Having now gone through our 2nd move in 5 years, we're church-shopping again. Fortunately, we're not the kind of people who church shop without moving (that's a whole 'nother thing, the sheep-swapping that goes on between today's consumer-driven congregations), but still, when you move to another town 350 miles away, it's hard to stay connected with the same church community.
So, we've been visiting churches. Evaluating worship styles (I'm a rock-n-roll kinda guy, but not so much the 100% energetic positive pump-you-up-before-preaching kind; prefering instead the acoustic authentic kind), critiquing preachers (I prefer a guy who says it like it is but with good communication skills), people attending (I'm telling you, it's tough after 20 years in El Paso and 5 years in San Antonio to be in the same room with SO MANY white people), youth groups, children's ministries, etc.
Throw in the mix that I work for a denominationally founded ministry that would strongly prefer I attend a church in that tradition. Finding a church is tough.
So I posted on my Facebook page that I thought there should be a better way. Someone asked me what I meant. So I'm thinking through the options. Since it's never sufficient to just curse the darkness, here's some potential candlelighting ideas...
1. Automatically attend the nearest congregation to our house. We Americans love choice, so this doesn't necessarily sound like a great option. Sort of has the feel of an arranged marriage (what if we're not compatible?). But let's be honest. Do our choices typically work out that well? My cynical side says just look at the people we elect to office and you can figure out we don't choose well. Even something as important as marriage still ends in divorce almost half the time. Surely leaving the choice to chance or Providence or God or whatever can do at least that well. I could even factor in the tradition and say that I will go to the closest [insert denomination here] church. Period. It's an option.
2. Go the route of my friend Keith Giles (click the link at left to see his blog--well worth reading) and live out my ecclesiology. Whether you call them house churches, small groups, life groups, whatever, I believe these communities of people who actually know each other and live out life together are churches. Most of what we call churches are actually just collections of churches at best, and just gatherings of unconnected people at worst. Neither is technically a church. But a few things keep me from doing this. One, I'm not sure my family is ready to make the leap. Youth and children's ministries that are hopping with activity are exciting. And they can make a great impact on kids. That's definitely something to consider. Two, I'm naturally lazy. The habits I've developed are comfortable, and doing some sort of house church thing would mean changing some of those habits.
3. So we're left with church shopping. I'm thinking of developing some sort of matrix that maps out our criteria and an evaluation of each area, so that we can see each place compared to the others. My wife would love that (not). And I think we'll pray about it all too...