I moved my family to here about 7 years ago from a small town in east Texas. A place very similar to Royse City.
When we first moved here, we connected with a group of people who were getting ready to plant a church. I joined the staff of Gateway Fellowship shortly after and served in capacity of Executive and Teaching Pastor as well as Elder. My family spent about 7 years serving with this church. A time of great growth for us all.
We decided it was time for us to do something different back in August and I stepped down as an Elder of Gateway Fellowship Church in Royse City, TX. This was a difficult time for our family. Change and transition is always difficult and searching for a new church is stressful. There is a fine line between trying to find a church that is "right" for your family and "church shopping". I believe, when seeking a new church, that you should take time, pray, consider your families needs, pray some more, and follow the direction of the Spirit.
One of the great challenges of finding that perfect church home (and btw, there is no perfect church) is that we live in the "buckle of the Bible belt". I have good friends who are on staff at mega churches. We visited a few of them, oh and by the way, really enjoyed them. As we visited new churches, we would always debrief afterwards. That typically went like this: "Boys, how was kids church? Did you enjoy it?" "Well, what did you think about the worship (this usually means "was the lead guy/girl vocally talented)?" "What did you think about the teaching this morning (this was typically Susan asking me if I thought the pastor said anything heretical or just didn't preach contextual or tie it back to the Gospel...which ever sermon should)?" And this is what I mean by there being a fine line between finding a church that is right for you and church shopping. Specifically we visited two great churches that we all really like (Watermark Church in Dallas and Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall). I have friends who are on staff at both places. It would have been relatively easy to assimilate into either church and plug right in and serve. There was one major shortcoming of both places...and it honestly had nothing to do with size (these are both HUGE churches). The thing that we realized that, turns out was a really big deal for us, was (like real estate) "location, location, location".
You see, I have another conviction that I simply could not silence. For me and my family, it is really important that we attend church in the community in which we live. I have always kind of felt like if I attend church somewhere other than where I live, it's like I am separating my faith from every other part of my life. I want to be very clear here: I do not and will not ever push this conviction on another person. This is what I feel is important for my family. As I said, I've lived in Royse City for about 7 years, I work for Royse City ISD, Eli plays baseball in Royse City, my in-laws live in Royse City, and my favorite restaurant is in Royse City (Los Pinos). We really wanted to worship with and be a part of Biblical community in Royse City.
As we prayed and asked God to simply plug us in where He wanted us to be, I remembered that my friend, Matt Henry (who is brilliant, check out some of his work on at this site), and his dad, Paul, started a church in Royse City several years back called Four Winds Church. We decided to go check them out one morning and to be quite honest found exactly what we both [Suz and I] were looking for.
So let me introduce you to the "perfect church" for The Snow Family:
- Real People: People who are kind and warm. People who are honest and open. People who aren't afraid to stop what they're doing to pray for/with you. People who do not get upset if you unknowingly (or knowingly...'cause that's kinda how I am) sit in "their place" (just kidding, I have not seen anyone who seems particular about where they sit...we are all creatures of habit to a certain extent and I don't judge on this front at all).
- Missional Focus: The first morning we visited, we did not hear from Pastor Paul at all...we heard from the mission team reporting on their most recent trip to Honduras. They talked about a church they were partnering with to meet the needs of underprivileged children. They talked about the life changing experience of being in a foreign field and seeing the impact that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is having their. We also heard, that same morning, of a young lady (probably middle school age) in the church who started making and selling these hats in order to raise enough money to build a fresh water well in an area in which fresh water is not currently available. To this day, each week we hear of hurting people all over our community and surrounding areas that, as a church, we just want to be reaching out to...to make Jesus more famous, not our church. That's refreshing.
- Vibrant, Engaging, Unapologetic, Active Worship: Four Winds Church in Royse City, TX has, by far, been the best worship environment I've had the opportunity to be a part of. And please don't hear me wrong, because Matt is talented and his band is really (really) good, but the WORSHIP has little to do with them. It goes back to the people (see the first bullet). I guess, I just haven't been a part of a group of people who respond like this to Christ, week in and week out. It's not flashy...there are no smoke machines...there are no moving graphics on the screen, only words (white lettering on a black background) to help those along who are unfamiliar with the lyrics of the song. There really seems to be no agenda apart from unapologetic surrender to our great God. I often leave exhausted. That's how you know it's good.
- Verse by Verse, Exegetical Preaching: Again, this is likely a personal preference and not something you and I can't be friends over...but, I prefer a verse by verse, exegetical approach to preaching. I like that Pastor Paul starts in verse 1 and preaches that particular book until he reaches the last verse of that book. He then turns the page and starts the next book. I like this approach to preaching because I feel like it causes us to talk about things that we would not normally "choose" to talk about. When you only preach topically, it's simple enough to just pick another topic when it comes to that really hard text in the Holy Scripture (and please believe me, there are some REALLY hard text in there). The purpose behind every sermon I've heard preached at Four Winds, thus far, is to direct people to the Gospel of Christ because in it we find our hope.
- My Kids Love It: I really do not have to expound on this. They are learning about who they are in Christ and they love their teachers.
So, I just wanted to ask you, did you know that Four Winds Church was here in our town? Are you needing a place to connect? Are you church discouraged? Are you looking for hope beyond your current circumstances? Come be my guest. I usually sit in a good seat (within spitting distance) but I'm willing to give it up for you.