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Sunday, May 30, 2021

My Ecumenical Walk-About... #EcumenicalWalkAbout

This is my #EcumenicalWalkAbout

Final: May 9, 2021 through August 8, 2021


In Spring 2021, God started building in my heart the need to visit The Church throughout the region of North Idaho. 

While I've done many such church visitations throughout the years in different regions of the country, they were usually of a more passing interest. On any particular Sunday, I was feeling restless so I would randomly visited a church I had never visited before. Usually one that attracted me or drew me in for some reason. 

This time, it was highly intentional. 
I'm calling this season, my Ecumenical Walk-About.
My mission, as I understood it, was to visit as many different types of churches and church traditions as possible (even and especially those I would normally have discounted before even walking in the door). 
I was not going for the purpose of "finding a new home church". My mission was to see how other bodies of believers worship God. 
While I knew I would be very likely to disagree with much of what I find, my goal was to find what they're doing right! 
  • What are they seeing I can learn from? 
  • Is there something they see about God or live out before God that I've been blind to or incomplete in, or less focused on in my own traditions?

These are the things I saw:

Candlelight Church

Pastor Paul was soft and personable, and seemed to have a sense of the body being the ones to do the work of ministry. He said he knows ministry isn't all about the pastor. 

Multiple services provide options for everyone to attend and serve. Free coffee and donuts was a nice touch, though I'd rather buy my latte (ha ha). I felt comfortable in the room, not self conscious, so that was nice.

The Well

Hannah and Michael are a couple I've served with before at a local church. So it was nice to visit family. They began incubating this start-up church months ago in small groups. This was their first corporate gathering. 

A group of about twenty or so people met in a conference center at a local camp ground. Hannah, Michael, and a few others sat on the fireplace. Michael played guitar, Hannah sung worship unto God in a free flowing way she's known for, and another provided backup vocals, still another beat out a rhythm on the congo. Michael provided a message. 

The free flow, hippie-esque, feel made my significant other happy. It would be easy to feel family in an environment like this. I imagine something similar to this is how the early church met.

Compel Church

Pastor David talked about what happened at the transition from Jesus to The Church, and how we are called to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. I got an image of Fractal Growth in my mind's eye as he talked about the pattern. 

The people seem to like each other, they hang out for a while before and after service. The physical structure of the room provides for that atmosphere for small talk, it is very open, with table/chair arrangements of various kinds allowing for people to either distance or gather.


Sr. Luke's Episcopal Church:

The 1800's original architecture and old wood saturate the senses, as the history of the tradition walks you into centuries of prayers and rhythm. 

For those who don't know, when  King Henry VIII left the Catholic Church, the Church of England (Anglican Church) was born. When the USA became a seperate nation, those loyal to the Anglican Tradition renamed themselves Episcopalians. Since the 1700s, the two have remained closely connected; however, they also diverged on several issues. That being said, the Episcopalian/Anglican Church is among the oldest traditions in the west. 

It was nice to hear whole readings of Biblical sections. The pastor (Priest?, Vicor?) gave a warm message that felt honest and authentic, which reminded the hearer to be ever-aware of the spirit of God in us. We are now, as Jesus was, "emanu-el", God with us. On this Pentecost Sunday, a reminder that the spirit of God dwells in each of us. 

The robes of those up front, the way they handled the church bible and communion, all felt very "reverent", unlike the way many protestant evangelical circles would handle these same elements. 

There is a sense that you are sitting in something much older, a sense of tradition, heritage, family-lines going back generations. It's much easier to see yourself as joining something that's already 1,000s of years old in this environment. 

Honestly, I was surprised how much I enjoyed it (given my backgrounds).


Athol Baptist Church

The people gathered as family. As I arrived, people gathered around chatting, nobody in any hurry to leave. Their unique worship style reminded me of my church growing up, far from the professional productions I'm used to being a part of in the last few decades. They were obviously just non-professional volunteers who are using instruments and voices to sing music with the church.

The pastor talked quite a bit about doing things for the community, not just in word but in deed. He also talked about making a practical effort to treat your fellow church-members as family. To him, this meant going to visit them, taking them out to eat, meeting needs, if someone falls on hard times, we rally around them physically and financially, and he even longed for the day when they could give someone who needed it a car. 

The message was mostly centered around building up the local body as a family. And family is the atmosphere of the house.

New Life

New Life is my home base. They've been my home church for a while. So it was nice to visit with friends. While I was there, I didn't end up in service though, because I met a guy who had a Bible question. Don't ask a biblical studies major a Bible question unless you have an hour. Ha ha... Oh well, I guess I was right where I was supposed to be. 
Pastor Geoffrey and Team are seeking to make New Life a place: To Know Jesus and Make Him Known. 

