I love the Church. I’ve confessed often in these posts my recognition and angst over what is wrong with the Church. There is also much that is right with the Church and what’s more, the Church is chosen by God to carry out the mission of Christ.
I love the people of the Church, the mission of the Church and the functions of the Church. I can’t imagine life without Church.
One of the conversations that I consistently have with people about their own meaningful experience of a local church or lack thereof, is how does one find the right church? “Church shopping” can be a very difficult thing.
My first reflection is that I dislike the term and idea of “Church shopping”. It has a consumer connotation to it, meaning that I want to find a church that meets my needs. “My needs” and those of my family are important and not irrelevant but mostly my involvement in a local church is for purposes of what I can contribute. Where can I effectively serve using my gifts, talents and experience? When visiting a church one needs to do so prayerfully, seeking to discern God’s direction because it’s not ultimately about me but Him.
My second reflection is that the experience of looking for a new church home should mostly be something that happens when I make a significant geographic move and can no longer participate in my current church. Getting bored, getting sideways in a relationship, or hearing the buzz about the exciting church down the road are poor reasons for making a church move. If something becomes difficult for me in my church then most of the time I need to see that as an opportunity to grow in faith and maturity as I practice patience or forgiveness or risk a loving confrontation or work for change or any number of other things.
Today’s post is actually stirred by the reflections of Hunter Baker who said,
“Stop shopping for a church. Stop sampling. Don’t fall for all the hype of a Disneyworld experience with a Christian aura around it. Don’t chase after a superstar preacher. You can hear that on your iPod. Feel free to contribute to that ministry. But find a church where you can be part of a community of people who know each other and will help one another live the Christian life, sometimes as helpers and sometimes by being in need and providing an opportunity for others to help.”
Increasingly today, people are hiding in large churches and have a “spectator” experience that just watches the things that go on OR they have given up on church and are wandering about in some kind of individualized experience that is “spiritual but not religious”.
To experience a local church in the way the Bible discusses one must become part of a community, must exercise gifts and abilities for service and must be an incarnational expression of Jesus who is on a mission of God. Anything less is insufficient and ultimately tragic.