Trying on Churches

10 Jun

Happy Friday, friends!

Keeping in line with my “keep trying” theme this week, I want to share my experience on finding a good church. Hunting for the right spiritual home can be more than daunting, especially if you’ve spent a large portion of your life involved with one church and then find yourself looking for another. It can be emotional and exhausting and confusing to accept a new group as your home and your family, but really, that’s the way you need it to feel.

Now I’ve moved a few times in the past few years and I haven’t always been great about keeping up this particular hunt. When I moved to Wilmington, Will and I tried a couple churches before I resolved just to go to my parents’ church when I visited home. For some reason, when a church isn’t what you hoped, it’s disappointing in a way that can stop you dead in your search. Don’t be like me, though. Don’t ever settle for a now and then, once a month church. I did that for a couple years and I think my faith really suffered from the lack of a close community with similar beliefs and struggles. It’s important to continue trying to find that community, no matter how hard it seems or however apathetic/resentful you begin to feel on the way. If your beliefs change, embrace it and challenge it. Ask questions and seek answers, just don’t stop when something isn’t the right fit. If you wonder why, read this: http://moreintelligentlife.com/story/david-foster-wallace-in-his-own-words

That said, finding the right group is often as easy as self-examination…which is to say that it’s very hard. You have to be truthful with yourself about what’s important to you and what things have the greatest spiritual priority. For me, religion has to not be about me. Once I chose Christianity as my religion, I split my hunt for a church into three major categories: love for God, love for followers (being me), and love for others. Once those things were established as the most important, I thought about how those are traditionally represented in a church experience. This is tricky because most activities fit into multiple slots. Here’s roughly how I would break it down, though:

Worship: Time spent loving God. For me, the style of worship is extremely important. I don’t always worship best by singing but I like a variety of music. I mostly want to feel that a worship leader has a good connection with what God wants to say to me that day. Have you ever been in a service and every song ministered to you? That’s a good fit for you. That’s what you want to look for, but it doesn’t happen every single Sunday.

Sermons and life groups/ministries: Time spent developing understanding among followers and relationships amongst them. For me, a sermon needs to have a strong scriptural basis so that I’m reassured my pastor knows his material. I don’t particularly enjoy a pastor who only preaches from the New Testament, either. Lots of people do that and I think it skips some of the most profound insights. I also look for people in my age range and recently I check for military groups too. Finally, I like to make sure that there are a variety of classes to take. All this should ensure that I’m growing in my understanding and also learning from others.

Outreach: I don’t necessarily believe in converting every possible person but I always check into what outreach is being done. Scripture is plenty clear about what the church should be doing to help the less fortunate and that is something I can definitely get behind. I especially like it when these things are announced every Sunday and followers are encouraged to participate in many ways.

You may have other priorities as well, but I think if you make a checklist consisting of these things, you’ll always find yourself headed in the right direction. It also helps to really spend some time in prayer, asking God to open your heart when you try something new and allow you feel at home when it’s right.

Good luck to you. 🙂

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