Pastor Blog




Who knew there were two of them?


Three years ago, First Baptist Church Carbon Hill was on a vision trip to New York City. We were meeting with the church planter from City Life Church in Queens to discern if we felt God leading us to partner together with him and the church in ministry over the next few years. We wanted to attend a worship service at City Life, but it wouldn’t begin until 3:00 in the afternoon. We decided, therefore, to attend the Brooklyn Tabernacle on Sunday morning.


The Brooklyn Tabernacle is one of the most famous churches on the planet. They are known worldwide for their amazing choir, the remarkable lifestyle transformations of people in their church, their Tuesday night prayer meetings, and the best-selling books by their pastor, Jim Cymbala including Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. The building itself is beautiful, nestled into its own entire city block. The entire team was beyond excited to attend that morning’s service.


We left very early to make sure we got a great seat. We wanted to experience the whole thing. Well, we had an experience all right.


I had just started using and getting used to Google Maps. This smart phone app, or one like it, is a necessity in a place like NYC. Without it, you would never know where you were going unless you hailed a taxi, which could be very expensive. So, I typed “Brooklyn Tabernacle” into Google Maps, found the route via the subway transit system, and off we went.


When we got off the subway and walked up the steps onto the street, this part of Brooklyn didn’t look as I imagined it would. The area was run down and there were neither skyscrapers nor city buildings. All around us were homes. More specifically, these were homes in disrepair. I remember thinking, “I didn’t realize the Brooklyn Tabernacle was in such a rough looking neighborhood.”


Undaunted, we marched on in our Sunday best through this destitute area of Brooklyn. We decided pretty quickly we were in a more troubled area that any of us were used to back home. We walked for miles it seemed. Strangely, for a large church like the Brooklyn Tabernacle, we seemed to be the only ones headed towards it. I remember wondering where all the people were. Maybe we were just REALLY early. Then we saw surprised faces peeping out of doors and windows at us, their eyes wide in disbelief. This seemed unusual to me. Surely it was common for them to see folks walking along chatting and giggling in dress clothes and Bibles under their arms early on a Sunday morning. I think even a wino lifted his head up and glared at us, shocked out of his drunken stupor.


My eyes found our final destination on my smart phone was close by, so I notified the team that the church was just up ahead. So we all instinctively walked a little faster to get there. Google Maps led us to a little green run down building with a small, weathered sign beside the door that clearly read “Brooklyn Tabernacle”. Our youngest team member looked at me in disbelief and blurted out what we all already knew. “Scott, this isn’t the right place.” Heat radiated from my head as my cheeks and forehead reddened from embarrassment. You could have fried an egg on my face. I had royally messed up. I had led us to the wrong Brooklyn Tabernacle!


Who knew there were two of them!


A mutiny occurred and I was quickly relieved of my navigating duties. It had occurred to me then that I had neglected to tell the team I often got lost in hospitals. My bad.


Not only were we about to be late for the service we wanted to attend, but we were in a very unfamiliar place and more people were taking notice of us. A man walked up to us dressed in tattered, dark shorts and what used to be a clean, white T-shirt and asked in that famous New Yorker accent, “You look like you might not be from around here.”


One of our team members walked forward, took off his glasses and blurted out jokingly in a distinctly NON-New York accent, “I don’t know about the rest of them, but I’m from here.” The Man from Brooklyn grinned. “I can tell.”


He told us how to get out of the area quickly and let us know it might be a good idea to head on out as soon as possible. We agreed, thanked the gentleman, and walked faster than usual to a nearby subway station and, under someone else’s use of Google Maps, found our way to the Brooklyn Tabernacle we were searching for.


We arrived just in time for the service and enjoyed an unforgettable worship experience that none of us who were in that place on that day will ever forget.


What had occurred to create this almost disastrous situation was that when I typed in “Brooklyn Tabernacle” in the search bar on Google Maps, I never stopped to look if there might be more than one church with the same name. I just assumed the one I found was the one I was looking for. I was wrong.


So many are in a similar situation to the one I have described above, but with exponentially more severe consequences. You see, people are searching for hope, peace, fulfillment, and satisfaction in their lives but are headed to the wrong places. Too many have found drugs and alcohol which relieve them of their circumstances for a moment, but never revive and revitalize their reality. How many determine that wealth and power will offer them an unending supply of contentment only to fall into deep despair when they discover otherwise. “Retail Therapy” seems like the way to go until those purchased things wear out, break down, fall out of style, or get taken away. Some live any lifestyle they please with no thought to the consequences until those very consequences overwhelm them. Others dive deep into religion but drown in the arbitrary rules, judgmental attitudes, and false doctrines they swim in.


What we are all searching for is God. Blain Pascal, a brilliant scientist with a steadfast faith, wrote that all of us have a God-shaped hole in our hearts that we “try to fill with everything around” us but which can only be truly filled “by God Himself.” The church father Augustine stated truthfully that “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”


The truth is, God has revealed Himself fully and completely in Jesus Christ. And by Jesus, I mean the Jesus of the Bible, not a convenient or domesticated Jesus of your own design. Jesus said to Phillip that “He who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9).” Colossians 2:9 proclaims that in Jesus “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”


Until you find your way to Jesus, you will always be lost in the wrong place. Instead of Google Maps, search for Him in the Bible. There, you will meet Him. When you find Him, you will also be found. When He dwells in you, you will be home. When you follow Him, no matter where He leads you, you are in the right place. Give your life completely to Him and you will discover you have everything you will ever need.


In the end, I know that because Jesus leads me, I will never again be lost. Because He lives in me, I am right where I need to be. But I also know when we head to NYC next Saturday to serve Jesus in Queens again, the team still won’t let me lead them with Google Maps. Oh, well.