After church shopping, a family finds a place that feels like home, a place where the gospel is preached without any strings attached.
When Jonathan and Devon Hightower wanted a place where they could worship with their growing family on Sundays, they started looking around at church options in the area. Finding the perfect fit, however, didn’t happen overnight. “We knew we needed a church home,” Devon says. “We wanted a place that would serve as a good bridge between how Jonathan and I were raised.”
During her early years, Devon regularly attended a church that was Lutheran. Her dad ushered on Sundays, and she went to Sunday school after services and church camps in the summers. “The Lutheran ideas were pretty engrained in me from early on,” Devon says. When she started attending a university, she continued to keep church as part of her life. Even if she didn’t go to every worship opportunity, “I would still feel that pull and go back,” she says. “I would always notice how it would ground me. When I went, it would bring me that peace that I was searching for at the time.”
Jonathan also grew up in a churchgoing home, as his parents were active in two Baptist denominations. Since his mother’s family was tied to one Baptist church and his father’s relatives belonged to another, the family alternated churches each Sunday. “Later in life the family just went to the one my mother was raised in,” Jonathan says.
When Jonathan and Devon met and started dating, the two shared their churchgoing interests. “Devon said she wanted to go to church, and I viewed that as a great thing,” Jonathan says. After getting married, the two continued to go to church services together. Since Devon had a Lutheran background and Jonathan had a Baptist upbringing, they agreed to incorporate some of the customs Jonathan’s family had developed regarding church attendance. They alternated churches and went to a Lutheran congregation where Devon felt comfortable for one Sunday. Then the next Sunday they attended worship at a Baptist church where Jonathan’s family was involved.
Jonathan and Devon spent their first years of marriage living in Atlanta, Georgia. After that, they opted to move out of the city and live in a more suburban setting to raise a family. The switch landed them in a house in the Sharpsburg area, one of the outer metro regions surrounding Atlanta. It also took them away from the churches they had attended in the past and to a place where they didn’t have any religious connections.
After their first child was born, Jonathan and Devon felt a strong tug to settle into a church. They looked for a place where they could grow together as a family. “We went to a few, non-WELS Lutheran churches but didn’t find the right fit,” Devon says.
Then one Sunday, when Jonathan was away on a business trip, Devon decided to try out a new church in Sharpsburg: Faith Lutheran. She went with their daughter and her parents to check it out and realized it was a WELS church. “The gospel was presented in a way that I associated with so much more,” she says. Her father was so moved by the sermon he continued to talk about it in the days and weeks that followed.
Although Devon had a good first impression at the church, the family continued to attend several other churches in the area during the weeks that followed. Then one Sunday, when sifting through places to try out, Jonathan recalled the impression Devon’s father had shared about the sermon at Faith. “I said, ‘Why don’t we go there?’ ” he recalls. While there, “we found something that really resonated with us both in terms of the message and the congregation,” he adds.
A church home
After their first visit to Faith as a family, Devon and Jonathan continued to attend on Sundays. One day, while the family was driving back from a beach vacation, Devon expressed a feeling she had about missing Communion. Since Faith practices close communion, the process to receive the Lord’s Supper includes becoming a WELS member. After talking about it, the two decided to look into the classes that were offered to become members so they could join others in taking Holy Communion.
Once they started the class, they were taken through some fundamental basics of the gospel and doctrine. “We enjoyed it so much,” Jonathan says. “There wasn’t anything new in it—it all came from the Bible. It consisted of someone telling you and educating you about the Bible rather than adding spins or splashes to the message.”
While going through the classes, Jonathan began to reflect on his religious upbringing and background. “Because of the church I had been in, I had never been baptized,” he recalls. After speaking with Faith’s pastor, he was baptized at the same time that he and Devon became members of the church. As members, they had their two children baptized as well.
During the weeks, months, and years that followed, the family found a consistency stemming from the church’s pulpit. “It’s so crystal clear,” Devon says. “It’s always the same message every time.”
Hearing sermons that are rooted in the Bible week after week has encouraged them to maintain a Christ-centered perspective while viewing current events. “With so much upheaval, especially the issues related to COVID and politics, the gospel always has the right thing to say,” Jonathan points out. “We hear what Jesus says, and it can really be helpful during a chaotic time to know where the foundation is.”
There also have been opportunities to continue learning and serving in various ways. Devon and Jonathan appreciated their classes to become members so much that they returned to sit in on those same classes as members. They also found ways to help support the church through teaching Sunday school, participating in workdays, helping with the landscape and property maintenance, pitching in for soccer camps, and serving on the church council. “There is everything from having a giant grill out, where everyone gets involved and has so much fun, to the chance to think through budgets,” Jonathan says. “There are so many service opportunities, and there is something for everyone who wants to help.”
Now that they’ve found a church home at Faith, Devon and Jonathan feel they’ve found a good fit for both themselves and their family. “From an educational standpoint, it’s helped us understand Jesus’ actions,” Devon says. “It also helps us to have conversations about faith with our family. Overall, it’s really changed me and my outlook in a positive way.”
Author: Rachel Hartman
Volume 108, Number 6
Issue: June 2021
- Confessions of faith: Jonathan and Devon Hightower - 2021/05/25
- Confessions of faith: Brad Harris - 2020/10/28
- Confessions of faith: Anthony and Alex Lleonart - 2020/05/31