I recently attended a denominational meeting where my I.D. badge noted the name of the church of which I’m a member. That information triggered a conversation when someone reading the name of the church asked me how I liked my church (it was an odd question, but as it turns out, a good conversation starter).
The conversation got me to thinking about the time we were “church shopping” after moving to our new home. It was an interesting but often frustrating experience. Visiting dozens of churches for over a year can leave one rather discouraged about the few viable choices available. Not every congregation can be for everyone, but finding a good “fit” turned out to be a challenge.
During those months of searching I often thought of writing a letter to the editor of the local denominational papers, or, writing a classified add titled, “Seeking: a church that’s a good fit.” Here’s what I’d include in the ad about what I was looking for in a church:
- A pastor who is personally and spiritually mature and skilled in preaching relevant sermons whose purpose is to challenge me, not entertain me.
- A strong lay leadership and a membership engaged in ministry
- Openness in conversations and non-doctrinaire in their educational programs
- A lack of willfulness from leaders and members—no agendas, causes, or ideologies that define “belonging” or that substitute for orthodoxy
- A strong sense of identity grounded in Christian Tradition (rather than on fads)
- A commitment to a clearly identified mission
- Supportive and active in its denominational partnerships
- A track record of long-tenured leadership among its staff
- Honest and confessional about its history, good and bad
- Has mature, professional, and excellent staff
- Has a sound and solid educational program (no, I don’t want to study populist pulp fiction like “The Shed,” “Left Outside,” “The Porpoise Driven Life,” etc.). Don’t trivialize my faith.
- Evidences financial commitment on the part of the church members
- Offers theologically-informed and elegant worship services (I’m not interested in entertainment. I need a sense of the holy in worship, not happy-clappy mindless and emotionally sappy fluff).
- I need a church that does not need me, yet, one that accepts me where I am on the journey of faith and will challenge me toward growth on the journey.
No congregation is perfect, and no congregation can comply with any checklist of requirements any of us will come up with. And, the point of church is not to accommodate every person’s predilections of style, taste, or comfort. I find, however, that many congregations seem to try to live up to a checklist of what they assume persons are looking for in a church that does not connect with what people actually are looking for. The biggest item on that list of assumptions seems to be entertainment. I don’t need entertainment from my church, there are plenty of other places I can go to for that. And I’m glad to have left church-shopping behind, for now.
What’s on your list of a church you’d like to be a part of? Have you found it?
Date posted: Monday, March 16th, 2009 12:10 am | Under category: congregational life, worship
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