One elder said he is praying for New Life to become a "weeping" church, in the sense that, they want to feel what God feels, whatever breaks God's heart should break theirs, and whatever brings God joy should bring them joy. They want to feel overwhelmed by the love and presence of God. They are also making room to show that there are many ways to worship God. So they are making room for people to paint during service, and express in other ways as long as they are done fittingly and in order.

****Didn't grab a photo that service, but, I had a good photo shared with me.***

The Well

Visited friends at The Well again (see above). 

My thought was I visited: This is what church is probably going to start looking like in the future, more and more as time goes on. It's good to see small local families gathering together. Coming back to our roots. Remembering our first love: Jesus Communities

Real Life

I attended two locations the same day. 

The single largest church in the region. Still small compared to what I was a part of in Texas but large nonetheless. Since this is a post about what's they're doing right, I will withhold my thoughts about the messages. 

They believe in a culture of discipleship, and moving everyone into family groups. The leaders disciple leaders, and small group leaders are discipled by leaders and are expected to pastor their small groups well. They even have an internal biblical education program where their ordain their own members upon completion.
They have massive resources and use a large stadium, thrift store, food bank. Pastor Jim is passionate about what he believes the Bible says and he's willing to take a stand for it publicly.

They are being the hands an feet of Jesus in their communities.

Coeur dAlene Bible Church

It was quiet, pandemic is still hitting attendance hard in many places. While the building was massive with a sanctuary fitted for 100s, there were only a handful present this day. 

The music was sung by volunteers, it had a heartfelt, non-professional-production, homely feel. 

The pastor spoke about Marriage from a biblical perspective. It was refreshing to see someone quote other people with attribution in their message. One could tell that he prepared and thought through the message.

Family Worship Center

The young pastor at Family Worship Center is a fiery and passionate young man. Both from the preparation I had ahead of time from a friend and from experiencing the service, this very small group of people is passionate about God setting people free (primarily from addiction). Several attendees were graduates of local addition/recovery programs. 

The Pastor preached in an old-time Pentecostal fashion, maybe a little calmer than old-time. He had a focus on healing and believing God for miracles. He has a magnetic presence.


While not a church, or even a para-church or religious organization, some Christians I met are part of a program to mentor prisoners after their release. Since this is another way the body of Jesus participates in loving their community, I thought I would include them in my write-up.

The Idaho Department of Correction Website Explains: "Free2Succeed is the Idaho Department of Correction's community mentorship initiative."

Jim is leading a team of volunteers to reach out to people as they come out of Prison, hoping to mentor them into staying free and not getting locked up again.

I ended up joining the program as a mentor. The job is simple. Be their friend, someone who can help them transition into a healthier lifestyle. While not counseling, my counseling background had come in handy already.

The goal is to just be a listening, nonjudgmental ear.

Hayden Bible Church

For having never heard of this church before (other than finding it in a phone book, and then finding out the Free2Suceed guy goes here), there were a lot more people than I expected. The room easily held a few hundred capacity and most seats were filled. The room also buzzed with the hum of conversation. People really got to know each other very well. 

The songs were not at all on the top-100 worship songs being sung by most contemporary churches. They were largely hym-style but played with a full and energetic band. What was most remarkable to me, was the fact that the vast majority of the singing came from the congregation. The unified voice of hundreds of people belting at full volume was overwhelming, in the best way possible. 

The message was traditional western American Christianity, possibly within the reform tradition. It focused on Jonah and what repentance looks like and needing to call the world to repentance.

They also offer pastoral counseling from a Bible-only, no psychology, perspective. The gentleman I spoke with used the phrase "the Bible is sufficient". They are trained through the American Biblical Counseling Association.

Hayden Bible Fellowship

As I was driving home from Hayden Bible Church, I saw a sign for Hayden Bible Fellowship. It felt serendipitous, so I pulled over and checked their hours, sure enough, I was ten minutes early to the next service.

They're meeting in a Seventh Day Adventist building, who only hold services on Saturdays.

While there were no robes or incense, the feel of the service was reminiscent of my visit to the Episcopalians. As a liturgical service, the order of each portion, and words of each song, are printed on a pamphlet to follow along. While totally outside my traditions, I was never lost as Hayden Bible Fellowship or at St Luke's Episcopalian, because the flow-chart of the pamphlet kept me up with the regulars. 

There were a single pianist and guitar, both way off to the side out of sight, but microphone provided clarity without being overpowering. Here too, like their name twin, the congregation was the choir. Hundreds of voices were singing loudly and together, in one accord. 

There were announcements, readings of large sections of scripture, a message, songs sprinkled throughout, and a blessing spoken over the congregation. 

