Here's a great quote we came upon while editing a portion of Rebellion of Thought from our interview with Gene Edward Veith (senior writer for World Magazine). It was in a section of the film that has been moved to the bonus features of the DVD, but I'm fairly confident we'll be able to find a home for it in the main film...
"People choose a church the same way they choose a major appliance. They look at the ones that meet their needs the best and that’s what they go with. They don’t even ask questions of “is this true? Is this what I need to hear?” It’s just “what I like.” And so they base their whole lives on that and turn themselves into post-modernists."
What are your thoughts? How did you select your church and if you had it to do over again would you do anything differently? Let us know...
Choosing a church, I think, is one of the most difficult tasks a person can take on. There are so many churches in this country with so many different ways and, unfortunately, beliefs. If we all read the same Bible, why are we so different? Two things are extememly important to me when choosing a church. One would be that I want a place where I can use the gifts God has given me to minister to others and be encouraged to do so. We are all given gifts and I feel it is a sin to let those gifts lie dormant. Like the old children's song I sang in Sunday school, "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine....Hide it under a bushel? NO! I'm gonna let it shine!" The other thing I need to have in a church is the fact that they preach from the WORD, and I mean God's word, not C.S. Lewis', or Rick Warren's, or Max Lucado's. Don't get me wrong. We all have things to share and these authors have great insight but their books and writings are no match for the Bible. It's not enough to preach from the Bible, but to also believe it is the Truth. Anyone can site scripture reference in a service and have it read as just another liturgy, it is a different story totally to use the Bible as your source of truth. Too many churches today are trying to be politically correct, to edit the Bible, so to speak, so as not to offend anyone. I don't know about you, but the last time I looked, the Bible can be pretty confrontational. If you've read this far, you can tell I'm pretty much a black or white person, no gray. The truth is the truth. Unfortunately, if most churches were like the one I describe, I fear, they would be empty.
I grew up in the Episcopal Church and fell out of faith around age 17. For twenty years I was churchless, and finally wised up when my kids were born. My wife has been a lifelong Methodist, and I took the path of least resistance. (And later learned that my great grandfather and his father were both Methodist ministers with divinity degrees.) I greatly enjoyed the 'walk the walk', hands-on Methodist philosophy and found myself involved in volunteer ministries and outreach programs. I'm not so sure that I found my current church: I'm inclined to think it found me.
Maybe some people choose a church the same way they choose a major appliance, but not all. But maybe everyone should! I'll try to get some mileage out the the 'appliance' illustration. For some, the appliances were included in their apartment or house when they moved in, i.e., they were raised in a particular church or married into one. Some never cook anyway, so it really doesn't matter if the stove is working or not. These folk pass by the church on their way to work. Some, where money is no object, simply choose what looks good and has the cool gadgets. Since it's not really 'costing' anything (no sacrifice), this church better be worth my time and be enjoyable. Others, with a sense of frugality, will research consumers reporting magazines, to make sure the appliance gets good reviews. But where is the 'Consumer Reports' for Churches, Denominations and Ministries? How do you subscribe to that publication? Is there an Underwriters Laboratory that rates and compares the services provided? You sure can't tell what a local church is like based on the name anymore. Maybe there should be a AAA guide to churches, a Better Business Bureau (Better Church Bureau), or a book "Finding a Church for Dummies."
The Creed says, "... I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church." It doesn't read, "I believe that there is One..." The Church is the fullness of Him (Ephesians 1:22-23). Is my local church gathering an example of His fullness? Am I just attending or am I connected as a integral part of His Body?
I 'selected' my current appliance (church) based on my search for truth and my willingness to submit my opinions to what the Church has taught consistently, especially during the first 1000 years. If I could do some things over again, would I do them differently? Oh, yes! I would not have 'thrown the baby out with the bathwater' after I was 'burned' or 'burned out' from one particular church. I would have realized that I needed the communion with the Body of Christ, and would not have 'taken an extended vacation.' A lone-wolf is easy target for the enemy. I'm thankful for His promises, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you; Seek and you shall find."
Here are a few replys I received to this blog posting...
