Looking for a Church

guns blazingBeware: I’ve got both barrels blazing today.

This blog is the result of a recent conversation with my wife. We have both been consternated (I’ll wait while you look that up) by several different people we have encountered searching for a new church. Keep in mind as you read this that these are not new or immature Christians. They are folks who have been around the block and have a depth of faith that is solid.

The prevailing mindset, it appears, is to locate a congregation where the searcher’s preferences will be met. They want a church with a thriving Sunday school for their kids. Others look for a church where the preaching is high-powered and energetic, or, for some, gentle and conversational. Still others are more interested in the quality of the music, the length—or lack thereof—of the service, the shortest distance from the parking lot to the door, etc.

Let’s take a moment and look at this whole scenario from a radically different perspective. Instead of, “What can I get?”, perhaps the question should be, “What can I give?” Is it possible that the church they are overlooking needs them? Could those searchers be one of the missing pieces of the puzzle that God is building in a particular congregation? Yet, with the what-can-I-get mentality, they will never find their proper place.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who… made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:4-7). A servant doesn’t follow the “What’s in it for me?” mindset.

Again, please recognize that I am talking about mature Christians (regardless of age). A new convert would not be expected to look beyond their own needs. Those who have been walking with the Lord for awhile, however, should have a different perspective.

A dear friend of mine said it this way, “To the extent that we shop for churches to suit our tastes, how much of this is out of a desire to protect our own sense of safety and comfort and meet our own needs (and avoid the hard work of growing into mature Christians who can demonstrate the difference between unity and conformity) and how much is out of a deep conviction that the Lord Himself is placing us right where He wants us?” Wow! I don’t know about you, but I’m challenged by that question.

“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose” (1 Corinthians 12:18-19, author’s emphasis).

Let me say this as lovingly and gently as I know how: Maybe it’s time to ask God to change our focus from ourselves—and what we want and prefer—and, instead, ask Him to work through us to help people around us.

In other words, get over yourself and grow up!

There I feel better now.  🙂

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5 Responses to Looking for a Church

  1. Rom Pegram says:

    Amen … and amen! Any time–even with new believers–preference becomes our main focus, instead of [God’s] purpose, the church is in trouble! [Actually, I’m not sure it is actually ‘the church’ any longer, if that’s the case.) Thanks for making us think once again, Tom…

    Dodgeville, WI

  2. Les Young says:

    My Dad wasn’t necessarily into short sermons, but his favorite contained only six words: “Grow up! Grow up! Grow up!” My Dad’s been with Jesus for 17 years now, but if he had read your message, he would be saying, “Kudos, Tom!” as do I.

  3. Karen says:

    As a pastor’s wife, my husband and I have the same conversation. I always thinks back to what we read about the first church in ACTS. Gee…it didn’t even have VBS or a Sr Citizen’s group. They met DAILY (yikes), listened to teaching, and ate together. I sort of like that model. Didn’t have to worry about “programs” and the stuff we get sidetracked with. And, yes, where is our point of SERVICE to God? Thanks Tom!

  4. Beck Gambill says:

    I’m totally offended! What are you thinking stepping on my toes and telling it like it is 🙂 I’ve wrestled with this truth for a while. Asking God where he’s placing me to glorify his name, build up his people, and mature me, always makes me a little nervous. I know it will mean hard work and death to self. I think of the phrase in Ephesians that talks about the gifts being given so that we may “attain the full measure of Christ.” What a stunning concept, that we could help each other attain the full measure of Christ!

  5. Mark L says:

    Instead of, “What can I get?”, perhaps the question should be, “What can I give?” This also applies in looking for a spouse.

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