My Church Dilemma

So here’s the thing. I consider myself a Christian and in theory, I think church is important. I love the idea of community and Bible studies and corporately worshiping with a bunch of other people who also love Jesus and strive to be more like Him. I grew up more or less in the church and even though I had my own particular issues with it, church was an important shaper of my life.

I haven’t really gone regularly to church for a very long time. There was a brief trial period for a few months when Gamera was born, but I fell off the wagon and for various reasons or another (more like excuses, really), I stopped going.

Ideally, I would like to start attending church again. But it is very hard for me to overcome inertia and my own multitude of prejudices and “requirements” for a church that I think would be suited to me. Actually, the hardest part about church is coming to terms that there is no such thing as an “ideal church” (in terms of my personal preferences) this side of Heaven. Also, I’m pretty sure that Heaven is going to be vastly different from what I expect anyway. I only expect to be awesomely surprised.

Anyhow, I’ve been mulling this topic on and off for the last decade or so. You see, there are a few things I would like in a church and thus far, no church in my area hits all of them. (Surprise, surprise.) So now that it’s taken me approximately ten years to come to this conclusion, I figure I should just get my butt into a pew somewhere and just deal with it – but WHERE? What items on my list should take precedence? Especially since I want my kids to attend and the foundation of their faith (or lack thereof) in the future will be laid here.

Here is an arbitrarily ordered list of the things I look for in a church:

– Women in leadership (and not just in Women’s and Children’s Ministries)
– Diverse membership and leadership (in racial and socio-economic sectors)
– Sermons and Bible studies that examine the text from a mostly inductive manner (eg: taking into account style of language, cultural context, audience, etc. vs having a topic and cherry-picking verses to fit the argument)
– Within a 30-minute driving radius because otherwise, it’s too hard to attend and meet people in my community
– Members that are keen on building a deep and intimate community

The sad thing is, just looking for women in leadership pretty much cancels out more than half of all churches. Throw in ethnic and economic diversity and I might as well be searching for a unicorn. So, which should I compromise on?

I’d prefer a place that examines the Bible in an inductive manner – but this, too, is difficult to find. Most churches say they are “Bible-based,” but what exactly does that mean? Does that mean they adhere to ALL the rules/laws in the Old Testament and the New Testament? Or does that only pertain to edicts about homosexuals? But nothing about giving all their money away to the poor, divorce, bringing in the full tithe, and there being no Greek nor Jew, male nor female, etc.?

I think ultimately, I will have to settle.

Also, I will have to actually discuss things with my children and not just leave it up to whatever church we end up at. I think that’s what REALLY bothers me. I am far too lazy for my own good.

Any advice? For those of you who are religious and attend places of worship, what were your criteria? And how did you ultimately end up selecting a place?

2 thoughts on “My Church Dilemma

  1. This is a first world dilemma that we will not have to suffer under for too much longer. That said, I understand the temptation to look for a church that suits my criteria and I’ve discovered that in doing so I find a reason to not attend. Regarding leadership and women: There are numerous examples of women who are leaders in the Christian church but in ALL major religions women have NOT historically lead congregations. So if you’re seeking to make that as a requirement then you may have to start your own congregation, or be prepared to travel. When looking for “diversity” you may have to travel for that as well as there tends to be less diversity (assuming that you mean racial diversity) here in the tri-valley. Lots of Asians, Lots of white folks, even some Latinos but only a few blacks. And since the aforementioned groups tend to congregate among themselves, without changing the mind set of these folks you may again have to start your own congregation or decide on more realistic criteria. Lastly, Biblically and personally speaking, the church is NOT where our children have their Spiritual foundation laid: They learn from their parents. The church was NEVER meant to serve as the place where we receive our spirituality or our relationship with Christ. The church was always meant to serve as a venue for corporate worship, for reinforcement of the teachings of the Scriptures and for the sharing of testimonies and fellowship among believers. It was NEVER intended to be a substitute for our DIRECT relationship with Christ through study of the Bible and prayer and fasting on a daily basis. Imagine going to the office each day to be told about how you are to love your husband and to be told what he likes and does not like and then to go home and NEVER even talk to your husband! You can see the craziness of that proposition, yet this is what we Christians often do and then wonder why we do not feel the power/love/majesty of Christ in our life. In short there is no perfect church, particularly if said church will let us sinners attend. We follow Christ as Christians, not a church, not a philosophy and not popular culture. This often means going against the grain and remembering that our faith WILL cause us discomfort, difficulty and hardship – the Bible – Christ himself- promises us this. As things continue to progress in these next few years and particularly in our country, we will be forced to decide whether we stand with Christ – all of what he teaches – or somewhere else. Only you can decide but what you bring to a church will make it a better or worse place, regardless of the church, because of you and your loved ones. Remember this life is only a proving ground for where we will spend eternity. Hope that helps.
    Anyhow, that’s my two cents.

  2. Pingback: Goldilocks Syndrome, Church, and Lazy Thinking | Mandarin Mama

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