So I went to a church this past Sunday.
I know, I know. I haven’t been in an actual church since Christmas and I’ve been fighting against Chris’ hints for a long time. To be honest, most of my reasons to not go to church seem better than his reasons to go, but I’m biased towards myself. And most of my reasons are fear-based, and when has fear ever led to an ultimately good decision in spiritual matters?
The first thing I did was research. Going into a church blind is like going into a social group without any knowledge of who is going to be there, at least for me. I want to know something about the church before I go. Is it geared towards a particular denomination? Is it going to be huge? Heading towards a big change? What is the staff like? In doing research, I discovered one church that described itself as “progressive” and politically-liberal, which got my ears perked up, but something seemed off, so I did more research and found that this was less of a church and more of a group of “spiritually-minded” people who used the life of Jesus as a “guide.” I may be pretty liberal, but my spiritual life is defined by my belief that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that the Bible is God-breathed. All of my big problems with Jesus and the Bible are related to how people interpret these two things.
It seems shallow, but how a church’s website looks is pretty important to me. If it looks really outdated, odds are the church is very traditional and doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to get new people into the building. While there is a place for churches like that, they aren’t for me. I want a church that is in the world, (though not of it), and committed to reaching out to the unchurched and burned-out through the language of my generation. At the same time, I want a church that is also committed to caring for their flock; a lot of churches are so focused on outreach and growing that they don’t have the resources necessary to deal with the problems their current members might have.
That is what made me interested in the church we went to. They have ministries for both outreach and “inreach.” Their website was clean and attractive, and they have four campuses. The one we went to was small, but not so small that it felt awkward. The speaker was a stand-in because the head pastor is on vacation, but there was enough there to get me interested in coming back. I just want a church that doesn’t make me angry with its message, or really bored. There are the churches that drive a hard right political line, and then those that just mask any opinion at all and are so concerned with not creating controversy that they don’t talk about much of anything. I don’t need a church that’s liberal. I just need a church that doesn’t try to judge me or shut me up because I’m a liberal.
That’s a hard thing to figure out. It takes a lot of time. My fear is putting a lot of energy and time into a church and then find out they expect everyone to picket Planned Parenthood with them or something. My usual strategy has been to avoid all churches altogether, but I can’t do that forever. I want to have friends that share my spiritual beliefs. A church is pretty much the only place to find that. So I’m taking a risk. Erg.