finding a church home

Up until a few months ago when we found relaxedchurch.com, we were searching for a church home, and had been for awhile. We had (still have if we lived there) a church home in Bath, Ohio … but we don’t live anywhere near there now.

It seems way too many people are on this boat. The hardest thing for many I’ve talked to is just going out and trying different churches – there is just no way we happen to know people that go to any of the different churches we might actually want to try, so sometimes you don’t.

NOTE: I felt inclined to unload my thoughts on visiting churches from the ‘Church from a Visitor’s Perspective’ post from Church Marketing Sucks.

So why is this so hard?

  • Not hearing a “message”

This was really big for us. If we didn’t leave the “service” feeling like we were touched by God through the sermon, we were left to wonder. I can understand once in awhile not, but when attending a church a few times with nothing, our interest just didn’t stay. Yes I understand that if we come for a sermon by this one pastor, it will just be great … but we aren’t into it for a single pastor, we are into it for the whole bunch.

  • Afraid to step out and into some place you’ve never been to before

It’s great if you know someone that has invited you, but what if no one has and you still want to go? I myself am willing to step out in this way, but this wasn’t the case years ago.

  • Scared/tired of being bombarded with expectations

I’m fairly sure that almost every church we have gone to at least someone has asked if we will be returning or stating how it would be just great if we come back… leaving it open for us to respond. What do you say to that? Especially if you are visiting with friends, even when you already have a church you sort-of think you want to continue at instead. I assume the expectation is regarding coming back again, but I guess the expectation could be over other things, like tithing or getting involved too (we haven’t experienced that much though).

  • Finding one that theologically you don’t agree with

For me the challenge is that my theology isn’t exactly set in stone. I’m not one that is highly well-versed in the Bible much less when someone throws out a term like “doctrine of eternal security”, I have to go look up what they mean, go dig and try to figure out what the church we are currently attending believes in, then think about it. This can also be hard because you may not find this out for awhile too.

I guess you could try to find a denomination that you agree with (if you know) and try to find a local church of it, but what if you really don’t know a toot about denominations? That was me when we moved out here – I didn’t know anything about the history of Christianity, specifically churches (I rented a two-part DVD set from the local library – it helped out a bunch). Even still – we really never felt part of any church that was part of a denomination … we’ve ended up more looking for independent simply Bible-believing Christian churches.

  • An un-friendly and/or not welcoming place

This is two-fold: welcoming and friendly for first-time visitors, but ALSO what to expect when you reach that unknown status on the welcome card where you aren’t a first/second/third time visitor but not a “regular” either. What do you have to expect from the everyday people of the church? I’m not talking about a getting a mug or something – I mean being invited over or at least a very clear hey we -know-you’ve-been-hanging-around so if you’re up for it, let’s really-get-to-know-you and you-get-to-know-us.

  • Not finding something there that fits for you and/or your family

For a while when we were shopping around for a church, we started looking for certain ministries we wanted to possibly be able to connect with. You know – like a Women’s Ministry that my wife actually would want to get involved in (you know something that she actually would enjoy doing with other women) or a Men’s Ministry that did almost anything (I’m easy – I even will watch sports even though most of them I don’t really care for). What about small groups – do they do that? We really simply truly loved our “Real-Life Group” in our church in Ohio, and want to do it again. What about AWANA for the kids? What about active missionary work? Local community activities? You know what I mean.

  • not fitting in culturally

I’m not speaking with regards to race (although racial diversity could be a topic for some), but the culture by which the church interacts within its community. Like involvement – being a church that really has a high % of active members when you aren’t that active (or vice versa). Or during “service” how is worship music interacted with by members and visitors? Does everyone sing or not sing? What kind of music? Use of technology or lack thereof?

To those reading this – what issues have you experienced or still have in finding a church home?

9/12 UPDATE: just wanted to link to the Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit blog since Gary posted about this…

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8 responses to “finding a church home

  1. WOW. and we really thought we were the only people feeling this way.

  2. I can relate. My husband & I moved to Richmond and it took over a year and several church experiences before we found the place for us. It is such a long and important journey in finding the people you want to share your life with.

  3. There are two Latin words which are becoming more appropriate when considering a church home: Caveat emptor. (Let the buyer beware)

    There is a move in the church today to make the Gospel “fit”. The part about God hating sin is downplayed and the love of God is emphasized. Some churches are inviting people to “discover the champion in you” and convincing you that you can have your, “best life now”. What they don’t tell you is that your best life is not now. We are created to glorify God and greatly enjoy Him forever. This life is the place where we choose Whose side we’re on.

    However, the one place the church marketers have it right is in the area of being ready to meet and greet visitors and make them feel comfortable. Visitors should be made to feel comfortable, but not to the extent that visitors (non-believers) define who the church is. Jesus already did that.

    There are a lot of sermon series being preached today which appeals to our more basic needs. The Gospel that Jesus COMMANDED us to preach is in there somewhere but you’ve just got to find it.

    There are also a number of churches who want you –IF your household is worth $100K a year or more. They’re usually the ones which teach that Christians are commanded to tithe. They’re the other “shepherd” Jesus warns us about–the one called a hireling, or someone “in it for the money”.

