Thursday, September 27, 2007

Search for the next Great American Church

For the past year and a half or so I've been attending a cell church. It's been a great and rewarding time, but it must come to an end. Sometimes, you just know it's time to part ways. I know that now. I've moved (physically) farther away from it. My best friends in the church are moving countries. I have some differing viewpoints. And a certainty in my's time to move on.

Which leaves me with the problem of finding another church. I feel like this needs some background. So here goes.

I'm a pastor's kid! While growing up, I never really watched my parents choose a church. We were always in small close-knit churches. In junior high school and high school some of my best friends were in my church. Some kids did sports, I did Bible Quizzing. You get the idea? Anyway, I went to a Christian college. Local church didn't play as big of a role there, because you were surrounded by The Church! I did have a local church, but most of my life was wrapped up in my college. Then I went to Japan. Surprise! For the first time in my life I worked on Sunday. I participated in a drama group. I went to a Bible study when I could. But mostly, I read my Bible and chatted with other Christians when they wouldn't make me feel guilty about not going to church.

I moved to California. I tried my parents church. Too big. Too hard to connect. (my dad is not the pastor, but still in ministry FYI) I started going to my cell church, where I finally did connect, made some friends, etc. But now it's time to move on.

I am going to start looking for a church. I cannot tell you how much I dread this whole ordeal. The visiting of churches. I should mention here that I read Shaun Groves blog. I read Brant Hansen's blog. I sense the malcontent with church life as it is today. I know it in my heart. Part of me doesn't even want to try. But I know that I need to. an effort to keep myself accountable I've decided to blog about it. Maybe if I share my experiences with the world, it will help us all. Maybe I'll be the only one reading. Either way, this is what I've decided to do.

In looking for a church, these are the things that are most important to me:

1) Love for God and people (ha!) that translates into healthy relationships amongst the members.
2) Not being preoccupied with any sort of building program, and a strong attention to the poor, the lonely, and the discarded in society
3) Size.....not too big, or if it's a big church, a good program for keeping things personal
4) Global Focus
5) Sound Theology (you know, like Jesus is the Son of God, etc.)
6) People I can relate to (age doesn't matter as much as heart)
7) Location--I really want to go to a church IN my community

Errr, there may be other things, but that's what I come up with at the moment. This will really kick into gear in November when my friends leave. Until then, I may try to get to a few new churches. When I do, I'll post about it. I will probably give the churches fake names to protect them. If anyone else is currently searching for a church, I invite you to join me in blogging about it, e-mail me maybe we can figure something out. (mypalamyATgmaildotcom)

(Yes I totally ripped off the title for this post from the fox show coming in october!)


Flora said...

I've come out of hiding to comment! This is a big step really. Steve and I have settled on a church. Is it too big? Yes. Is it hard to connect? Somewhat. But it looks like God's saying "Go get involved and it won't be so hard." I look forward to reading more about your search!

Chaotic Hammer said...

I certainly understand all the discontent so many people are feeling with "church" these days. I read Brant and Shaun's stuff, and certainly understand where they are coming from, on so many levels. I see where things have gotten off track with the whole "event church" and "attractional model".

I guess you could say that in my family's case, we've sort of "split the difference" between the traditional type of big church and home church. Meaning, I do have a large church body that we're part of (it's quite large, but to me doesn't have that ambitious-pastor mega-church feel to it), but we're also part of a small group. Though the small group is affiliated with the church, the church does not in any way try to dictate what small group should be. They entrust that to the members of the groups. Some members of our group do not attend our church. We've made friends there who we have gotten close to, apart from any church-affiliation concerns.

So we feel very connected to the Body, have intimate friends whose lives we are messily involved in, plus we have lots of service and outreach opportunities through the larger church, which is very active in outreach ministries, missions, and service projects like sending teams to the Gulf Coast every couple of weeks or working on Habit for Humanity homes.

And it's worth noting -- I still constantly struggle with what "church" should be, what my part is in the whole thing, etc. I don't think there is a place of contentment to be reached, and that's okay.

I'm increasingly convinced that the problem is often that Americans want church to be just another part of their lives of ease and convenience, and so churches cater to that. We just want a few hours each week to think about God and Big Important Stuff, and then we've done our duty for the week and can go about our regular business.

I have great discontent for that though, and I think more and more people are feeling the same thing. I want to BE "the church", not "go to it". So anyway... I hope that the Lord will lead you to wherever He wants you to be, or to whatever He wants you to be. :-)

Amy said...

thanks for the words of encouragement guys! If I could find a great small group in a large church I would totally be for that! I tried that once earlier and the truth was, it was just like church but on a different day of the week, no one wanted to be bothered for more than that.
Church is a hard thing, I think part of the problem is also that people are quite wrapped up in their jobs and their own families. If you already have a big family or a family close by, it can be quite hard to realize your need for another...the family of God.
(thanks for coming out of hiding Flora! I was shocked!)

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