Since my senior year of college, I have attended Exciting Idlewild Church in Lutz, Florida. Idlewild has about 10,000 members and an enormous building! I remember when Tyler and I invited our families to join us at Idlewild our first Easter married, the first thing they all said was, "it's so big!"
I have now been at Idlewild for almost 4 years and here's why....
1. Idlewild as a church, and the Senior Pastor, Ken Whitten, hold and preach Biblical doctrine. Jesus Christ is the reason the church exists and excels.
2. Even in such a large sanctuary, I found comfort in sitting in the same seats each Sunday morning. And because of this, I ended up connecting with those around me!
3. Tyler and I began attending our first Bible Fellowship Class, Engaged Couples, which also doubled as pre-marital counseling. We learned so much from the materials, our peers in the class, as well as the two couples who facilitated the class!
4. After we got married, we got connected into what we now consider our little church family -- the Bible Fellowship Class Newly Married 2. We have enjoyed every minute of our time a part of that class... from the other couples in the class to the guest speakers. But at the end of the day, Newly Married 2 is our place of deeper connection with a smaller group of people within the larger body of Idlewild.
5. Pastor Ken Whitten is a strong, wise, and personal pastor. Regardless of the size of the congregation he leads, he's approachable, personable, and knows the people of Idlewild! It's so comforting to know that you're not just another number to the Senior Pastor.
6. Idlewild is a great place to invite non-Christians to church. Because the sermon's are so Biblically on point, there's never any doubt as to what they may hear during their church experience. And like many other Southern Baptist churches, Pastor Ken does an invitation at the end of each service, allowing people an opportunity to talk to someone personally and/or publicly profess that they're placing their faith in Christ.
7. There is always something to do through the church. I think because of it's size, there is great success in hosting Christmas pageants, fall festivals, and Vacation Bible School. Idlewild even has a recreation ministry which is open to the community!
8. Service is a key focus of Idlewild's. Over the last couple of years, the church has adopted a local elementary school and encouraged the church members to donate their time and/or their resources to enable a Title 1 public school to see the love of Christ! And for years, church members have fed migrant workers on Thanksgiving Day!
9. Each school semester, Idlewild has what they call Life Change University. Bible studies, book studies, and classes are held for one "semester" and the topics cover a wide spectrum! I enjoyed attending a LCU course during Fall 2010, as it provided me with additional study of God's Word with the people of Idlewild!
10. I couldn't find a reason NOT to plant roots at Idlewild... so I did. I never saw a reason or need to leave.
We just attended our last Sunday morning at Idlewild as Florida residents. It was very bittersweet, as we are excited to be moving. However, saying good-bye to our Bible Fellowship Class was almost as hard as saying good-bye to family. I know I am going to miss the people, the teaching, the discussion, the prayer, and the genuineness of that class. I can only hope and pray that we will find another home like Idlewild.
"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." - Hebrews 10:24-25