It all began on a Monday morning, April 17, 2006, the day after Easter, as I read a news article about a new church in town that had its first public Gathering on Easter Sunday. At the time, my husband and I were pursuing membership at a church we loved, but the article intrigued me so much that I even poked around on this new church’s website. I remember being struck by the church’s values: truth, beauty, worship, community, mission, gospel, and mercy. I especially loved that beauty was included.
Fast forward two years to a Saturday night, January 2008. Tom and I found ourselves running Google searches – he on his laptop, me on the desktop computer – to decide on a church to attend the next day. We had, through much prayer and not lightly, separated from the church that had originally welcomed us to Columbia and were now ready to find a church to call home. God had been at work in our hearts, helping us question and sift through what we believed the Bible taught. We had grown, but we had been hurt, and we had walls up between the world and between each other.
At some point in our internet searching, Tom asked me to check out a website he found at the top of page two in his Google search. The church name was unfamiliar, but as soon as the page loaded I remember getting excited – I know this church! I read about their first Sunday!
It feels weird to say we never looked back, but it’s true. Instead of that Sunday being the start of yet another long search for a church family, we never went anywhere else. Kevin, the lead pastor, encourages other men to preach at times, both to give him a break and to raise up new leaders. January being one of those times, it took three Sundays before we could hear Kevin preach. I also remember, very uncomfortably, leaving church on each of those three Sundays under conviction about sins I had allowed to control me and recognizing how distant my relationship with God had become.
It’s a little fuzzy to think back on those early days and what it was about Karis that made it home, but here are a few things I remember:
- being warmly welcomed by Brian and Christina Weaver
- the senior pastor wanting to have lunch with us
- Rob’s contagious enthusiasm for the mission of Karis
- that we were two of the oldest people in the room on Sundays!
- that a group of mostly 20-somethings were so excited about the gospel and about sharing it with the culture around them
Fast forward again, to a Friday afternoon, April 2016. I can barely recognize that hard-hearted, secretly wayward girl who walked into the Tiger Hotel in January 2008, though there are still some of the same insecurities and fears, still the bent toward the same sins. God has done so much through the community of Karis to soften my heart. He has used people in the church to call me out on stuff and ask the tough questions to help me see where I need to change and grow. Through the preaching and teaching, I have been stretched in my faith, widened my view of God and his holiness along with deepening my perception of my own sin. My relationship with Tom has been strengthened, as people in the church have lovingly shown me where I have been selfish and unloving toward my husband. By being given some leadership opportunities, I have been humbled again and again.
There is nothing perfect about this church over any other church. We try, by God’s grace, to live lives that give him glory. It’s not easy. Community is messy, as they say. As my friend, Anne, said about Karis: “Not many churches have people…who will love you where you’re at, but also encourage you to not stay there and to deepen your relationship with the Lord.” I’m excited to think about spending the next 10 years in this lovingly invasive community.