So I confessed to Sally, aka “teh wife”, the other day that if it wasn’t for her, I’d be over the whole going to church thing. Part of it is the love hate relationship that I have with the church. Part of it is because I’ve been patching together what I need spiritually from a variety of sources. My wife, in turn, confessed that the only reason she was still in it was so that the boys have church as a regular part of the rhythm of their lives. For good or ill, we want them to have the church experience. Thus we’ve been in continual dialogue about what we want in a new church home.
Now, there’s a certain amount of church shopping that I really enjoy. It’s been a great excuse to visit the churches of some friends. I like seeing other expressions of the body of Christ. Too often we get locked into a “we’re the right club” mentality or so wrapped up in empire/ego building that folks are reluctant to even acknowledge other churches except to complain about what “they” do wrong.
This has also given us an opportunity to figure out what’s important to us. Before I get e-mails, for the sake of this discussion, we can assume that a Bible believing and teaching church is a given. But we’re not locked into dogmas and expect room to be able to disagree about non-essentials. One of the first checks is how we’re received. Whether the congregation bothers to talk to us (I’m stunned by how many places seem … cold). Another few things that are important to me:
-a commitment to racial reconciliation (we have bi-racial children and have been very intentional about keeping them in multi-cultural environments)
-receptivity to artists and “weirdos” (people who don’t fit into many folks’ boxes)
-commitment to being missional, especially to the marginalized (we have a heart burden for the homeless)
I knew that a children’s ministry was of critical importance to teh wife. Even though we both believe most spiritual instruction happens at home, we aren’t interested in “holy babysitting.” I also know that my wife has a series of questions that she likes to ask pastors (from how they handle crises to how they handle social media) when we’re seriously looking at parking ourselves at their church for a while.
We don’t want to be consumer Christians, per se, as the main thrust of what we are looking for is what/how can we give and participate. We aren’t hung up on what kind of music or service spectacle/show times, as long as folks are genuine and there is a spirit of community. I have a friend who boiled his definition of church down to this: “a safe and sacred place for people to belong and be wrong.” Yeah, that about sums up what we’re looking for.