The message was about how to trust God when times are dark, hard, and confusing, and letting things be "not okay" and being real about that.


In the Pentecostal Tradition of Bethel Church, Embyrs was about experiencing God. 

There was a small band, free-flowing music intermixed with heartfelt testimony and words from one of the band members. This went on back and forth, music and words, for an hour. 

A short message about giving was followed by a dismissal and talking in the lobby. 

No organized message or "sermon" was given this day, though, based on the announcement that wasn't the plan, but, they felt "led" to go this way this day. 

The building was dark, candles, ornate decorations were in various places. The tithing and giving boxes were lined treasure chests. There were probably only about 20 people in the room, band included. The pastoral looking lady in the front row reminded me of a pastors wife I used to know from my old Pentecostal church. 

While the atmosphere was quite unusual, maybe even unnerving to a more traditional person, there was a certain feel about it that invited you to think of God's presence as a secret place, a holy place, a place of "other". 

This was not unlike monasteries, temples, and holy places in other parts of the world. It was among the more... Unique... Places on my tour so far.


Encounter was what you would get if Rod Parsley, Kenneth Copeland, and Steven Furtick became embodied by a building and group of people. A small group, focused on Bethel style worship, intense preaching about Faith and Healing, and a passion for helping people "encounter" God, hence the name. 

At some level, this is the environment I spent the last few decades soaking in, so it was familiar. At another level, it was fun to see a small group of people enthusiastic about God and about newcomers (me). 

One fun thing about them, they want to be a place where people can bring their pain, doubt, and fears about God and Religion, and then encounter God for themselves. They want to make the environment open and friendly for people who don't believe yet, but, are interested and exploring.

New Life

Visiting home base. 

Guest pastor was Pastor Geoffrey's dad from our of town. 

I felt "home" here, still. After a summer of wandering around, this is still me favorite spot to just be still and know.

Worship is intense and intensional. They choose the songs ahead of time but give space for God to just show up tangibly.

While "spirit-led" in style, they are also balanced, and prone to keep things "fitting and in order".

Special Event: #LetUsWorship - Kalispell, MT

Sean Feutch is a worship leader doing worship events all over the USA and a few in Canada. He was arrested once for holding a public event during COVID-19 lockdowns. Just this past weekend (8/10) Antifa members shot flash bombs and pepper spray into the crowds. 

While his methods raise questions, his results are largely positive. Many people have their lives to Jesus, some of them laying down addictions by casting the materials (cigarettes, pipes, and needles) onto the stage. The guest speaker also prayed for healing over the audience.

We only made it for the last 45 minutes, but, the energy was largely positive. It reminded me of an old Pentecostal crusade.

The Altar Church

One Giant A.A. meeting... That's what it felt like. Which for me was nostalgic. I loved AA meetings for about a year in 2001. 

The pastor, who was notably shot six times by a congragant and lived, is a friendly but blunt man. He shook hands with folks as they passed through. He said hi to people from the pulpit. He asked where missing folks were. He took a phone call from the pulpit. He was a bit crass but down to earth about it. I liked him for it. I wonder if this is what Peter was like as a pastor? 

Music was honest and simple. Message was too.

The guest speaker was a long time member who was saying his good-bye. He is going over seas to the Arab world to preach Jesus to Muslims. Given the "tough" flavor of the pastor and congregation, I can think of no better group to be raised in before going to a mission field that will almost certainly land you in prison or death. God bless him!

Maple Street Community Church

A very small and very friendly group. One lady told me their story. I'd probably get the details wrong as it was in passing. As I understand it, they were a Lutheran church, this pastor guest spoke as their pastor was sick. The residing pastor died and this man was asked to take over. They changed to a "Community Church" as he was not ordained Lutheran. 

Very friendly, several people came to say hello. 

Music was les by a piano. Hyms were on the projector and printed in the pamphlet. Between each hym, he would read something about why the gym was significant and what to reflect on while singing.

The message was involved several passages and exposition. 

They share the building with another church, trading off every six months between meeting late or early. 

It was interesting singing hyms with the musical notation printed. Haven't seen that since I was a child.

Final: May 9, 2021 through August 8, 2021

While I've often visited other churches, and I will do so for the remainder of my life, this project is complete. There are some on my list I experienced second hand but didn't get to visit. I'll probably drop by one day. But, school starts August 16, so my journey is complete for now. 

May this photo of an open door be a reminder to me (and anyone who reads this) to keep our hearts open to God and his people.

Closing thoughts:

I can imagine Jesus, as he visited the synagogues around Israel for three years.

While there likely MANY things they taught wrongly, or misunderstood, or failed to see; He simply arrived telling them His Kingdom had arrived and let them decide to believe or not. 

