Church Shopping

It's been awhile since I've posted.  My family and I have been trying to decide what to do about our current church situation and I wanted to share the journey with you.

We moved to our current location a year ago after my husband's company shut down one branch and moved us to another.  At our old location, we had an amazing church.  Amazing.  It wasn't just that they had a contemporay service, which we really enjoy, but God gave the pastor wisdom and the ability to transfer that wisdom into captivating and inspiring sermons.  I actually took notes when he spoke, something I'd never been moved to do.  My husband and I would talk about the sermons for days, also something new for us.  And, perhaps the most surprising thing to us, we all wanted to go to church.  We looked forward to Sundays.

Now about a month or so after we found out that my husband's company would close that location, our Pastor stood up and said he'd be retiring.  My husband and I, as well as other congregation members, felt loss at his news.  Loss for knowing that his words would no longer be spoken on Sundays, but we also were filled with gladness and gratitude that we got to hear them.  For my husband and I, it was the final determinant in whether we'd move or stay.  You see, we'd been talking about perhaps trying to stay in the area and on our list of "pros for staying" was our Pastor.  That's how inspiring God made him.  But with him leaving and moving on, we knew it was time for us to do the same.

So here we are in our new location. 

We moved on a Saturday and Sunday morning we went to the only Lutheran church within a 20 mile radius of our home.  It's ELCA, which is a major plus, and everyone was welcoming and friendly, but we didn't feel a spark.  We didn't feel the stirring of the holy spirit within us.  Please don't get me wrong - it had nothing to do with the church or the people.  They are lovely and warm individuals, but we just weren't feeling connected.

Still, we continued to go because it's a Lutheran church and we are Lutherans.  But eventually we began church shopping.  This - for those who've experienced it - can be completely overwhelming and exhausting, especially when all we wanted was to sit and worship God.  Instead, every Sunday, we went to a new church, met new people, talked to new Pastors, Reverends, ect. ect.  Because there were no other Lutheran churches we explored other denominations such as Baptist and Methodist, and soon all the churches began to blur together until we finally threw our hands in the air and became members to the Lutheran church.

We went there for about a year, but only - on average - twice a month.  This would not do.  I knew what the holy spirit could do within us when we became a part of "our" church (  "our" meaning the church that fits us ).  We'd experienced it back in our old home and I wasn't going to settle for less.

So, this summer we started the exhausting process of church shopping again.  Again, we were overwhelmed, tired, and eventually threw our hands up, went back to our Lutheran church and figured that would be the end.

But when God wants you somewhere, He isn't going to throw his hands up and let you quit.

I again felt like something didn't fit and again told my husband that we needed to continue shopping.  Last Sunday, we went to a local Baptist church held in a school cafeteria.  Now, where we live, there are mega churches, beautiful stain glass window churches, old historic churches filled with rich history.....but this past Sunday we found ourselves walking into an elementary school and heading to the cafeteria which had about ten rows of chairs, a praise band and a stand where the Pastor (Reverend? - It's a Baptist church so I don't know which is accurate.  Please forgive the mistake!) would preach.  We were greeted by friendly folks - like we had been in each of the churches we experienced - and given a gift bag.  The band started to play and I started to feel relaxed, comfortable.  The Pastor ( Reverend ?  Ok, I'll learn the right word for it ) began to preach. 

Now at this point, I grew concerned.  Not only do we live in an area of mega churches, but we live in an environment of conservative points-of-views, those that we don't necessarily agree with.  This church is Baptist, and Baptists have a reputation for...well....conservative ideals.

The sermon was about love.  Pure love.  Love that Christ gave, love that Christ wants us to give to others.  He read parts of the Bible and cautioned us not to take the words out of context, to read the whole scripture, not to pick something out and think that's the whole story.  (I've blogged about this exact thing.)  He talked about using Christ's love in our lives, not to just accept him and revere him.  Not just to be in awe.  Not just to say "I love Christ" but to show it with out actions.

And that's when I felt it.  The familiar warmth and stirring of the Holy Spirit.  It felt like home.

My husband felt it too.  Thank God! 

We'll be going back next Sunday when the congregation will be fuller.  Last Sunday, all the young families were away since it was Fall Break, so we'll see if we still feel the connection, but I'm praying that our journey is over and that we've found our church family.

It isn't a Lutheran church and yes that does worry me a bit, not because I think people have to be Lutheran.  I don't think there is a "right" denomination.  What worries me is the stereotype that the Baptist church has and how it clashes with our views on certain subjects that the ELCA church is much more open minded about.  But I realize I'm not being fair.  I'm putting all Baptists churches and therefore all Baptists into this bubble.  Not fair.  So I'm praying for my own open-mindedness as we continue to attend this church.  I'm also praying that the details (how they do communion, how my son will eventually do communion, ect.) won't serve as a stumbling block if this is where God wants us.

So what's the point in this long post? 

1.  If God wants you somewhere, keep searching until you find that place.  This could be a certain church, or maybe a certain job, or a certain city, but if you feel unrest about your current situation, pray and ask for guidance.

2.  The journey is worth it.  Keep at it, no matter how exhausting it becomes. 

3.  You really do need to find a church, not because going to church gets you into heaven (it doesn't - only by accepting Christ's sacrifice are you absolved from sin and therefore able to enter and enjoy the perfection of Heaven), but because you really need a community to nourish your soul, help you grow and learn about your faith.

4.  There are TONS of awesome churches and awesome people.  If you've ever said something like, "Look at that person.  They're suppose to be a Christian and they just cut off that car in traffic.  See?  I told you religion is ridiculous.  There's no point in even going to church, everyone is a hypocrite,"  get your butt into a church.  Seriously.  You'll see that - yes, no one is perfect and even us Christians cut people off in traffic - there are people trying, really trying to show their love of Christ through there words and actions.  They're are people, Christians, who really will try their hardest to make you feel welcome.  In all the churches we went to - and we went to A LOT - the people always did what they could to make us feel like we truly belong, so stop the excuses and get into a church.