Thursday, April 22, 2010

Church Shopping

We will be church-shopping again come June when our congregation scatters to the four winds. When Tracy and I did this thirty-odd years ago, I was very open to God’s leading because every place we visited seemed a wonderful adventure, ripe with possibility. Even congregations we were immediately convinced were not for us seemed deep and charming places which could be wonderful for someone.

I am now equally open to God’s leading for the opposite reason. I know there will be something that really bothers me everywhere we go, and accept a certain amount of irritation as an expected cost.

The closest church by road is Roman Catholic; as the crow flies, the closest church is an independent startup meeting at Northeast Sheet Metal. That’s quite a variety right there, isn’t it? Having been 35 minutes from church is one of the problems we would prefer to trade for another problem at this point. That much distance is a serious obstacle to community.

We hope God is clear about his direction this time, yet know that sometimes He is and sometimes He isn’t.


Boxty said...

When Christians say "God is leading me" or "God spoke to my heart to make x decision," what do they mean?

If someone says "God told me to do x, and someone else says, "hey, right here in Proverbs it says that's foolish," then what should a new Christian or non-believer conclude or take away from the situation?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Great question. The answers would range from "It doesn't mean anything, it's just their way of putting God's signature under their own desires" to "I'll bet that turns out to be true," depending on the Christian we are talking about.

I am entirely suspicious of anyone making such claims unless certain things are in place: self-examination, counting the cost, and time. While there may be exceptional and emergency situations in which God gives a one-time loud command to do x, more generally, the call of God is persistent.

We get all worked up and ask "Do you want me to take that job in Minnesota, or the one in Washington? Minnesota or Washington? Tell me, tell me." God's response is often "I am calling you to be kinder to your wife. I don't much mind where that is." We want to get to the cool specific stuff that might give us the reassurance that God cares - temporarily; but seeking reassurance that way is a bottomless pit. Our general calling, to be generous, patient, and forgiving is more important.

We count the cost by imagining what the full consequences will be of all decisions. This job will be less money - can your happily embrace that or will you resent it? Self-examination is related: do I want God to not lead me to this church because the preacher is boring and the people aren't like me? What are my feelings and desires bringing to the table in making this decision? And finally, time. You may have months of attending one church faithfully and involving yourself in its ministries but still not know if this is where you will be in two years or twenty. Times in the wilderness, without clear direction, are also valuable.

Most especially, do not accept what someone else says is God's will for you without pondering it long. It is very fashionable now among the young to have prophecies on each other's behalf. This is often nothing more than a person showing off how spiritual they are and how in touch with God, under the guise of a generous and kindly prophecy that you should become a nurse or a missionary in Guatemala.

Hope this helps.

Retriever said...

Dear Avi,
Will pray that you find a loving new church home where God is present to you, and where you can find community and help bring others closer to Him.

I church shop in a desultory fashion up north as we spend more time up there, but haven't found a spiritual home there yet. One feels adrift. Better almost any harbor than none. We were not made for splendid isolation (I assume you two weren't contemplating his and her poles to balance atop , like those Early Church Father nutcases

GraniteDad said...

Just don't pick a church that sells pumpkins in the narthex.

Tom Grey said...

I strongly suggest you try at least a month of Catholicism.
For various complex economies of scale and personality/ celebrity issues, I believe it will increasingly become the Christian Church (of record).

Here in Slovakia, many Slovaks essentially equate Christian with Catholic, and only grudgingly accepted Evangelicals as Christians.

Jim Clay said...

Being LDS myself, I suggest trying out the LDS (Mormon) church.

Gringo said...

Were there any previous posts that spoke of this issue?

As a non-churchgoer, I have no advice to offer.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Tom, the situation is similar in Romania with the Orthodox Church.

GraniteDad said...

Gringo- his church is closing. I'm debating the merits of allowing him to attend my church. There's definitely pros and cons.