Friday, July 23, 2010

You Know You're At the Right Church When....

In life the average person will change jobs 10 times, and move to a new living situation 11.7 times. In 2009 the Pew researchers discovered is that 44% of Americans have changed faiths at least once. Some converted from one religion or denomination to another; others grew up with no tradition only to adopt one as an adult; still others left their childhood faith and found themselves with no religious home.

That's a lot of change!

I think that the trend shows that Americans are looking for something they can't easily find. It probably shows some immaturity as well. Why tough it out, if you can move on?

So let's say hypothetically that you are able to move - put your house on the market, look for a new job and find a new life. How would you know that you were at the right church? I have some ideas.

- Inner Witness: Everyone is going to answer, "God said this is the place." so here I am. I am not buying that as the only way to know. If we were that certain, we wouldn't need a church for too long.

Think about it, haven't you missed hearing God; run off to do something that "felt" right, and ended up somewhere else?

- Relationship: The Vineyard churches once did a survey and discovered that a person needs to make 6 meaningful relationships in order for some to stay over a year. I think there is a lot of truth to the statistic. Honestly, why would anyone want to stay where no one seems to care about them?

Conversely, I think it is a bad idea to choose a church based on the pastor - he might leave and then what would God's will be for you? Follow him (her), or start shopping again?

- Testimonies: I don't think anyone really knows what to expect from a church until they hear about how other have engaged with God at that church.

- Doctrine: I used to get all widgy about this. I have NEVER been in a church where I believe everything they teach. Never. And you probably haven't either. It is better to approach this from a strong baseline, than an absolute match. I have been in churches where our doctrine matched, but God didn't want me there. I have also had lots of good years in churches that were far off from what I believe. God can use you. Can you imagine a Charismatic in a Southern Baptist church? That was me. Although one pastor was a really ticked off when one of his deacons god baptized in the Holy Spirit and started speaking in tongues and spouting powerful revelation from the Bible. I swear it was an accident.

-Programs: Most Americans in the manicured church have a set idea of what church is supposed to do for them. A lot of churches fail because the focus is on good ideas, not God ideas. They have programs that focus on something other than Jesus. I have rarely seen a VBS program that focused on Jesus. Usually it is a chance to teach kids Jesus songs, and try to close the salvation deal during the making of a craft.

It is about Jesus - and he like cute crafts and kids songs - but it is hearts and worship that He is after.

So what do you think, how would you know that you are in the right church?


LH said...

Moving frequently over the years to numerous towns due to corporate promotions, I have been through many churches. Some good. Some toxic. Most middle of the road. So I do have a pretty good idea of what the churches should offer to a new visitor and keep them coming back week after week.

1.Fellowship. Severely lacking in many churches to the point a newbe is an inconvenience.

2. A real greeter group with earnest intentions to make people feel welcome. Not a time to chat with your click group at the entrance and ignore arrivals.

3. Poor follow up on new people filling out the I'm new cards. Making contact 6 months later tells me they don't care.

4. Pastors that are un reachable, too busy, or unavailable and pushes you off to one of their deacons or volunteer groups that you have no interest in.

5. Worship leaders that are mechanical and lack passion in their music or try to hog the stage when others are more passionate or talented about their music.

6. A pastor that stands on the podium and puts his hands in his pockets while giving the sermon and mostly acts like he wished he was some where else. Lack of passion.

7. What is it with people that come to church with shorts, tank tops, flip flops, or t-shirts with pictures or non Christian sayings emblazoned on them? Where is the respect?

8. Why is it that Jesus has to be put in a box or time frame to fit Him into a schedule?

9. What ever happened to spontaneous intersession by the Holy Spirit?

10. Why is it people are encouraged to serve in the church instead of serving God?

I could go on with a few more zingers but this is enough.

Then the churches wonder why there is a sharp decline in attendance and lack of new attendees.

I get the feeling churches are not designed for those seeking God any more but for those already saved and to treat it like a country club with click groups.

Tracy said...

You make some really good points here David.

I had to laugh at your so true statement about how if we were always so dead on about our inner witness of God, perhaps we wouldn't need church! Yes, I've definitely had times when I thought I'd heard God but came to realize that I'd missed it. Of course I've also had times when I know that God spoke to me and regardless, I'll always know what He said.

I agree on the doctrine thing too for the most part. For myself, I have a few truths that I must be in agreement concerning, and then the side issues I don't worry about.

We all long for intimacy. May our churches be places where people can know they are loved and belong.

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