Friday, March 29, 2013

What's In A Church

Due to our frequent moving, it seems like we're on a perpetual church hunt.  It's fairly wearisome for us, for several reasons:
  • Once we find a church we like and make connections with people, it's hard and sad to leave.
  • Church hopping takes a lot of energy to research and plan where to go, followed by weeks of disappointment and eventual discouragement if we'll ever find a place to belong.
  • It can be discouraging to see how widespread mediocrity, lukewarmness, and apathy are in the Church; it is amazingly hard to find a spiritually vibrant church, and we've been to A LOT.  This statement has been true for us in every location we've lived; it does not single out any particular geographic area.    
  • It's harder with kids, because even if we find a church that we (the parents) like, it's often not a good fit for the kids, and visa versa.  
  • We always have to revisit the question, "What is important to us in a church?"  This question is loaded, and usually takes us some time to figure out.    

We both tend to prefer the Episcopal tradition of church: Owen was raised in it, and I have grown to deeply appreciate the reverence, the tradition, the focus on Scripture, the congregational involvement in readings and prayers, and I also really love hymns!  A good Episcopal church, to me, seems very in tune with what church was like in antiquity.  The trouble we find, however, is that many churches in this denomination consist of a handful of elderly members just taking life easy in their comfortable pews...Now, there's nothing wrong with the elderly people!  They are always very kind and welcoming!  My point is more that the churches seem to be dying rather than thriving.  And, we also would like the opportunity to connect with people of all ages, including our own, and for our kids to not make up the entire Sunday School class.

a dying church (this picture seemed funny to me, I couldn't resist!)
In our recent search, we have been coming across all the same frustrations and were beginning to lose heart, until we did a Google search for "cool churches in (our current region)."  And, boy, did Google come through!  We found the coolest church ever, where the worship service is like a concert, complete with lights and smoke; the announcements are done via hip video; the kids' area has a giant built-in tree jungle gym; there's a fancy, staffed coffee shop in the foyer, along with leather couches and all kinds of "cool" things.

This photo is of the actual church I am cool.
Our first time there, we kind of brushed it off as an over-the-top mega church that was more focused on the production of church than the meaning of it...But, the pastor's sermon was really good, so we went back...And again.  We've been there 3 times now, and we think we're going to stay, and here's why:
  • First and foremost, beyond all the fanfare, this church is undeniably and unashamedly Bible-based and Spirit-driven.  There are no feel-good, easy messages, but always (ok, always in the 3 times we've been there!) words straight from God's Word leading to conviction and spiritual sharpening without condemnation.  And, it doesn't hurt that these messages are delivered in an interesting manner (boring or disorganized deliveries tend to distract us from the message behind it).  We come away feeling like we met God, and are excited to go back. 
  • They're involved in their community and the world in ways that seem to really matter.  So, they practice what they preach.    
  • The people are really friendly!  This aspect is so important and often overlooked.  It's amazing that even in such a large church, we are never allowed to disappear in the crowd--someone is always singling us out. 
  • There are lots of kids!  And a healthy variety of people of all ages, including our own.  In addition, the kids' area is set up really nicely and the Sunday School helpers are kind (something you would expect yet is not always the case).  
So, for this phase of our lives, we're bidding adieu to traditional, liturgical church and embracing the cool, modern church.  Because that's where we found God's presence.  And that's what really matters.


  1. I love this!!
    I hate church hunting. I love the two churches I grew up in--both Evangelical free churches--and going anywhere else never feels like home.

    It's always amazing (and so evidently God) when we find ourselves at home in a denomination that we didn't suspect would be our style. But it is the body, worship, and gospel of Christ that truly should be a Christian's "style". You've totally encouraged me to go Church hunting again.
    (Oh, and this is your "cousin" Susie.)

  2. Thanks, Susie! It's nice to know we're not alone in our church hunt struggle :)...It's funny, this morning the pastor actually made mention of why so many churches in America (or the world) are struggling, and said it's because they don't understand the gospel. He, of course, fleshed this statement out and didn't leave it so vague, but I think it's very true, and sad. God's blessings on your own church hunt!