    There is a website which features a “virtual” Jesus who you can call on your cell phone and he’ll quote Scripture to you and speak in a soothing voice. He’ll even listen to your sins and assure you that you’re forgiven. Of course, there’s a fee to “talk” to this virtual Jesus. Of course, the REAL Jesus through the Scripture has warned us about this impostor:

    “And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.
    And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.
    And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.
    And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
    If any man have an ear, let him hear. ”
    Revelation 13:5-9

    In an age where pastors make more money than the President and live in some of the finest digs this side of heaven, Jesus’ call to be “sheep among wolves” gives us the idea that He doesn’t know what He’s talking about. Nowadays some of our big name pastors are featred on CNN, have security contingents rivaling the President’s, and preach a pampered Gospel that in no way resembles the true Gospel that Christ commanded us to preach.

    Jesus Himself is our example. People sought after Him because He spoke with authority, not necessarily because of His miracles, but they didn’t hurt. By and large today, the Church does not speak with authority. The Church has answers to life’s most perplexing questions and we seem to be content to market gimmicks to make a buck? God help us.

  4. Thanks for the comments Eric, Alicia and Mike!

    Mike – some of the mega churches come to mind with the prosperity gospel like you are describing… I’ve heard some say that if they bring people to our Lord then isn’t it okay? But it really doesn’t seem like the Son of God is really the focus – it’s about them. We’ve never been to a church that was quite blatantly about the prosperity gospel – although I got the feeling at one around my area here. Life isn’t supposed to be easy. Challenges and hardships we will experience for reasons only He knows.

    We should be trying to be like Jesus to visitors. Clearly many of us do that a lot of time (I’ve been on both sides of that stick more than a handful of times…), but our church community (His church, the bride) should be acting as the body of Jesus (the head of the church, the groom).

    Whenever we find ourselves depending more on our church leaders more than Jesus Christ, one must truly wonder. Who are these leaders other than servants? 1 Corinthians 3 says:

    4 When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world?

    5 After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 6 I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. 9 For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.

    10 Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.

    It would seem to me that His church should be reaching out to those that don’t believe and providing the Truth. Not only to what many don’t want to hear sometimes, but also what they really need in their life right now – my church is going to co-host a forum over pornography. I wrote about it… and honestly Jesus is quite clear on this one in Matthew 5:27-28:

    27 “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’[a] 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

    I truly find it hard to believe that any man (young or otherwise) has not struggled with this one. But how many times is this discussed? I struggled with this not even knowing this truth, but only through the grace of God have I been able to not be completely addicted. Doesn’t make me high and mighty – but it does make the same as every other guy – one who has struggled (and may again struggle) but needs to know there is a way.

  5. As an older believer I must say it has gotten easier to find out what a church body espouses before you meet with them. Now that the internet and blogging are available.
    Twenty years ago you “tried on” a congregation, sampled the Sunday and Wednesday fellowship and listed to the preacher… you basically hoped you found out everything you needed to know about them face to face. The down side of it was that it was possible to become connected and attached to people who you then had to leave if you encountered a theological conflict you couldn’t reconcile.
    I know people who are attending a church that their parents attended and that’s the way their parents found that church. Now they are grafted in as loved ones and generationally invested but they are not engaged by the vision of the church or they have actual disagreement with the ministry that they sublimate and have to continually overlook for relationship’s sake. The older folk are hanging on ’cause they feel it’s too late to begin new relationships or leave old ones (needing to be sure their funeral is handled properly) and the younger ones are hesitant to disappoint the parents.
    I thank God that He meets and nurtures us as individuals. He helps us be fit to commune with when not very day is a good day. And reminds us that we are The Body with arms and legs and like-minded hearts that we may not meet this side of heaven. The internet will never replace relationship but it makes for great introductions. And God moves His Creation to make things happen. He loves us thru it and we figure it out, step by step.

  6. Tracy – great comment!

    I definitely agree about having the Internet as a tool (it goes well for researching almost everything!), but still have found it hard to really get a good before-you-visit understanding of a church… even our church now has a site that I help out in maintaining, but the stuff I really want to see they don’t have. Well, if you look at some other posts, you see me trying to fill that gap at least for anyone else looking for what I am looking for 🙂

    When we moved out here to Richmond, I immediately connected us to the same-name church I thought was just like the one we were in at Ohio that we loved and were really connected in. It took us around 8-10 months to find out it wasn’t, and was somewhat hard to step out and find another one. We didn’t struggle disconnecting much because we were not that connected – and at least when I talked to the pastor afterwards, he was quite understanding and helpful with some ideas and feedback over other churches.

    Towards the people you mentioned, I have known several people in a boat either exactly the same or very similar to that story… especially the generational aspect. In particular what it seemed from talking with these friends is that there was no “home” or spiritual growth for them and like you pointed out, they feel obliged to continue for the “family’s sake”. I often wonder why the Lord has left it this way, but can only trust that in whatever way we as believers can connect with each other (one-on-one at work, anytime in our lives, and even across the internet and blogging), we can serve Him.

    Thanks again for adding your thoughts – I’m quite sure all the interesting stuff isn’t written by me, but by those commenting!!

  7. Chris, I wonder if the church members of those churches which preach a different or sanitized gospel are some of those Jesus referred to when He said, “Not everyone who calls me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven”. He also said that straight is the gate and narrow the way. It seems that these megachurches are on the freeway.

  8. Tracy, there are articles written about churches which are using their websites to attract people to the church–not to preach the Gospel. Some web design companies are experiencing a growing number of churches purchasing their services to design websites to attract new members. And the trend shows no sign of slowing down.