"Great question and for many shopping a church this is probably true. However, from some books I read for my doctorate, I came across two primary things people are looking for in a church. One is the church’s doctrine. Second, will this church care for me and my family. In the caring area, people will develop relationships with individuals that keep them in a particular church. From the 80 or so prospect visits I have made, people where interested in our doctrine and our care for one another. Thus, to tie this to your findings that people look at churches like their shopping for an appliance, I guess the care aspect would be the top priority."
"Yep, I took a church with plenty of mustard and pickles. Delicious tart worship, beefy announcements, leafy sermon."
"Thanks for the evocative e-mail. I followed the link to see if this was really from you, or if your name and e-mail address had been hijacked by a Christian fanatic. It looks like it really is you!
How fun to get some post-modern ideas in a town full of antebellum thinkers : )
I guess my only comment (since you asked) is that not everyone chooses a church.....
Keep up the good work!"
"That is a very interesting quote. I have to say that I think Mr. Veith is right in the majority of the cases, but there are always those who don’t fit the mold. For instance our experience was quite different.
But before I get into that, let me dangle something out there for you. I know a pastor who encourages his congregation not to move to a new city for the sake of a job, or anything else, until they find a church. In fact, if they feel like they should move, he thinks they should look for a church first and then find a job in that city rather than finding a church in the city where the job is located. That is a different paradigm, wouldn’t you say?
When (we) moved to Charlottesville, it was for a job. We knew a pastor here through a mutual friend, and met him once before visiting his church. He actually told us to visit other churches and said that we shouldn’t feel like we had to go to his church just because he worked with our friend. We thought, “That’s weird. Since when does a pastor tell you not to come to his church?” We took his advice. We knew the Lord had a place for us and asked Him to show us where it was. Over the next few months we visited a number of churches around town, but it wasn’t until we visited the church of the pastor who told us to visit other places that we knew we were in the right place. What is interesting is that this church didn’t “fit” us. If we had a list of things to check off as we visited churches, this one would not have passed the test. The only box we had to check was the one beside the question: “Does the Lord want us here?” It was much later that we understood why He wanted us in that particular church. We’ve attended there eleven years."
"I'd agree. And I still haven't found a church although we're close to attending Spring Hill Baptist just a mile down the road on Rt. 606. How's that for lazy? We're choosing a church because it's close (like falling out of bed) and because we feel guilty (as should the rest of Greene Co.) for making liberal use of their playground without contributing a damn thing. And we were raised Catholic!
I have spiritual time daily but I simply can't find a church and have essentially thrown in the towel. My problem with most churches is that sermons, homilies, etc. teach the Bible but don't apply Jesus' teaching to modern/practical life (i.e. most churches are out of touch in my mind and "preach" wishful thinking). In fact, I think black churches come closest to what I'm after in that they talk about issues impacting their community. Oh sure, ministers/preachers/priests will talk about what Jesus taught but they don't take it the next step with practical tips for how it can be applied today in real terms. Hell, I could do a better job ad lib than what I've heard to this point.
Plus the fact that I have beliefs much different than most as I've shared. My personal opinion is that most religions today are immature. I call it God as Santa Clause ("Oh, you better watch out, you better not pout....." And I can't stand the approach, "The devil is gonna get you!". I don't even believe in a devil so that kind of message really rubs me. And I really get riled when I hear people blaming God for their circumstances, "Why is God doing this to me/us?" "Oh, what will be, will be" Or "God wouldnt' give us more than we can handle." Or "This must be part of God's plan for us to be taking it up the bunger" I mean, how childish is that? So I can't find a church. About the closest I've come is one in Waynesboro my dad attends but I refuse to drive that far."
"I think that's generally the truth. Though from conversations I've had with people, most folks just keep going to the same church they went to when they were kids because it's what they know or it's where their friends and family are. Tradition is important. People who question their assumptions and rethink their ideas and direction probably choose the church that fits them best, as Veith says.
A lot of smart religious people take the "Pascal's Wager" approach and realize that really, there's nothing to lose by having faith in God and going to church, because if He exists, great! One way ticket into Heaven! If He doesn't, oh well, at least you tried to live a good life by following good moral principles.
