caroline holzberger

Keepin' it real about motherhood, Jesus, life, and everything in between.

Off the Pew

So, in case you don’t know my story, I was the ‘church kid’ growing up. I had the testimony that was never, and I do mean, never asked to be shared from the microphone. After all, it was bo-ring. I was raised by church going parents, and even though divorce broke up my home at the age of five, that was pretty much the major drama in my early life. My parents both happily re-married…my mom, to a pastor, nonetheless, so bonus points there! Now, it was official – I was not only the ‘good kid’, but now I carried the Preacher’s Kid title of “PK” as well. I was golden.

Never mind the pride. Or the judgmental heart that would have knocked Judge Judy and her gavel flat to the ground. Forget the hate and dishonoring heart I had toward my parents. Never mind the selfish heart, the lying tongue, or the deceitful intentions I slugged around with me each day. Yes, even Sunday.

I was a good kid. I didn’t do any of the things those kids with ‘good testimonies’ did.

No drinking. Check.

No drugs. Check.

No sex until marriage. Check.

Congratulations! You’ve been promoted to the Gold Star Bible Club Member. Now, just make sure you put ten percent of your allowance in the offering plate each week and you are good to go. The pastoral staff doesn’t have to worry about you…in fact, shoot, let’s make this girl a leader!

Throwing up a little in my mouth right now.

Don’t worry, I could spend plenty of time no really, like “Let’s order dinner in” kind of time telling you about the years of 1997-2000 when I decided morality was relative, God was absent, and my identity was, well…I had no idea what my identity was.

Don’t worry though, thankfully God gave me the second 2×4 to my head that I distinctly remember. He got a hold of me. And thankfully, I didn’t have to fall too far gone. That time.

Fast forward a few hundred years and here we are. I’ve had plenty of ups and downs in my Christian walk. But, I was a Christian camp counselor, a church staff member, and now who’d have thunk…a Christian writer and speaker now.

So, do I still feel like I’m one of those kids with not that ‘good’ of a testimony. Heck. to. the. no. In fact, I’ve come to know that we all have pretty amazing testimonies. If we are Christians, it doesn’t matter whether we were saved from a life of destructive choices on the outside, or a life of deceitful choices on the inside – we were all saved. We all held a one-way ticket on the non-stop train directly to hell. But, God derailed our lives somehow and paid our ticket to ride with Him. Any work He has done is worth talking about. No life saved from eternity in hell can be considered boring. And for those of us who still believe we haven’t been saved from much, I’m fairly sure God will get a hold of that pride and give us a little bit more to share from the microphone in the future. He’s pretty good at that.

God has allowed my entire life to be stripped. I mean, all of it. Marriage. Parenting. Finances. Health. (Don’t get me started.) Security. Safety. Identity. Family. Friendships. Work. Name it. All of it has been stripped at one time or another. To the glory of God.

But, I’m not here right now to talk about me. In fact, I’m kinda over talking about me.

I’m here to talk about everyone else but me.

Like…let’s start with you. Shall we?

Do you, my friend, know Jesus?

Do you actually have a relationship with Him?

Do you attend church?

Do you love, give, tithe?

Do you serve those less fortunate that you?

Are you consumed with worldly things? Driven by them? Controlled by them?

If so…let’s chat.

This life…the one you and I are living right this moment…it’s short. Like, crazy short. We’ve got maybe a hundred years on this earth- tops. Houses, buildings, roads, bridges – all of them can outlast a hundred years.Trees laugh at a hundred years. But, not you and I. A few of us may get a bonus five to ten years on top of that, in which case we get our face slapped onto a Smucker’s jar on The Today Show. But…then we die.

Gosh Caroline, you sure know how to lift a person up, don’t you? Oh drop it, I’m getting somewhere.

My point is this, friend –

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, then – get this –


It’s just not.

Yes, go to church.

Yes, read the Bible daily!

Yes, fellowship with other believers and build each other up, as we live these lives.

But, other than that – you really should be OUT THERE serving His people. You know, the ones who have nothing. Have no one to love. Have no where to go. Have no hope for the future. Those are the people Jesus would be hanging out with today. I’m not saying He wouldn’t ever dress in His Sunday best and drive His late model luxury SUV to yours or my church to sit by you on the pew. Oh wait, maybe I am.

Jesus was out there. He was meeting people. In fact, He met them where they were, and He loved them there. Then, He taught them. Then He healed them. Then He changed their lives. He didn’t build a fancy building adorned with ‘stuff’ and call it, oh I don’t know, a temple, and expect people to come to Him. He went to them. He got off the pew. Pretty sure He ever sat on a pew, really, but you get my point.

Hear me correctly, I am not saying that people’s lives aren’t being changed for eternity inside the walls of a church. They are. It happens every single day. God is neither bound by the walls of the church nor the streets of the inner city. What I’m saying is this – God has directly told me to directly tell you to –

GET OFF THE FREAKING PEW. (embellishment mine, not God’s per say)

Stop living this mythical Christian life you’re being fed. Where if you dress up, show up, and give some money up – you’re good to go. It’s really not all about JUST being saved. It’s also not just about going to church, experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit and feeling so blessed about your life.  If you are saved – AWESOME!! (If you’re not sure – read here!) But, this Christian life is not about us anymore. Jesus tells us time and time and time again to get out there and serve.

Well, Caroline, I volunteer in our children’s music ministry every other weekend. I do get out there and serve. Technically that’s getting in there (church) not out there(world), but I won’t argue with you.

