Archive | January, 2016

Finding church, pt. 3

7 Jan

More and more I find my personal issues to be one of the biggest hindrances for me finding a church home.

I’ve served in leadership positions in a number of churches, dating way back to when I was a teenager. I’ve seen behind the curtain, and it (typically) ain’t very pretty.

To be clear, with one notable exception*, I haven’t served in churches where the pastor had anything but noble intentions. I really believe that. But I’ve also been part of smaller churches that grew and grew until they maybe got a little too big for their britches and started building projects or added layers of leadership or lots of EXCITING! programming.

When these churches reached that point, effective and efficient ministry tended to become more important than the people actually doing that ministry, and that’s a top-down thing. I really feel for pastors, because they have a very hard job, and I think many don’t get the care they need, or they have to find it on their own, outside of their own church body.

The other part of having been in leadership positions, particularly in worship, is that I tend to be hyper-critical. This is a HUGE problem, and I am working on it. The music and presentation of it needs to sound good, but not too good. Ambiance is good, rock concert is not. Misspelled words, distracting musicians, too loud, too soft, I am really good at finding a problem with music in churches.

Ultimately, this leads to me judging peoples’ hearts, and that is just so wrong. I know it’s wrong. It’s a hurdle I need to face, and I’m not certain how to do that except to just keep trying. And having these types of thoughts about the music easily transitions to unkind thoughts about pretty much every other aspect of a church.

I want to find a balance of being a critical thinker about what I need from a church and recognizing what it’s not while appreciating that many people who are part of churches that are wholly not for me also love God and are benefiting from that environment.

It’s a process I feel blind in. Thank God he’s in the business of restoring sight.

*The notable exception was a pastor in my childhood/teenage years who eventually left that church after years of promises about the Lord’s blessings upon those who give generously. He took thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars with him when he left.

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Finding church, pt. 2

6 Jan

We opted to visit one of the “known quantity” churches I mentioned in my last post this past Sunday.

I nearly had a panic attack.

I’m an introvert to the core, and large-scale group settings increasingly give me a measure of anxiety, particularly when I am forced to interact and put on a happy face. It’s fine if I’m afforded some measure of anonymity, but dropping our kids off in childcare ensures I will have to interact with a number of well-meaning people who want to make small talk.

An introvert’s worst nightmare is basically being forced to have the same small talk conversations with multiple people we don’t know, one right after the other.

So right off the bat, this church was overwhelming for me. It was polished. The stage had lots of lights and attractive musicians singing in perfect pitch. Their dozen-or-so “campuses” were on the first Sunday of a special new-year initiative, and the preacher, who was on video (presumably so all the attendees would hear the same message, regardless of where they were) taught on this initiative.

There was a cafe. Literally a cafe, selling “Starbucks coffee,” one of the volunteers in the kids area told me.

Bobby and I put on our brave faces and walked into the packed auditorium after dropping off our kids, and we could not find a seat. The only empty seats were reserved.

So we went and ordered two coffees and sat in the cafe and talked.

It was disappointing in some ways, because we are absolutely interested in finding a church home. But this church, which is obviously so great for so many people, is not the one. Everyone we met was kind and welcoming, but it was so big that it was truly overwhelming for me.

I have some more thoughts on my personal issues with finding a church that I’ll try to share more about tomorrow, but they were definitely at the forefront this past Sunday.

Finding church, pt. 1

5 Jan

We have been out of the institutional church, as a family, since before our oldest child was even born.

Our kids have literally never gone to church regularly, or at least not to a church building. We were part of an “organic” home church for a period of about 4 years, but sadly that came to a screeching halt about this time last year.

It’s a long story where nobody is at fault and everybody is at fault. Basically humans were human, and I learned that they continue to be human regardless of whether you are in a big, fancy building or sitting on couches and drinking coffee in someone’s living room.

I loved the idea of home church, and even the idea of organic church in its purest form. But it is extremely difficult. There is a level of dedication to God and to each other that is demanding, and I think if both aren’t done with pure motives, then the church fellowship will have a hard time thriving. It’s very personal, which also makes it more painful to let go of it.

We fell on the side of being very dedicated to the group. I wouldn’t even say we weren’t seeking God, but maybe that we were feeding off the group in a way that was unhealthy, on the spiritual level. We brought a high level of dedication and caring for our brothers and sisters, but it was often at the expense of contributing anything spiritual.

Our family has since moved about an hour away from where our organic church was. The group had stopped meeting before the move, and it certainly made it easier to uproot ourselves and settle in a new city.

But now we are back at square one. Bobby and I both want our family to be part of a church, but it is daunting. There are a handful of local megachurches (the known quantities) and literally hundreds of smaller churches, and we pretty much have no clue where to start.