I’ve spent a lot of time criticizing and picking apart people of the church. When I was doing it, I didn’t see it as something wrong. I told myself I was just looking for a good church. If I was going to go to church, then surely I should go somewhere everyone got along and policies and programs ran perfectly.

But there’s no such thing as a perfect church, because the minute you walk through the doors, that church becomes imperfect.

I grew up in the church; my grandmother made sure of that. As I grew older, however, I saw things happening that just weren’t right, and I became cynical. So I stopped going. Grandma kept reminding me that you don’t go to church for the people; you go to worship the Lord, but I ignored her—and Him—for a long time.

It wasn’t until my daughter Tena and I became involved with First Baptist Orlando that I began to see who Jesus really is. I remember my first visit here like it was yesterday. I thought I was on a university campus…it was so big, and the grounds were so beautiful. I was impressed but a little concerned because the congregation was predominantly white. I didn’t know if I would like that.

I felt a little out of place, but Tena kept urging me to give it a chance. She was going regularly and becoming more and more involved. I thought, why should I go to another church when it’s just the two of us here in Orlando? So I followed her lead. I started attending regularly and eventually joined a Bible study class—not so much because I wanted to but because I was determined that we should worship together, as a family. You just do things sometimes for your kids, for your family.

In that class, I quickly discovered I knew nothing about the Bible. That study didn’t last long—I let myself feel as if others were criticizing and judging me, like I was going to get a failing grade. I quit, but Tena encouraged me to try again. So, when the next study began, she chose the class and I promised to go along with her and give it a fair shake. That’s the class that changed my life.

I found out who Christ really was and who I was in Him and He in me. I learned that I was made right in God’s eyes by my faith in Him alone and not by my works. I learned that He had chosen me before the foundation of the world to do good works.

I went home that evening, humbled and amazed. I was so overwhelmed by His goodness that I lay on the floor and cried like a baby. After that day, a hunger to know more about God’s Word began growing in me. The more I learned, the hungrier I became.

I took every class I could, fervently studying the Word of God—and it changed my entire point of view about everything and everybody!

Studying the Word of God and coming together in corporate worship are two powerful ways to get to know our Lord. Doing so will fast-forward you into the presence of our King because, as He states in His Word, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20 KJV).

If you’ve been hurt or if you’re confused by something you’ve seen happen in a church, please don’t let the actions of others keep you from the only One who is able to set you free and give you victory. Look to God, not people. Going to church isn’t about people. It’s about God.

When I finally stopped being that criticizing, naysaying bystander and actually got involved, I discovered amazing things. I get to fellowship with likeminded people. Even if we have nothing else in common, when we love the Lord, we can come together to pray and praise God. I get encouraged and fueled up for the week to come…and that helps me encourage and fuel up others.

Instead of criticizing others while on the sidelines, I now welcome people into our church. I get to serve God as the church receptionist and welcome His people and share His love with others. I’m the first person many people encounter when they come to First Baptist Orlando. I want them to see Jesus through me, and I want to represent Him well. This is the best job I’ve ever had. Thank You, Jesus!

Written by Lenora Plummer

Photo by Jacob Ufkes