That analogy, however, points to the root of the difficulty I already feel as I look for a church home in Mobile: I don't want my experience finding a church here to look anything like shopping, and yet I find myself approaching the churches here with a rubric that differs only in content, not in design, from my grocery list:
Do they sing the hymns I love?
Do they have stained glass?
Do they have programs designed for my stage of life?
Will I find friends here?
All these questions assume that my own satisfaction is the telos of participation in a church. My very practical carnal self demands that in exchange for my time and tithes, I should expect to receive beautiful windows and a thriving social life. I don't mean to exclude my own happiness, but it ought to be a by-product, not the goal, of participation in a church. God's glory and the communion of saints and the proclamation of good news to the poor seems to be much more important, if I read the Bible rightly.
|Introducing new members was one of my favorite tasks as a deacon.|
I've only visited two churches so far, so perhaps that immediate love and certainty is still waiting for me. In the meantime, since I can't really escape my need for a list, I am trying to fill it with better questions:
* How involved is the congregation in local and global missions?
* What does their budget say about their understanding of stewardship and justice?
* How do they use their buildings on days other than Sunday?
* How much Scripture do I hear during worship?
* Is the full congregation involved in leading worship and ministries, or does a small group of ministers run most aspects of church life?
* To what extent does the preaching, teaching, and music balance intellectual and emotional approaches to God?
* Do I want to grow more like the people I meet here?
* What evidence is there of the members' love for one another?
* What sort of language do the ministers and members use about people who do not agree with them on points of doctrine?
What would you add to (or remove from) my list? How do you keep the quest for a church home from turning into "church shopping"?