My wife and I recently moved to another state, and we’re on the hunt for a new church community. It’s an odd experience — before we moved here, we had been in the same church since we got engaged. Now we’re going from being well-known to being thankful when people talk to us.
If only I put a higher premium on church services, the church search would be so much easier. I could visit a variety of church services, see which one I like the most, and then get involved with the people who go there on Sundays. But quite frankly, different worship styles don’t matter that much to me — I’m fairly indifferent as long as no one’s handling snakes, preaching bad theology, or hosting a religious political rally.
Moreover, when I look at the Bible, it only adds to my indifference about church services. The New Testament goes on and on about how to live life together while only briefly mentioning Sunday meetings. And that makes sense when you consider that God does the lion’s share of sanctification in the daily grind of life, not during song three of the praise set.
I’m not saying worship services are useless — I absolutely don’t think they are. I’m just saying that it doesn’t make sense to make a decision about a church community based on who has the most awesome praise band and the most dynamic public speaker, especially when you consider that God’s priorities seem to be focused on what goes on in our relationships during the other six days of the week.
Then I think about the things that actually do matter — things like being at a church where:
- the pastors actually pastor people (go figure);
- authority is recognized based on service, not stage talent;
- members and leaders appropriately confess their brokenness instead of posing as professional Christians; and
- it’s a priority to reach out to non-Christians in a way that’s relevant and Christ-centered.
The problem is, it’s almost impossible to gauge whether those things are a priority for a church based on their website or a polite conversation with a church staffer. No wonder people just find a church service they like and feel their way around from there.
When I first visited Church of the Resurrection, my old church, I didn’t like the service, and I was highly suspicious of the denomination to which the group belonged. Yet God practically put red letters in the sky telling me to go there. I followed His lead and landed in a group of people who showed me unconditional love, taught me to trust spiritual authority again, and introduced me to my wife.
The decision to be a part of Resurrection mattered, and this decision matters — enough to make a choice based on something more profound than a one-hour weekly service. And it matters enough to pray about it, which I just recently realized I’ve hardly done (um, I realized that yesterday). And now that I think of it, prayer is probably the best way to start the church search anyway. Help us, Jesus.