What kinda church are you looking for?

Thursday, November 23, 2006
I am having a couple of ongoing discussions with different people these days who are new to town and looking for a local church to worship God in. Rather than state outright that they need to get to the church I serve in, I try to help them discern God"s leading in the matter, and help them find a good fit in a local church expression.

The comments I"ve heard from sincere searching souls out there seem to run along a current theme, which is echoed in Darryl Dash"s latest piece for Christian Week. He writes:
I recently received a call from a new friend who has been through a tragically difficult year. A year ago, she had no time for God. She has suffered so much since then that she is now desperate for him. One day she called me and said, "I need to know if this Christianity thing is real, or if it is just a game that Christians play on Sunday. I don't have time for anything but the real thing."

In other words, she doesn't have time for "religious activity without transformation."

This is a completely legitimate frustration on behalf of those who are really searching and want the real thing. Church that is transformational.

They want a church that is real and honest about seeing changes in real peoples lives. They want to be with a group that wants to be disciples of Christ.

And the churches? So many of the churches are busy on life support systems, trying to propagate themselves so that their local “ministry”? will continue on for many years. And many will do whatever they deem necessary so that their goal is accomplished. The continuation of that local church. As one author has put it, they are busy rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

They want it to continue because they like it. They like it for the memories it gives them. They want it to continue for the relationships and friendships they"ve made in that place.

So they will change many surface things to attract the outsider, but the core of who they are remains. And often the core of who they are doesn"t want deep change. At least the kind of change that is necessary in being a transformational church.

Gathering together to worship the living God aught to transform us. Being part of a healthy believing body should change us.

People who are hungry after the real God are looking for those kinds of honest places.

And moving a church that is resistant to change into one that is transformational in it"s core, often requires a miracle»? akin to raising the dead.»? It"s a good thing that the God we serve has a reputation for raising the dead.

Sometimes God reaches down from heaven and touches the terminally ill person, and the person is brought back to life and health and they are changed. I"ve seen that.

But often God reaches down from heaven and uses the medical profession to, over time, coax life back to the person with treatment and care and meds.

I"ve seen God do the same thing for churches needing change. Sometimes he reaches down and stirs the place and it comes alive and so much is transformed.

But often times it seems he works in a place over a long period of time, creating a sense of safety where transformation can happen in people"s lives.

This is a season of evaluation at the church I serve, and it"s always a good time to stop and consider our direction and my part in that direction. After nine years here it is good that I can honestly say that we like it here, and though the work ebbs and flows, it"s usually a great place to be.

We have pressed hard these years for us to be a church that encourages change in people"s lives and values. While a growing number of people get that, there are still some who are frustrated by my not wearing a tie Sunday mornings, or by the music that the worship leader selects. Things that ought not to matter, but they do.

But we are here for the long haul because we believe that God really does like us a lot and won"t abandon us. Sometimes you have to live that out, long term, so that people have a safe place to explore the changes their own lives may need. That is what we are trying to do here.

May God help us value changed lives more than we value things remaining the same.


  1. I hope we are getting there. I don't know if anyone sees it from the outside though. They sort of have to be invited in by one of us or just come on some sort of a whim. So maybe we need to be out there more where the hurting people are so we can become their friends. And if we are slowly becoming better expressions of God's love then they should see reflections of that in us and be attracted - not to any one church as you said, but to God's transforming power.

  2. You stole my thunder! (Sort of). I've been working on a post on this subject too, only I didn't really have any answers.

    I wonder, is there a difference between changing "as a church" and changing as individuals? Does the body become a disciple of Christ as a unit as well?

    I ask, because some may think of "changing as a church" as something superficial (but not necessarily wrong), like becoming more trendy or something, as opposed to individuals being transformed into true disciples of Christ.

    I'm not expressing my thoughts very well. Perhaps there's still a post in this somewhere.

  3. One has to ask - what IS the point of going to church, if it doesn't make any difference that is real?

    We've been helping with an Alpha here. Chris spent time with a woman on the course Saturday (Penny is a lovely, intelligent lass) and the subject of our children and what happened came up. Penny was a little staggered that we still had a faith, that our experience had not pushed us away from God and destroyed our trust.

    TBH if God was not real and did not work directly with us, I'd really struggle to bother with church. And I've been in some where you get the impression very strongly that, for them, God isn't really there. God is in His heaven, we're on the earth singing trite hymns and neither shall interfere with the other. If that was all there was then I can see no reason not to live life to the utmost in the flesh.

  4. Yeah, I'm not too much into "trendy" because it just confuses the issue and distracts us from what's important. So you don't do fadish things just so you think you are riding some wave.

    The change needs to be a change of heart, and a church that will encourage me towards that is a church that loves me.

    And amen Toni, if the point of church isn't making a difference in my life somehow, then what is it about.

    If my God is a powerless thing, then I might as well put him on a shelf.

  5. We should have one of those ongoing discussions sometime... that would be cool.

  6. It seems to me that the church culture wars have been reduce to mere skirmishes in the years you've been at Gateway.

    Aside from the cultural issues like music style and pastor's attire, I believe that the ongoing dialogue of what it means to be disciples of Christ should include the question "how should we then live?" The conversation should be held without the use of labels like "legalist" or "antinomian".


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