About the Author

Mary is a writer and speaker who lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons – but lives because of God’s grace. She writes about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places at MaryCarver.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Mary,
    Like you, I’ve seen how orphaned and impoverished people do church in destitute and dangerous countries in the Middle East. They do church even though they know that if they were to be overhead saying, “Jesus Christ is Lord”, they could legally be stoned to death. They have so little, yet their thanks and praise to God makes ours look paltry and week. Wherever two or more are gathered – there will the Lord be. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fancy cathedral or a room with dirt floors and peeling paint. It’s the hearts and souls of those attending that invite God in and make church happen. What a blessing to be able to do church with these women and build bridges between sisters in Christ. Thanks for sharing and I’ll be signing up to receive more info. Had the pleasure of having Kristen Welch come to speak to our church and they brought a lot of the FTF goods. What a great cause!
    Bev xx

    • Oh, thank you for sharing your experience, too, Bev. I’m so grateful to learn from other believers and seeing how they worship Him!

    • Mary
      Inspiring piece.I leave in Nairobi.Church is where two or three gather in the name of Jesus Christ.

  2. Mary, you had me holding me breath as I read — I love that padded pews and a coordinating carpet (ahem) are not even on the list for what it takes to “do church.” May God so grip our hearts with this truth that the carpet wars can end and we can get down to the business of making His Name known that “His glory may fill the earth as the waters cover the seas.”

    • Thank God He’s more concerned with our hearts and His glory than the pews and the carpet, right?! Thank you for reading today, Michele!

  3. I do want to do church!!! I’m tired of the pettiness so prevalent in our American churches! Even in my own heart — O LORD…show me church!!

  4. What a beautiful rendition of the people we lived with for seven years. We were blessed to be in Kenya for that time. We have visited those same women. God allowed us to plant a church on the outskirts of Nairobi. He has also allowed us several visits back ‘home”. We will be going in April of 2018 with 18 people from our church here in N.C. as well as people from other states that we have shared our love for the people there. One side note to our trip, we will renew our marriage vows there as it will be our 50th wedding anniversary! God has blessed us so much by being able to go “home” to Kenya.

    • Mary, thank you for the work you have done in Kenya! And what a blessing to go back and to renew your vows. Praying all the best for your trip and everything God will do for you and through you!

  5. Wow – this was such an amazing post to read. From start to finish, you’ve written this so brilliantly and it’s certainly made me think about my own privileged position in the UK, with my first world problems. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • What an incredible story. Thanks for sharing all the beautiful details about praising the Lord whole heartedly in a little windowless romm, without pretty chairs, carpets, podiums, sound systems ect. Sounds just like how it would of been back in the day when Jesus preached to the thousands, sitting on rocks or dirt, to hear and experience the true love of Jesus. I went on a youth mission trip in a inner city years ago. We set up a huge tent in the middle of a slum where really poor people lived, and we had a loud PA system. The singing preaching began, just like in the old days. The tent was nearly empty. We were told to either sit all over the tent, or outside the tent to answer questions and bring in the people. Things looked hopeless to me, no one seemed to want to come. I saw people hanging off their balconies watching us, but not actually coming to check things out in the big tent. Finally people started to come, and next thing i knew there were a few hundred people from the complex/streets in the big tent, hearing all about Jesus and how amamzing He is. This one woman stood at the back, with two children. One child had the wettest, stinkiest diaper hanging off of her little body( this was mid July, and man was it hot in Toronto, Canada.) Anyways. I remember judging this Mother, and thinking Lord please don’t ask me to love on this woman and her children, they are dirty ect. Oh yes I am being so blunt and honest as to my phariseeism. So anyways, yes the Lord did want me to love on this family. And no the Mom did not bring a extra diaper to clean up this little one, nor did she have a cloth to wipe the snot off the childs face, or to clean the dirty little body. What kind of Mama is this I thought! But on the outside I looked so happy to see the Mama, and looked like I wanted to help her out to find a good seat to hear about Jesus. Well we seemed to hit it off and she wanted me to sit with her, and so I did. The preaching was amazing, the Holy Spirit poured out His love. I could just feel it. The sun was going down, there was something just so amazing going on in that tent. Tears were running down my face cause the Lord was convicting me of my judgmental little self. At this point the baby was sitting on my knee, yucky diaper and all, and I finally got over myself, and snuggled that little cutey into myself. I was brought low, so He could be lifted up. I was changed by that night, by the beautiful street people who came to hear about Jesus. I got to worship with them, and experience a love that I had never seen before, cause I was used to sitting in a church Sabbath morning, that had pretty pews, stained glass, nice carpet and a fellowship hall. I was used to being caught up in all the trappings, instead of getting out of my own way, and getting caught up into the Love of Jesus, who came to save the Lost…..me!!!!!!!

        • Thanks Mary, it really was a life changing experience for me. I now know all that God can and wants to do in me and through me as long as I get out of His way.

  6. Mary….I have tears in my eyes and a longing in my heart to live a life doing church, I.e., loving, praising and worshipping Him for who He is. If we were honest as you have been, we would realize what we call church has been pretty self-serving. May we all continue to seek Him in a way that is pleasing to His heart. Thank you for allowing the Spirit to lead you in sharing this truth.

