I had a friend who sought asylum in the US after fleeing Russia. She told me she would stand in line in Russia for hours to buy a pair of shoes. When she got to the front of the line she would buy a pair. It didn't matter if they were the right color or the right style and it mattered little if they were even the right size. She bought shoes.
I had a friend who sought asylum in the US after fleeing Russia. She told me she would stand in line in Russia for hours to buy a pair of shoes. When she got to the front of the line she would buy a pair. It didn't matter if they were the right color or the right style and it mattered little if they were even the right size. She bought shoes. The first time she went clothes shopping in the US, she walked into a store and was greeted with shirts of various styles and colors and sizes. The quantity of things to choose from was overwhelming. After a while, she left the store empty-handed. Without some past experience, choosing between that many things was just too much for her.
Finding the "right" church can be equally daunting and it certainly isn't as easy as it used to be. There was a time when church was the same denomination as your parents and it was the closest one, just down the road. Today there are dozens if not hundreds of choices from the little white church just down the street to the mega-church just off the freeway.
Many people approach this problem by church "shopping", cruising around to find a church that is just "right", right speaker/teacher, right music, right service projects, right people. Unfortunately, Goldilocks, that church only exists in fairy tales. The key, I've found, is to be "intentional" in your search and your choices.
A few decades ago I ran screaming from the church after being a pawn caught in the middle of a church split-divorce, and narrowly escaping the cult of one designated as a part of the Counterfeit Revolution. After that, I survived for a quarter of a century alone, just me and God, and I was quite happy with the way things were. The image branded in my mind was that church was not to be trusted.
A few years ago, between being stuck in a rural area where church was "the" source of social activity and a renewed understanding that the Bible does command that we get together whether we like it or not, a wild and easily spooked person wandered back into that realm with great trepidation. From this start I set sail on the great ocean of churches. There were a lot of them! As I gained my church legs, I became more intentional in my choices of churches to explore, as well as learning my own spirituality.
In the past four years, I've visited and seriously considered more than 20 churches. I've also evaluated and cyber-stalked nearly 200 online before visiting the ones I did. That is a lot of work. I don't expect most people to have the heart to wade through that much stuff to make a decision. I can imagine that many people would find that level of choice as daunting as the Russian woman confronted with a sea of shirts in the department store.
A big part of this search was knowing my own spirituality. Just as there are personality tests to tell you which royal you might have been in the 16th century or what your Myers-Briggs type you are, there are ways of defining how you most naturally experience God. I also took a good look at the differences between generations, noticed how different generations did church differently, and learned what my generational archetype is. This knowledge allowed me to winnow down the churches significantly.
I prioritized the things that were important to me in a church. These included my expected level of intimacy, how balanced the church was between being "perfect" and loving someone "just the way they are" without ever expecting change, how open they were to differences, whether those differences be tattoos or musical choices or even someone who dares to see Song of Songs as a story of a woman with two lovers instead of one. I tested the entire church, which is to say I tried to go beyond being the church "consumer" in the pew otherwise known as worship, to attending small groups, finding service projects, and initiating contact "outside" the church structures and forms.
I took intentional steps at each juncture to refine my optimal church in my mind. I didn't spend eternity waiting for "the right one". I set my mind to accept churches that were "good enough" knowing none would ever be perfect.
The details of how I followed through on each of these areas is far more than a simple article can cover. Care to come on a journey and see how this happened?