Finding A Church Home

Let's just face facts: finding a church home can be difficult.  Sure for some folks, it's as simple as going to the same place their parents have always gone or finding a faith community that is from the denomination in which they grew up. Sometimes, though, you need to go deeper than your church is going. Other times you need to let Christ go deeper into your soul. The difference is stark, telling, and often scary because of what it reveals about you. Answering questions about your faith is never easy, let alone comfortable, but it is always necessary.

 

 

It comes down to a simple game of hide and seek, and honesty is the only way you'll get to the answer as to whether or not you're hiding or seeking. It may feel as though you're seeking, but instead, you're actually using the search as a tool to hide something or keep God at arm's length.

 

The human heart, as Jeremiah so aptly put it, is deceptive. Who can know it, indeed.

 

 

The need to go deeper

Let's say you're genuinely searching for a church home. You might have an idea that a more traditional service would help you open to the Holy Spirit more, or you may feel more open in a contemporary setting. You may want to listen to a preacher who is preaching from a manuscript and you may want a very concrete worship service in place before you. Conversely, you may want a church that flows more freely with the Spirit in its movement, is open to impromptu praise portions and has a more expressive mode of worship. Finding a church that matches your heart is important but there are a few commonalities beyond all of this to keep in mind.

 

The human heart, as Jeremiah so aptly put it, is deceptive. Who can know it, indeed.

A church, first and foremostly, should lead everything back to Christ on the cross. I love sitting in a good bible study and really digging into the exegesis of a passage, getting into the Bible commentaries and even going back to the Hebrew and the Greek original texts and then trying to grasp the root of what is being said in order to determine a perspective that one can overlay onto history in order to see these men and women of faith in a new, and hopefully more human light. At the same time, however, all of this means very little to the average person whose passions lie elsewhere. A church that places deep understanding ahead of the primary principles of finding Christ is getting the cart miles ahead of the horse. 

 

Most people want to know one of two things. Does Jesus really love me, and is my salvation real? These two questions are often hinge points for their faith that they will struggle with on a daily basis. Even in a recent deep-dive in the Anchor Yale Bible Commentary on Isaiah 49 (my chapter), the Spirit brought a thought to mind, "How does this point back to Jesus Christ?" While I love the content, understanding the structural components that link this to other sections, writing mannerisms, etc., if you give this to the average congregant, they'll look at you as if you have six heads, three of which are on fire and at least one of which is catching next.

 

Finding a Christ-focused church means it is open to serving the "least of these" that Jesus called us to in Matthew. If we have the opportunity to move past the basic issues, that's enormously helpful, but the basic communication of the gospel of Jesus Christ, salvation by grace alone through faith alone available freely and to anyone has to be the central point of any church ministry.

 

Not like me

If you struggle to find a church that resonates with you, or you simply don't know where to look, you're not alone. Many people don't know if a traditional church or a contemporary service is where they will feel at home. All those questions that need answering are difficult when we don't know what we're seeking. At this point, it's a bit of Googling about a denomination, social media searching, and eventually you are going to have to attend the church in person. There are a few things to remember here.

 

  1. You don't have to attend there right off the bat. Dipping your toe in the water is just fine, and if anyone is a little too clingy, feel free to step back. Just as in personal relationships, churches should respect boundaries. Feel free to reinforce yours.
  2.  There are internal differences. Not every pentecostal church is overtly worshipful, and not every Roman Catholic church is staid and stoic. Every church body has a personality because it's made up of persons. Knowing this going in is helpful.
  3. Doing homework is fine. It's OK to Facebook stalk the pastor and the church page. It's OK to do your homework. It's OK to call the church and ask to meet the pastor.
  4. Extra credit might not be. It's not OK to show up outside the pastor's house one afternoon unexpectedly. Pastors get weirded out by this, just like you. We just try to act gracious about it.
  5. Expect there to be an undercurrent of drama. You will not find a church that lacks drama, ever. If you do, call me and I'll come attend right along with you. Until then, expect drama, and carry a big bucket of grace. Smear it about liberally.

 

All of this having been said, it's imporant to find a body of believers you can worship with and be free enough that your heart is open to the Holy Spirit. We're all uniquely different, which is beautiful in the eyes of God. The foundation of the church is common, but it's OK if the drapes, siding and roofline of our individual denominations look different. 

 

Maybe it actually is me

This one is the hard one to talk about. Some of us hide from God by saying, "I just haven't found a church that resonates with me yet." I could say it's a cop out, I could say it's pretty fake of a person, except that I've been there before myself. I've been reluctant to go to any church because of how the congregation was in a singular church. Maybe it was something hurtful done or said to us (been there). The devil uses this bruising to keep us away from God, hence my reason for pointing out item number 5 above. Forewarned is forearmed. It could be that church is genuinely experiencing some hard times, struggle and attack. That doesn't mean every church is, and we shouldn't conclude every congregation will be the same as another. 

I could say it's a cop out, I could say it's pretty fake of a person, except that I've been there before myself.

 

And then there's the use of this saying because we're genuinely holding onto our "unchurchiness" (again, been there, done that, have the T-shirt). We'll come up with every excuse in the book to deny going to church because we're either afraid of getting too close to God, or we're enjoying our sin too much to go there. Often it's because of both.

 

Look, I can't solve the dilemma of your soul for you, and I cannot draw, drag, or force you closer to Jesus, as that is God's job and he's way better at it than I am. What I can do is tell you this. Being dishonest with who you are is a life that is misery. Abject misery. Admit the reason why boldly and deal with it from there. Doesn't sound very pastorly, I know, but it's very much biblical. Being lukewarm was never God's plan for any of us, and living in a lie about who we really are will never work for anything that we attempt to do, let alone for our discovering who our identity is in the Lord. If you're having too much fun in your sin to accept that God loves you and could very likely have a better plan for your life, then live that, but also accept the consequences of that. Otherwise, take a bold step and move in the direction of the one who first moved towards you. Either way, "Do your business or get out of the outhouse."

 

Submitting to God and Coming Home

In the end, the greatest feeling is sitting in the chair or the pew, in the home church that suits how the Holy Spirit is guiding you, your faith growing and your glorification of God going through the roof. God's desire and design is that we all experience His majestic power radiating from His throne, causing us to, as Micah put it, seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.

 

Roland Millington

Roland Millington is a United Methodist Church pastor serving Brimfield United Methodist Church in Brimfield, IL. He's the author of two books available digitally through our store, or as hard copies through LuLu Publishing.

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