I admire the intellectual meat and potatoes in the REBELLION OF THOUGHT blog. Almost a year ago, I read everything on it. The only thing I really take issue with is the notion that a church should conform to worldly standards. Just because the world changes does not mean that the truth changes. Hypothetically, if it becomes generally accepted that Christ was actually a myth and that he never died on the cross, that doesn't make it so and any church that seeks new converts by embracing the concept of a non-existent Christ would be a conformist one of questionable merit in my eyes.
I was raised Episcopalian but never really believed in it. Good people and all; I love my folks with all my heart. Something about it just didn't seem right. After a lot of thought and prayer (and yes, intellectual consideration and weighing pros and cons), I joined the LDS church in 1999. It felt right in my head and heart and I think when you've got the head and heart in conjunction, you've got a good thing. Most Mormons say they prayed about it and got an answer from God that the church is true. I'm not going to say I got a direct specific answer that the church was true, I just got really good feelings about it every time I prayed. And I mean physical feelings- warm fuzziness all over. I totally believe it's true. So that's why I'm Mormon. No regrets."
"As for your question: I wasn't raised Christian so I've never really attended church. But I think from the time I was in high school, I felt a definite need in my life for a religion of some sort. It's natural for us to want something to help us make sense of it all. And I've never felt this need more acutely in the past few years, when my fiancee left me, my grandfather died and an acquaintance was shot to death in Kenya. There's really not anything anyone can do or say to help you make sense of it all.
So I suppose in my case, not only must I choose a "church" as I would a kitchen appliance, I must choose a religion in the same way! Unfortunately, despite there being many things to like in most major world religions, there are too many things I don't like in all of them... It's a mystery to me how the Japanese can go about their lives without giving religion a second thought. I must live in the most secular country in the world. Maybe if I keep buying things I'll eventually find God. ;)
I would like to add that I've met many half-assed Christians in America, who attend church every once in a while just so that they won't go to hell or whatever. You know, not really the religious type. Compared to these people, I respect Muslims much more, just because their conviction is so strong. It's hard to be a half-assed Muslim. If you're gonna be religious, you'd better go all the way. (Just don't blow anyone up while you're at it.)
Most of the Mormans I've met have been truly spiritual people. I like that.
Hmmm. I guess I didn't really answer your question."
"We just left our church because of the issues presented by our National Church and because the relational and emotional health of our local parish was getting toxic and no amount of "standing" was helping.
We are in a small home church and are looking at establishing a local "Anglican" church that has African roots and is both emotionally and spiritually rooted in relational Christianity. It may not look like a western Episcopal Church because it has Hebraic roots not Hellenistic roots and the culture and DNA is very different...even the liturgy is somewhat different despite the fact that we share the Common Book of Prayer. There is a great book out called the "Emotionally Healthy Church". I can't say enough wonderful things about the content and the need for both spiritually and emotionally "relationally" healthy churches."
"I 'grew up' in University Baptist....transferred to FBC, when married...and that's how I 'chose' the church I served for so many years....thru these years, I have come to know much about many churches and realize we are all imperfect people, but many are trying to be their best.....which will not ever be achieved until He takes us 'home'...."
"I looked for a church that matched what I believed, and how they were trying to live it out.. works basically follow belief though, even though we're all "vessels of clay"."
"I tend to think that people go to the church that they were brought up in. In my case, it was/is the Episcopal Church. I have visited some other churches and other religions -- i tend to like the viewpoints of the protestant churches."
I didn't really have a comment to this when I first saw it - I mean, I've been in my current church for 14 years, and don't have any concrete plans to leave. But the more I thought on it, the more I realized that I often think of leaving it. And that reminded me of the following quote, attributed to Alec Vidler:
“We must try to be at one and the same time for the Church and against the Church. They alone can serve her faithfully whose consciences are continually exercised as to whether they ought not, for Christ’s sake, to leave her.”
Additionally, he once said this -
"The Spirit of Christ can set men free, and can enable them to become their true selves, without requiring their dependence on any particular religious organization."
Perhaps we should be concerned more often with "choosing a church"...
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