Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Church Hunting

After my father passed, it was very difficult to continue attending the church he had pastored. It wasn't anything the people of the church did. It was just that I saw my Dad everywhere. I saw him on the things he had hung on the wall or the Sunday School rooms he had renovated. I saw him behind the pulpit and in the foyer. Going to Central Church became too painful. The weight of tragedy oppressed me every Sunday. So we made up our minds to make a clean break after the holidays. We wanted a fresh start. Only problem was that there wasn't an obvious landing spot for us when it came to churches. 

Both my wife and I had grown up in the Nazarene church, we had met at a Nazarene university and we were believers in Nazarene doctrine. However, there was no real Nazarene alternative for us anywhere close. And we realized, after attending a non-denominational church on Sunday evenings for several years, that doctrine matters. No church will fit your worldview completely but the main ideas definitely should jibe. 

So for us that meant Methodism. The Nazarene church had branched out of Methodism back in the day. We like the Wesleyan-Arminianism stuff. Nazarene and Methodist doctrines are virtually identical. And I actually have quite a heritage in Methodism on my mother's side including ancestors who were pastors in the Methodist Church. I'm talking Methodist pastors in the family going back to the nineteenth century. So we began to look for a church, a Methodist church. 

My wife and I had never really had to find a new church before. I now empathize with those who are searching for a church home. It's a strange experience to just walk into a new building if no one has invited you. It takes courage to go to a new place. Coming from churchgoing backgrounds made it much easier for us than if we were new to the faith and trying to find a place to worship. The experience has made me much more sensitive to those who have not yet found a church home and have difficulty beginning the search. That takes courage.

We also had it easier than most because we had narrowed down our options to a particular denomination. Because of our upbringing and theological education we had a rudimentary knowledge of different denominations. I can't imagine how hard it must be for those new to faith looking for a church. The number of denominations and non-demominations and inter-denominations and sub-denominations can be bewildering.

Everyone is searching for different things in a church. We were looking for a healthy children's program, friendly people close to our age, a well organized service and a pastor with a burden to show Christ's love to the world. Overt politics and nationalism were a deal breaker. One church we visited was proud to announce a concealed gun license class from the pulpit. We almost walked out right then. Maybe our expectations were too high. We were not looking for perfection. We were looking for a church that exuded love and compassion, not an "us against them" mentality. We were looking for an "us for them" church.

After several weeks and several visits we have found a church we're going to focus on for awhile. We really hope to make this church our home. I'd like this to be a long-term relationship. I'm actually excited about going to church on Sundays again. I can't wait for Sundays. It's not a big church. But they exude love. I know after awhile the warts will show like all churches. We're not the type to bail during rough times.We're not perfect either. We got warts. But God loves us anyway. I think that's the whole point.