02 July 2013

Church shopping?!? Searching for what I've been missing

"Church shopping" has always bothered me. It seems to suggest that church is about meeting my needs, as it is often about finding a church that best fits what I want and has the programs and teaching I think I need. It also seems to go against the idea that it might be good to be part of a church that doesn't reflect only my own ideas about Christianity or my own experiences and life phase. Neither of those seem to be a healthy reflection of living faithfully as the body of Christ. My theory about finding a church is much simpler: figure out which denomination fits best with what you believe the Bible teaches and then attend the nearest church that is part of (or closest to) that denomination.

Except, as most people will tell you, it's not quite that simple. What if you and your children are not made to feel welcome? What if it's not really the local church (i.e., most come from far away to attend and/or are not interested in the neighbourhood)? What if the music or the preaching constantly makes you cringe? What if the theology taught/practiced in the church actually doesn't fit with the denomination and/or your understanding of what is biblical? Does it make a difference if you have problems with the language? When do you stay and try to work things out, and when do you start looking for a new church?

I now am part of the Oudekerk (PKN), which I've attended fairly faithfully these last 7 years. As much as I've appreciated this church, I also feel a strong desire to church shop, which is a desire I've never really had before. It's like there is something that is missing in my faith or church life - and I'm not even exactly sure what it is. It's not good music or liturgy that I'm missing or even a concern for social justice and each other, as I've found all of these things present in the Oudekerk. I have also felt very welcome - even after acknowledging that I don't always feel theologically at home there. Yet, I long for something more, and so I am searching. Whether it be an actual church, a social group, found online/written, talks with the pastor, a Bible Study, or something else I'm not sure.

In essence I am searching for ways in which I meet together with more spiritual and/or theological 'kindred spirits.' People who get upset about moral theology, like many of the CRC folk I know who read in the denominational magazine that someone wrote tht perhaps we Christians should tolerate recreational sex (the first article by Chelsea about intimacy is actually really good and worth reading, even if you're not interested in the controversy). Or people with whom I don't have to explain that going to church on Sunday is a non-negotiable for me - it's part of how I make myself more open to meeting God. Or maybe I simply long to be the liberal Christian instead of being so often the theologically conservative one. Or perhaps it is as simple as my looking for a group who talks more about how God is actively working in our lives now, something that came forward in a testimony last Sunday and which brought up a longing in my heart.

Part of me wishes I didn't have to go through this theological discomfort of having the sense that something is missing in my faith/spiritual life. I don't remember this discomfort so much when I only knew one denomination well. Yet, I am also thankful to recognize the disquiet I had - the sense that I was missing something - and am grateful that there are those wanting to help me in my search. I hope/believe that all of this will help me grow in faith.

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