We just moved. And so we’re searching for a new local church to attend, enjoy, give.
As a side note, a cross-state move produces the most pleasant circumstances under which to search for a new church: you must give no reasons for leaving your old church besides “We moved” and you must give no reasons for why you’re looking for a new church besides “We moved.” Cross-town church exchanges are so much more complicated than that. I’ve never done it, actually, but my parents did a couple of years ago and it was really hard.
Anyway, before we even started looking, my husband and I had a couple of conversations (in our many drives cross-state) about what it is for which we are principally searching. We talked not only about what we wanted, but also what we thought was good for us and the characteristics to which God might be calling us in a church community. We limited our list to 3-5 things because we know the “perfect” church is a phantom and that we’ll find our new home church still wanting in several ways. But we made 3-5 things non-negotiable. (I hope you see our intentional openness for the Holy Spirit in our “3-5 non-negotiables.” Are all 5 not negotiable? Or just 3?) Here they are in order of most to least importance.
1. Conviction-level doctrines. (those doctrines that make Christianity Christianity: i.e. that Jesus was God incarnate, that Christianity is a free gift of God by grace through faith, that the hearts of people cannot work properly without God, etc.) All persuasion-level and opinion-level doctrines are negotiable – not that we don’t have persuasions or opinions about these doctrines, just that we can share a church community with people who are persuaded or opinionated differently than us.
2. Character of the leaders. Are they the kind of people who we could get behind and follow? Are they the kind of people who could get behind us and support our ministry in the church and/or community? Is there evidence of the humility of the Gospel at work in their lives and hearts? Are they growing toward Jesus and doing their best to bring along (We’ve been to churches enough to know that you’re going to find weirdos, legalistic Pharisees, snobs, people who seem to have a hidden stockpile of boring stories, pretty people, ugly people, people who are too Bible-centered or too doctrine-centered or too worship-centered, people who are perfectly Christ-centered and likeable and always awesome at every church. We know this because at one time or another, we have been – and still on some Sundays we still are – those people! So we’re giving up trying to find a church with only awesome people that we instantly like and who never annoy us. Instead, we’re taking a closer look at the leaders of the church and asking ourselves only the most important questions about those leaders.) You might have your own batch of most important questions, just make sure they don’t include “Is the pastor bald?” One of the best men with the strongest character I ever met is bald. Plus, most pastors are bald, so you’ll have very few churches to choose from.
3. Peers. We’ve just got to have at least a few friends who are approximately our age and in the same season (little kid invasion). We just might not survive life in the trenches without them; and we want to be able to invite people we meet to church and for them to feel like this Christianity stuff just might be relevant for their/our generation.
4.Worship: something in which my husband could joyfully participate without leading entirely. My husband has music in his veins. He is not only very talented, but he absolutely comes alive when musical worship is done with a spiritual and musical quality that leads peoples’ hearts in true focus on God. He is also working long hours at his job right now, building a web development and consulting business from scratch and he can’t commit to lead worship at church every Sunday. We’d both love it if he could handsomely contribute without not-so-handsomely over-committing himself.
5. Pretty. I figure that on those Sundays when the worship is a little dry or I’m just not tracking with the pastor’s sermon, at least I’d like to be in a beautiful place where I can pray, meditate, let my mind wander and simultaneously enjoy the scenery. (Note: the more sleep-deprived you are, the more often these Sundays come. Don’t judge me.)
I think that’s it. Is anyone else searching for a new church? What are you looking for?