  7. Wow Mary this is powerful. How many times do we as American Christians think God’s blessings are because of our material wealth and comfort. I love that you shared this with us. My father was a pastor and my husband is a pastor, so I have seen all kinds of situations in our churches and know that the Kenyan Christians have much to teach us. Thank you for going and then for sharing your experience with us. May God keep you close to HIs heart.

  8. When I read this, I almost felt guilty for thanking God for air conditioning today since we have been in the upper 90’s all week in Dallas.

    I felt like I was right there with you as you shared this story of doing church, and it reminded me God is doing a work all over this world. The enemy only wants us to see the darkness, but there is a lot of light because God is with us at work around the world.

    • Kathy, I am ALWAYS grateful for air conditioning! (And to be completely transparent, I was glad my trip to Kenya was scheduled during their winter and not the heat of summer!) But yes, yes, yes, He is doing work everywhere and we can see His light when we look for it!

  9. Mary,

    Most Americans don’t truly understand “doing church”. They believe church has to be some big ornate building, replete with all the finest stuff. They come in sit in the same place, sing a few songs, say a prayer or two, hear a sermon & out the door-all in just 1 hour. Most want a “quiet” low key service. People from other countries-like most of Africa-don’t mind long, noisy services. They don’t have modern conveniences-just a zeal for Jesus. They want to sing loudly & dance around praising God. They are thankful for what they have-not what they don’t. So many churches in America split or break up due to “stupid” things like the color of carpet, or who is on the board. We should learn from others to loudly praise our God, thank & praise Him for what He’s given us.

    My current church home is a small country “Christian” church. We are not afraid to say how we feel. You may hear us say AMEN, Hallelujah, or Praise God. We answer our pastor’s questions. More than that WE DO CHURCH. We go into the community & try to help others any way we can. Our motto is to live church beyond the building.

    Blessings 🙂

    • “Live church beyond the building” – I love that, Bev! And I love the way God has created the Church, the way He’s given us freedom to worship Him differently, to love Him uniquely. Some of us are quiet, some of us are a little more boisterous – but we can all worship the same God!

    • Thanks for sharing your story. I am praying to be more like what you described. Amen amen and amen.

  10. Thank you for this. One of my favorite church experiences was walking into Brooklyn Tabernacle for worship. It felt like this must be what heaven looks like with all the nations worshipping at the top of their lungs. It is so so different than what we deal with locally, and worrying too much about whether the pastor is wearing a tie and whether the order of service is “correct” each week.

    Thank you again for sharing.

  11. Hi Mary,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I, too, have been in that same uncomfortable place where the Lord is stretching me and trying to teach me more about Him and myself. This past year has been one of tremendous change for my family and me. God opened wide the doors for us to go on mission full-time. During this year, I have had to let go of my precious traditions of church. That is not to say that those traditions were bad or wrong…just unnecessary for spreading the glory of God throughout the earth. Through much prayer and study of the New Testament, God has shown me the true meaning of church. And, like you said, we “do church” with our team of laborers here. We “do church” with the people we meet and teach them to “do” the same. We are now 4, almost 5, months in to the “tough” work of reaching the lost in a city here in the states…a city with an estimated 1.8 million lost. Many of these are from unreached people groups from around the world. We don’t try to “plug” them into a traditional, American model church. Instead, we teach and train and equip them to BE a church among their family and friends…much like Jesus and the apostles taught and modeled. This has been a priceless journey so far for me, my husband, and our 2 kids, and I am humbled and grateful, daily, that our Great God would allow us to be a part of what He is doing. So now I don’t feel like I’ve “given up” anything…instead I feel like God has and is tearing down my walls and bringing such a sweet closeness and intimacy with Him that I didn’t have before. Because when all of our comforts and entertainment and tradition is stripped away, what are we left with? Hopefully, we are left with an undistracted relationship with our precious Savior.

    Thank you for sharing your heart. I hope this small part of my story helps you know you are not alone in your struggle to balance the things you’ve experienced with what God is teaching and showing you.

    Always His,

    • Beautiful, heart touching and soul searching ( for me) kinda story that you’ve shared. Praise Jesus that He loves us to much to leave us the way we are.

    • Jessi, how did you know God was opening doors for you to go full time into missions? Did you pray and ask the Lord to open doors for missions, or did it fall into your lap? I would love to know more about your experience. Thanks for sharing.

      • Hi, Ingrid!
        I apologize for taking so long to respond to your comment. To answer your question, my husband and I began feeling a draw towards missions several years ago and began seeking God and trying to figure out what that would be for our family. Throughout those years, God began really stretching us and challenging us…what we believed to be church, what we were willing to do for the Kingdom, etc… Over the past year, He opened doors right and left for us to step through. We became a part of NoPlaceLeft, a network of people like us who want to see no place left without access to the Gospel of Jesus. At this point in our journey, we are a part of a team in Charlotte, NC, striving to make reproducing disciples and churches using the same model Jesus and the disciples and apostles used throughout scripture. We have a heart for the nations, and God has and is bringing those nations into our cities here. So this is our starting place. Of course, there are many other details I could share with you about our journey, but this is not the place to do so. Feel free to look us up or email me. Our team website is qcitymovements.org. You can also find more info on noplaceleft.net.

        Always His

  12. Love love LOVE this! Beautiful words and a powerful message! I’ve found “church” to be most powerful when all the extras are stripped away. We are the church! Just WOW!