Sunday, July 12, 2009

Searching For a New Church Home

About seven weeks ago, we decided that it was time for us to find a new church home.  The reasons for that decision are not the point of this blog, but I will say that we felt the leadership of our church was contrary to the teachings of the New Testament in both organization and practice.  It was a very painful experience, because we love so many of the people in that congregation, and we felt so vested and involved in that church.  It wasn't an easy decision to make, that's for sure.  

For a couple of weeks after that decision, I would play guitar as part of the worship team and then try to slip out quietly so I could pick up Ashley and Elliott as we headed to another church's gathering.  It felt a little weird to be doing it, but there have always been other people who had to leave early to go to work, etc..  

Then, about three weeks ago, the pastor of the church resigned, and the church has been temporarily disbanded by the denomination's headquarters.  (My experience with this church has been my only experience in this particular denomination, and I wasn't aware that the denomination's headquarters could/would do such a thing.  I have been out-of-town for about half of that time since.  I haven't heard further developments.)   At the last Sunday in our space, I let a couple of people know about our search for a new church, and some were interested in joining us in our search.  

So . . . for five out of the last seven weeks I've worshipped with another church in town during their "contemporary" service.  (Can we get past this "traditional" vs. "contemporary" divide yet?  Oh, sorry.  That's for another blog.)  It's a denomination with which I am very familiar, and the church seems to follow the New Testament's teaching on church leadership and structure very well.  The weirdest part of the church-shopping experience is to show up and not be a part of the worship team at a new place.  Being a part of the team and leading the church family in worship was always my favorite part of the week, and I've missed it so much.  I've met with the worship leader for the church we've been visiting, and he and I seemed to have hit it off pretty well, but I have yet to play with the band.  

Still, I'm not sure if this church is the place for us.  The reason why is the music.  There are a couple of things about the worship team at this new church that seem odd to me:

1.  The music itself is . . . well . . . boring.  This makes me feel extremely carnal, but music is such a huge passion in my life, and it's one of the gifts I feel given to share with the Church.  I know from experience that not everyone dances to the beat of the same drum, but it would be nice to be able to relate to at least one song out of five.  I believe that we all speak our own musical language.  While I enjoy giving the gift of speaking to people in their own musical style, I believe that I need, as a worshipper, to be able to speak the worship language that's authentic to me.  

2.  The music seems detached from the congregation.  It feels like I'm at a concert watching someone on stage rather than being involved in a worship experience.  I think part of it is the song choices (a.k.a. The lack of sing-a-bility by the congregation.  Today I only noticed the congregation singing aloud on two of the five songs.)  I think part of it is the lack of interaction with the congregation on the part of the worship leader (In fact, I've yet to hear the worship leader do anything other than sing or read a scripted prayer aloud.)  

Am I being silly?  Is it wrong of me to want to look elsewhere even though I like everything else about the church experience except the music?  Is it okay for music to be such a driving factor in my life?  Is it possible that a church exists that follows the New Testament's teachings, is active in social justice, and expresses worship in a way that I can relate?

As I've been searching local churches online, I've noticed an interesting trend.  None of the churches that seem interesting to me have Sunday night gatherings.  That makes it harder to search, since they're all meeting on Sunday mornings only.  The main reason seems to be that most of these churches are using rented spaces (school auditoriums, gymnasiums, etc..)  However, even the churches that own their own spaces seem to be getting away from the Sunday night gathering.  I wonder why that is.

If you're reading this and you have an awesome church family, please don't take them for granted.  Pour yourself into them.  Give to them.  Bleed for them.  Cry with them.  Live for them.  

May we all find our family.  May we all find our home.

Thanks for reading.

P.S.  I recently read the latest issue of the Voice of the Martyrs magazine, and I feel like a spoiled American in complaining that I can't find a church home that I like.  Perspective is a good thing.