it does to us. The short answer to the question would be, “because all humans are captive to sin.” However, it is more complex an issue than that.
By being sinners, we are by nature, “Enemies" of God (Rom. 5:10, 7:22-23, Col. 1:21). We are bound to sin like a conscripted soldier in an army without choice, like a servant is bound to a ruthless and narcissistic master. The even bigger problem is that this is what we are in our rawest form, it is our corrupted root, much like genetic code that writes many of our traits…so, we don’t even know or understand the nature of our “enslavement”.
In this state, we may long for a better way, a better life, or more control. We may experience an unsettled feeling about how we think life should be but never will. The reality is that these thoughts, feelings, intuitions are merely a byproduct of our captivity…they are despair. “Despair” is the opposite of hope. We need to be saved because of our inability to save ourselves through anything we can do.
The despair is overcome by the one who comes to turn our very existence into a freed existence. Freedom to have hope, freedom to have joy, peace, love, contentment, and confidence. While the prison holds us in the despair, the Savior frees us to see beyond our own small, dark, cold prison…to see the even greater reality that was written into humanity before it was corrupted.
Instead of talking about Christians, perhaps we should be considering “Jesus followers”. After all, it’s not Christianity that saves, it’s the Christ, it’s Jesus.
It's hard to try out a new church. I've tried a ton of them before I was a pastor. The worries mount up: Not sure if there will be anyone there like me, nervous that I won't be dressed right, a little overwhelmed by the happy people (or will they be serious?) standing at the entrance as I walk in...and if that's not enough, having to ask "Where's the bathroom". It's awkward!
As far as churches go, Light of the Valley is very welcoming. However, "feeling welcome" can also be more about the one visiting than about the church, it's a feeling. If someone has an unspoken expectation that isn't met, how will that make them feel? It might be a "deal breaker", or it might simply be informative for you to see where your experience can help our church grow! It all depends on how you see church and your place in it.
Give it a few chances. There are things about your visit that are uncontrollable. You may not feel welcome because most of the people on welcome wagon are sick or out of town? So, it could just be a fluke that you chose to check it out on an odd Sunday. So, give it a few attempts, you may be surprised at how it looks on another day.
We are a family church. By that I mean, like a family, we have people of all ages in the same church having fellowship, worshiping, growing, thriving, struggling, and working all together. Of course, we have Sunday school for kids, Bible Studies for teens and adults, counseling for whoever, and resources for those in need.
Identify what you are truly looking for. Just because our church does stuff, doesn't really say much about the atmosphere of welcome-ness. Some people are more searching for something that suits them as a person or a family. Perhaps they are looking to grow in faith and understanding of the Bible, or maybe they want to find new friends. It’s a complicated thing to appeal to the masses while also satisfying the felt needs of the individual. So, looking for a welcoming church is a good thing, but I’m not sure that’s what people are really looking for. Feeling welcome is just the invite to come and explore the real reasons people visit.
Don’t be shallow. Sometimes people look for many things that really have little or nothing to do with church (watch the video at the bottom). They may be looking for a particular demographic to be represented, age, family type, new or old facility, formal or informal styles, engaging preaching, interesting teaching, fun for the kids, location… the list is long. Everyone comes hoping to find “the perfect church” – it doesn't exist, unless you are able to see the people in it the way God sees them.
Who is in the congregation? The church is full of sinners who have found hope in the forgiveness given by Jesus. Nonetheless, we are all flawed people and that is not a secret. We are flawed people who God sees as perfect because of what Jesus has done for us in his death and resurrection. While we have broken hearts, rebellious tendencies, unnatural habits, and nasty secrets…God still loves us. We know we are sinful and we know that we can never be “good enough” to earn God’s favor, much less eternal life. That is what makes church so cool. It’s one of the only places where a bunch of broken people can gather and witness God working through them in awesome ways.
Seek a relationship. So, in evaluating a church, we need to choose how we treat our relationship with Jesus. Some choose to be consumers of churches much like we consume entertainment, recreation, books, etc... saying, “We’re church shopping.” When the movie lets out, we get in our car and go off to our “normal life”, when church is done we can easily snap right back into our typical days business.
Or, we can be experiencers who approach life with the desire to encounter Jesus in every place we are. We hope to spend time with God. We seek a close relationship with Jesus in our walking, talking, singing, crying, laughing, fighting, and eating. One perspective that always helps me is to see everything as a gift. Today is a gift because without God giving it, I wouldn't have it. My job is a gift, while many people are out of work or work in much harsher conditions, I work here and that’s great. My scars are a gift, they remind me of the amazing miracle that God created when he made us able to heal.
We want you to be our honored guest, not just a visitor. Your visiting us as our guest is an honor to us and you should be welcomed very warmly. If you aren't welcomed or you think we can grow from your experience, please let me know. We are not perfect, but we are responsible for the message we send. Let me start by saying, "You're more than welcome, you are really, really, really ridiculously welcome at Light of the Valley!"
HUGE QUESTION! We believe a lot of stuff. It’s all important and it’s all from the Bible and I don’t think you want me to give you an exhaustive answer to your question. So, to give a brief outline is about all I can give. But, if you want more, you can always come to our church, ask a question, or read from one of the links listed… We believe that God has revealed Himself to mankind and the words of the Holy Bible express some of those revelations for us to know Him. Scriptures are the Inerrant, Infallible, God-breathed word as the authority in all things. We believe what it says, teach what it says, seek to practice what it says, and we don’t add to it or take away from it. We believe in the Trinity, Jesus Christ – fully God and fully man, Salvation by grace through faith alone. We believe Jesus died for the sins of all people throughout all the ages in every place. He also desires all to be saved. We believe that Jesus was crucified, confirmed dead by government officials, placed in a tomb, rose from the dead in his physical body, and ascended to heaven. He is alive in His eternal body that will never die and still works to deliver people from their bondage to sin so that they can be free to live eternally. We believe that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God. That Spirit actually gives faith (belief) and trust in Jesus as the Savior to people. The Holy Spirit directs us to look to the cross of Christ for our salvation. He works to direct our ways and guides us in life by faith. We believe in a literal 6-day creation. We believe that we are incapable of knowing God fully as He is infinite, all-knowing, everywhere-present, all-seeing, all-hearing, unequivocal, perfect, unlimited, immortal…and a bunch of other awesome words that are so beyond our abilities that we are incapable of uttering them. God is God and we are not. We believe the Christian church was started by Jesus Christ to be the institution by which His true followers believe, teach, confess, evangelize, proclaim, and live according to His ways for the benefit of His many blessings. We believe that humans are sinful from conception (Psalm 51), born as sinners, and enemies of God. We also believe that this is why we need to be given salvation from outside of ourselves. Salvation is a gift from God through Jesus Christ and can only be gained by His grace through faith that is given by the Holy Spirit. Only God gets the glory for any good thing. Please continue to seek more about our beliefs by contacting or attending our church, visiting the following links, or reading our confessions. Email: email@example.com Links: http://www.lhm.org/about/whatlutheransbelieve.asp http://www.lcms.org/belief-and-practice http://cyclopedia.lcms.org/display.asp?t1=L&word=LUTHER.MARTIN Books: The Book of Concord - amazon