I absolutely found things to "correct" in each place I visited, even my home church. But, that's between them and God. I am not their Holy Spirit, and they didn't ask me for my opinion. 

What I saw were hundreds of people seeking an experience with God in their own way. I saw shorts with plaid, and also suits. I saw full bands with audio techs, and a quiet bunch with a piano. I saw loud preachers and quiet teachers. I saw large sections of the Bible read aloud, I saw mere verses expounded upon for the whole message, and a few with no message or a short one with a focus on other ways to experience God. I saw people file out quickly, I saw people stay and chat. I saw small gatherings and large. I saw churches focused on building themselves up to be stronger and healthier and churches focused on reaching out to the community. I saw fancy website and apps, but I also saw a simple paper handout. 

I saw churches that followed a simple flow: 
1. Music. 2. Announcements. 3. Message.

I saw churches follow an intricately designed flow:
1. A prelude song to get everyone on board with service starting.
2. Call to worship, with two songs that focus on a corporate need to worship.
3. The public reading of a section of scripture aloud. 
4. Songs of Worship: three songs who's words focus on worshipping God. Different from the words of the first songs. 
5. A message rooted in the text with a real life application (maybe a third of the service as a whole).
6. Closing prayer and song.
7. Communion
8. Announcements and Dismissed

I saw a lot of spectator events featuring music and teaching. 

I saw talk of potlucks, camps, outings, groups, and group events. 

.... I'm sure I have more to say. But I must let it rest there for now. Simmer. I'm sure I'll be reflecting on this for many years to come.

PS... Honorable Mentions:

If you are from the area, there would be some obvious ones to some people's mind that didn't get included in this list above. Some may be because I genuinely don't know about them. But some may be because I already visited many churches when I moved to North Idaho, and some others this year before I officially started this journal. So I will include below churches I've visited that weren't part of this official journey or project, but which nonetheless fed and informed my journey prior to the start of this project. I may as well also include a few key places from past years and states.

They are, North Idaho:

Lake City Church, CDA
Honestly, one of the more balanced churches in the area. Very main stream.

Heart of the City
An amazing place and pastor. If you are looking for an environment that is energetic and full of life and family oriented, this may be it. They're a specific style, it'll either work for you or it won't.

One Place Church
Pace is a good man. Friendly people.

The Cause
Reminds me of my former tradition in Pentecostal and Word of Faith circles. Good music.

The River Church, Post Falls
Honestly, can't remember much. Small group.

Victory City Church, Post Falls
Church re-replant. Rebuilding a church.

Anthem, Hayden
Can't remember much. Good group.

They are, Previous places and seasons:

Coachella Valley Christian Church (CVCC), Indio California (grew up in the Disciples of Christ). 80s-90s, various DOC locations, longest here. 

Southwest, Evangelical Free, Palm Desert, California (David T Moore, 1990s)

Calvary Chapel, The Bridge, Cathedral City California, 90s-2003.

Oasis Life Training Center (Church), Palm Desert, California (Pentecostal, Rod Parsley affiliated) 2003-2005

Heritage Family Fellowship, Anaheim California (Word of Faith) 2005-2009

The Rock, Anaheim California, (Four Square) 2009

Eagle Mountain International Church (EMIC, Kenneth Copeland Ministries property), Fort Worth Texas 2009-2013

Gateway Church, Southlake Texas, independent, Style: Baptist meets Charismatic meets Mega Church. 2013-2017

Moved to North Idaho, 2017.

Thursday, May 27, 2021



While this doesn't "bother" me when I hear it, I have tended to stop using his name to end prayers. I will address him by name, as I would anyone else I was speaking with.

"Hey Jen, let's go for a walk..."

"Hey Jesus, let's talk about this...."

"... Jesus, thank you so much for your love and affection for us."

But the phrase "in my name" wasn't meant to be a sign-off or a tagline that you add to a request. When we use it this way, it obscures and dilutes its original and intended meaning.

It's a turn of phrase. 

It has a long history going back to Genesis One (Image Bearer). Israel bore then name of YHWH. We bear the name of YHWH Incarnate, Jesus. 

When we operate in the authority of Jesus, bearing the name of YHWH Incarnate Jesus, on the mission for Jesus, doing His work....... Ask what ye will.... 

If I am where He told me to be, doing what he told me to do, then I am an authorized user on my Father's business credit card account. 

If I am not where he told me to be, doing what he told me to do, my authority is revoked. 

So no, I cannot simply wish for a Mercedes and call it in JUST because I want to. 

You have not because you don't ask, or, when you do ask you ask with selfish motives. 

In other words, if I am listening to the Holy Spirit, and doing what he told me to do, I can ask for ANYTHING He tells me to ask for, and it'll be done. 

If I'm not on mission, it doesn't apply.


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