And, if you do that – AWESOME!! I’m all about that. So is Jesus! In fact, that used to be my actual job at my church is to find, mentor, and love on people like you. Without you, ministry would be impossible in a church.

But, sweet friend in Christ, I need you to hear that this Christian life isn’t an either-or, it’s a both-and.

Sing at church and with the orphaned.

Attend a Bible study and serve lunch to the homeless.

Help with the greeters ministry and spend time with a pregnant teen.

Do both-and. Don’t do either-or.

Caroline, seriously, I don’t have time.

Yes you do. You just don’t make time. Period.

I read a phrase recently in a blog that rocked my world

Thinking about doing something and doing something aren’t the same thing. We need to do more tending and less intending.

Well, crap. Hello, conviction.

I am starting a group at our church called Off the Pew. The goal? It’s simple. You ready for it?? It’s goal is get Christ-followers off. the. pew. It ain’t rocket science, friend.

This ministry is in its infancy now, but God is growing it daily. The more I think about that statement, the more I realize, its not in its ‘infancy’, per say. I think maybe it’s sitting up, crawling around, and ready for a jar of squash & sweet potatoes at this point. This vision truly began back when I was lying flat on my couch every single day, only able to be upright long enough to go pee. I was desperate to be able to get up, get out, and be a part of His world again. Then, after four years, He healed me. I began to get better…and better…and better. The better I got, the more I cried out for God to use me in a big way now. I wanted not one more moment of my life to be wasted on myself. So, He somewhat smacked His Truth into my face. In fact, God took my life and doneflippeditupsidedown. Then it grew into the This One Thing Project. And now, it’s even more simple that that –

In my mind, I’m kinda like, “Hey you Christian person over there! I’m so thrilled that God spoke to you during the message! I love that your kids rocked it out in Praise and Worship time! And I am overjoyed that you and some fellow believers are gonna hit up the Mexican restaurant after church and get your fellowship on. That’s awesome! Get me some chips and queso to go!”

Truly, I am pumped about that. But, friends, please, I beg you, let’s not stop there.

I believe God is simultaneously whispering in peace and screaming from the top of His sovereign lungs just three simple words to His Church right now.

Off. The. Pew.

But, Caroline, I go to a contemporary church and we don’t even have pews anymore. Fantastic. That’s cool – but completely irrelevant. It sounds like y’all are trendy and cool like my church. Neato -let’s be friends! But, you can still get off the pew. Or, for you, Get Of The Interlocking Chairs – same song, different title here people. And, instead of meeting at Starbucks…let’s meet at the homeless church downtown and get our serve on. Instead of just doing life together in someone’s home once a month – let’s do that AND meet up to read to impoverished kiddos. Let’s have a massive home group playdate AND then have them draw pictures and deliver them to the elderly home filled with dying, lonely people.

Friend, IF you and I are going to start proving wrong the stereotypical judgmental, self-righteous Christian image that the world says we are – we need to start, like, yesterday. And, honestly, I don’t care near as much about proving them wrong, as I do about letting them experience the presence of God, the grace of Jesus, the love of our Savior. I care far less about what to say when I’m face to face with them than I care about what I will have to offer to Jesus when I am face to face with Him. The Bible clearly says NICV (New International Caroline’s Version) that ‘what we do for ourselves will be offered to him as hay and straw and will be burned up in the fire. But, what we have done with a pure heart, truly for Him, will be offered to Him as costly stones, gold and silver. (1 Cor. 3) Ever been to a birthday party and forgot a gift? Dude, this would be way worse. I don’t want to get to heaven by the skin of my teeth. I don’t want to be, as my precious pastor says, “saved but singed”. I want to offer a sacrifice to Jesus of all the things I did for Him on my brief time on earth. I want fall to my knees and thank Him for His sacrifice. I don’t want to be empty-handed. I don’t want this life to be about me.

Do you?

Can we please, for the love of God, just get off the pew? Out of the church walls, and more importantly, out of our comfort zones? Can we serve the hungry? Hug the orphaned? Spend quality time with the elderly? Aren’t we supposed to be doing that?? It seems I remember reading that somewhere? Where was it? Oh ya – The Bible.

Isaiah 58:6 ““Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Let’s go hang out with the people Jesus would have hung with. I guarantee you Jesus was off the pew…and I truly just wanna be like Him.

Don’t you?


I’d love to hear how this post affected you. Convicted you? Offended you? Questioned you? Inspired you? Be kind. But…I want to hear from you!!

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8 thoughts on “Off the Pew

  1. angelaczarnecki on said:

    Wow!!!!!! Love it.

    • Thanks, cous! I love you! And I know since your injury, you’ve been stuck too. I get that! Jesus had you off the pew and not only in your community but in other countries serving Him. He has a purpose for you during this ‘down time’ as well. Trust me. He is refining you and preparing you. Trust Him. I LOVE YOU!

  2. Claudia on said:

    Love it! It served as a confirmation for me…

  3. Travis Hodges on said:

    Caroline, VERY VERY perfectly said. Need I say more?!? 🙂

  4. aunt pearl on said:

    amen sista

  5. Amber Nelson on said:

    I am inspired by all the words you wrote and feel! I am going to pass your inspirational message on to others. I know it will touch others, make them think, and hopefully make them act! I pray “Off the Pew” will be “Off and Running” soon, to its first of many, many serving events!!!

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