The Church Search, v. 2011 (including an amazing contextual reference to the Youngbloods)

Family worship – Always interesting with toddlers

Caveats:

1. I’m well aware there’s no such thing as a perfect church – and I’m not looking for one (my presence would ruin it if I found it!).

2. I’m also well aware that the search for a church for me is not, actually, about me. The church belongs to Jesus (even if she forgets that often, and badly). She doesn’t exist to make me or even my family “happy,” but to serve her Lord, above all. I search for a church home because it’s Biblical, and because I want to be in a community of faith where God can love me through people, and love people through me.

There, those done, allow me to elucidate exactly what kind of church I would LOVE to be part of…An ideal many believers would join me in drooling over, and a description every church you visit will tell you fits them to a tee (or will by next year) – which is, we all know, exceedingly doubtful.

1. Orthodox belief. Bible-based and –focused, no weird doctrinal teachings or practices. By “weird” I mean outside of orthodox Christian belief as passed down since the time of Christ and the canonization of the Christian Bible. Duh.

2. Multi-generational. Young people need old people. Old people need children. Middle-aged people need old people. Teenagers need old people. Children need teenagers. A church without old people is lacking the wisdom of years and long-term perspective. A church without young people is lacking fresh-faced zeal and a future. “Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now.”

3. Multi-ethnic. Unless you really do live in a place where everyone around you looks like you, everyone in your church shouldn’t look like you. And please don’t point to the one black/Latino/Asian family in a room full of white people – I’m referring to a meaningful blend, not a quota-qualifying representation. What is the power of the cross if not to call people from astonishingly disparate backgrounds to the raucous, stunning, indescribable wedding feast of the Lamb?

4. Missional everywhere. Meaning the church member who volunteers with Big Brother or Sister, but doesn’t volunteer in the nursery, is still considered missional and not berated for “failure to serve.” Meaning the church asks her community what they need, and delivers, in the way and attitude of Jesus. (Does your community need a big fat block party? Or does it need tutors at the middle school? Okay then.) Meaning international missionaries aren’t sexier than the self-supported servants at your local homeless shelter. Meaning ministering to the homeless isn’t limited to sending over some blankets at Christmas, but volunteering to spend one night a month at the shelter, maybe even something crazy like adopting a couple of those stinky homeless men and walking them out of the shelter and through a whole year of 12-step support, job training, and personal, spiritual, and relational transformation. (Imagine.) Meaning “service days” don’t consist of trimming shrubbery at your property tax-free facility, but actually serving someone/some group in need. Meaning church members learn how to share their faith in natural, non-weird, non-contrived ways with co-workers, neighbors, friends, family members. Basically, meaning “missions” is not an element of the church, but its essence.

5. As enthusiastic about worship as one of those rabid (S.C.) Gamecock fans on opening day. Honestly. The one thing we know for sure we will do – and do LOTS OF – in heaven…is worship. Might as well get used to raising our hands and falling on our faces now, because we sure as heck will then, you know what I’m saying? And I refuse to get more excited over the vindicating deal I got at the mongo Kohl’s sale last week than I am over worshipping my wonderful, sweet, glorious Jesus. So let’s clap and jump and raise a hand (or two!) in the air when we sing about joy and victory and glory. Try it yourself, fellow believer; I promise it won’t hurt. But at least don’t look at me funny if I indulge, okay?

6. Not angry. Not about the so-called “culture wars” (please – don’t we have love AND truth to spread around?). Not about politics; Jesus carried no flag but his Father’s, and we carry no flag but his. Not about foreign policy and the affairs of nation-states; they are temporal, and the kingdom we belong to is eternal and unshakeable. And, for the love of all that is decent, not angry about non-essential doctrinal disagreements or, worse yet, denominational disagreements. So sit down and cool off already. (Be involved, yes, but only to the extent that these areas have something to do with #7.)

7. Angry. Furious, actually, at the true injustices in the world, the ones we know Jesus would be mad about: Poverty, and, worse, apathy towards and neglect of the poor. Violence, from the home to the military combat zone. Abortion. Human trafficking – okay, can we just call it slavery again? Will that better galvanize the Church? The willful and self-centered destruction of our (excuse me, God’s) planet. If we call it bad (planetary) stewardship will that better galvanize the Church? Broken relationships: bitterness, unforgiveness, neglect, and superficiality in marriages, in families, among friends, between communities. Oppression – physical, spiritual, financial – all born out of a greedy grasp for power, itself born out of idolatry (“I am God”). Racism. Sexism. Neglect of children, the handicapped, old people, and all others with little to no voice. Oh, yes indeed, my church should be livid at these things, and should say, along with the T-shirt I saw recently, “I refuse to do nothing.”

8. Sweet. Sweet love between members. Sweet warmth to visitors. Sweet and tender, so sweet and tender, to non-believers, that to each one of them the church person may be the aroma of Christ. Especially sweet to children, to old people, to the poor and marginalized, and to the alien (the immigrant) in their midst.

The rest of my preferences are skin-deep: style and size of building, style of music, style of preaching, size of congregation. But the elements listed above are what I’d really, really love to be part of.

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Published in: on May 7, 2011 at 2:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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