“The local church isn’t a piece of the heavenly church—like a tiny chunk broken off a big cookie. Instead, it’s a miniature realization of the whole heavenly thing.”
Searching for a church is like dating to find your spouse. There are the must-haves, the willing compromises, and the pleasant surprises you hadn’t thought about. There are mediocre dates and the complete bombs. Then there’s that one church that makes you hungry for Sundays. Like that first date, the introduction to a church can be online or through a friend; “The pastor’s a Calvinist just like you.” Once you’ve made that initial connection it’s time for the first date.
There’s the first look; the initial encounter. How about that building? Woo-hoo!---or could she use some paint? The encounter is both cognitive and emotional. Are you greeted with warmth and a joyful smile? For some churches the service is like speed dating. Up front they tell you it is an-hour long service. Quick music set, collection, announcements, sermon and out the door. Your eyes meet, you’re connecting; there’s some energy there and…that’s the darn bell again. Speed dating doesn’t allow for depth; neither does the hour-long service.
There are churches that cater to everybody. First off they have those big comfy theatre chairs (not yet recliners). Come in, be comfortable; part of the audience, no commitment needed. Concert seating; concert lighting and in the hall concert coffee. The pastor’s witty, well-read and articulate. You ‘learn enough to stay afloat but not so much to rock the boat.’ She’s like the girl with the heavy make-up (lookin great on the outside!) whose goal is to get you to walk down the aisle.
A shared heartbeat is crucial. If being outdoors centers you but she’s hates dirt you’ll have a problem. The bible should be that heartbeat. In some churches nobody reads it; the congregants don’t carry them. We chose a church that has a Bible app on its website; where it is opened and read during the teaching time.
The sermon is the crux of church. God has given us a banquet in His word. We come for the teaching. We come for worship. My wife likes modern songs; I lean toward hymns. The bible says we are to be provoked to good deeds; stimulated, motivated, goaded. We seek a relationship that affirms us in Christ and goads us toward Christ likeness.
The first date always takes courage. Church hunting isn’t easy. It takes time and research. You’ll have to step out of your comfort zone. But when you find her---. Your days become bearable; your steps grow lighter. She’ll put new songs on your lips; and challenge you with new insights into old truths. Yes she’ll take your time and money; but oh what a reward. Once you find her she’ll feel like home.