What I Have Learned As A Teenager Visiting 11 Pillar Churches
By: Kristlyn O’Day
As a child of the Executive Director of the Praetorian Project, I have participated in many travels to the Pillar plants all over the world. Just recently, my dad and I started to talk about all of the pillar churches that I have been to in my lifetime. We came to the conclusion that I had been to 11 Pillar Churches. Growing up I did not mind tagging along on my dad’s business trips (Some of which I had no choice because I was a child). Going with my family on these trips meant that I got to experience new places that I had never seen before. This created a great opportunity to expand my knowledge on not only the new places I had been to but also on the Praetorian Project and how it progresses.
In my many years of observation, and exploring the many Pillar Churches, here is what I have learned. In my eyes, this is what it means to be a Pillar Church that is a part of the Praetorian Project.
Worshipping the Lord is not limited to a church building.
This, in my opinion, was one of the most interesting things about the Pillar Churches and it never ceased to amaze me. When a typical person thinks of the words church building, they think of a traditional building with a chapel, a cross on the front door, steeple, stained glass windows, and maybe even rows of pews. For the Pillar churches, this wasn’t always the case. We had many new Pillar plants meet in schools, community centers, and gyms….. lots of gyms! We even had a church or two that met in a bar and a previous liquor store! This is what amazed me. All of these uncommon places for churches to get together and worship revealed the truth that worshiping the Lord is not limited to a church building. Meeting in these different places gave the church the opportunity to influence those around them that are watching and observing, even if it meant meeting in what is considered a sinful place such as a bar or liquor store. Pillar Churches were able to shine a light and Worship the Lord no matter what building they were in. Their lack of a “proper” church building did not stop them from studying God’s word together and singing a joyful noise to the Lord Almighty.
Community makes a difference.
You would imagine that going to 11 different Pillar Churches would give me the opportunity to talk to a lot of people. Well, it did. After many years of shaking what felt to be at least a thousand hands, I listened to many stories about how families came to Pillar and how they were affected by it. Almost every single story mentioned how that person was deeply affected by the love and the community of Pillar Church. There were all kinds of stories of how the church served one another and loved each other in the simplest ways. They brought meals to those getting over sicknesses, or families with newborn babies. They comforted those with a deploying spouse or those who lost a loved one. They even affected each other’s lives by simply offering to babysit a child so that the parents could go on a well-overdue date. These are the kind of stories I heard about and the love that I saw and experienced myself as I traveled around to all these churches. I also got to experience this type of love in my home church, Pillar Church of Jacksonville. Being a part of a church community makes a big difference in people’s lives, and it represents God’s love. When showing God’s love in the simplest ways, lives are changed and transformed through Jesus Christ. This is what I saw every Pillar Church strive to do.
Quality over Quantity.
When planting churches in military communities, it makes it almost impossible to keep a high number of people in the church for a long period of time. But this didn’t seem to matter for any of the Pillar Churches that I visited. I saw many, of what is considered very small churches, send out multiple families to plant other churches. As a young child and teen, I thought this was absolutely crazy that they would do this when they barely had anyone to begin with. But the more churches I visited, the more I began to realize that quantity isn’t what mattered in the church, it was the quality. These 11 Pillar Churches cared more about the growth of each member’s spiritual life than the number of seats that were filled. They cared more about spreading God’s word to places that desperately needed it, instead of having a high number of members to brag about. They cared more about encouraging members to follow God’s plan of moving away and starting a new church somewhere else instead of keeping as many people as possible. These Pillar Churches focused on raising quality Christians, through God’s Word, so that His plans would be fulfilled.
God’s Word stays the same.
This may sound kind of cliché, but I believe it is the most important lesson that I learned from visiting all those Pillar Churches. No matter what Pillar Church I went to, no matter where the church was located, no matter what kind of people were in the congregation, no matter who was the pastor…God’s Word stayed the same. God’s Word was the foundation of every single one of these churches, and it was revealed through the lives of its members. I would go and sit through many sermons, by many different pastors, with many different preaching styles, and each time we opened the bible and read the same exact words (unless we had different bible versions of course). This is what every Pillar Church was built upon. The Word of God is where each pastor found the words to preach on. The Word of God is where each church found the songs of praise to sing to the Lord. Each church studied and read the Word together as a congregation and they grew from it. Each Pillar Church may have had different ideas about certain church details, but they all had one common characteristic: They were built on the unchanging Word of God. This is one of the most valuable things that I learned from observing the 11 Pillar Churches. No matter how different the church service or the music or the preaching style may be, God’s Word will always stay the same. Nothing can change that.
As I bring this to a close, I encourage you to find a home church that values these four points. As a teenager who grew up watching and observing these four points in many different churches, I value these four lessons because of the impact that they had on myself, and the other members of Pillar Churches.