Maybe you moved. Or you married. Maybe you are looking for more community, a different mode of worship, or a more Bible-aligned structure. Whatever the reason, you’re in the market for a church.
So you set out Sunday morning. In the family van. In the passenger seat with your husband by the wheel. Or, as I did, alone and feeling it. Before you begin (or even if you’re already burned out and frustrated by the church-search), here is something to consider as you search for a community filled with grace where you can serve and worship Jesus.
Lie: I must find the perfect church.
I learned there is no building or ministry that will offer the perfect sermon, the perfect single’s ministry, the perfect youth group, the perfect Bible study. This is because there is no building or ministry that is made up of perfect people. The pastor may have a terrible laugh. The single’s ministry may be made up of people way older or younger than you. The youth group may have that guy or girl who still needs Jesus (because that’s what youth groups are for). The Bible study may meet at a time that is inconvenient for you.
But because there is no church made up of perfect people, I with all my imperfections can join it.
Truth: There is no perfect church.
Of course, this does not mean that you should go back to a church that sets you on your guard when you first enter the door, where the Word is not preached, where there is no prayer, or you feel uncomfortable dropping off your kids at their classroom.
This does mean that you walk in, not looking for perfection, but asking this simple question: is this a place where you can receive and give?
Is this a place where you can serve as well as be served, where you can live out the Gospel in community as well as be challenged to live it out when you’re alone at work or school or home with the two-year old?
The body of Christ is not meant to be perfect. It’s meant to be holy.
It’s meant to be a community where introverts can sometimes be quiet and sometimes be challenged to speak up, where extroverts can sometimes be chatty and sometimes be challenged to listen. Where the new person can walk in and be greeted, not by the backs of circles of people already talking, but by people waiting to say hello. Where the Word comforts as well as convicts. Where imperfections and brokenness are brought to the feet of the One who loves us anyway and died to make us whole.
So what to do? Look for the right church for you.
Recently I heard my pastor say that Americans are beginning to approach church like they do the mall. They want to be greeted at the door by a friendly associate, they want to receive something (an encouraging sermon, a time of fellowship, a nice hour for their kids), they may want to make a transaction (tithe), and then… they want to leave.
Maybe you’re shaking your head right now and thinking that’s not you. That wasn’t me. I wasn’t seeking to consume; I was seeking to be encouraged and encourage in return. If there is no perfect church, isn’t there a perfect one for me?
When I started my church-search journey, I was looking for three things: contemporary worship, places to serve, and community. Maybe you could try creating such a list, not because you want to be able to cross through each item, but because knowing what you are looking for makes finding the right church for you that much easier.
I finally found my church home, where I’m not self-conscious about lifting my hands, where I greet and teach kindergartners and manage social media accounts. Once a week I study the Word with two other girls as in love with Jesus as I am.
I would never call my church a perfect one, because, since it’s not perfect, I belong.
Perhaps I just dislike the definition of perfect (complete, flawless) next to the word church. Don’t look for a perfect place where you can be comfortable. Look instead for a community of fallen people who are dependent on grace for every breath, who challenge you, who you can live out the Gospel with.
Look for Jesus in the people who greet you at the door, the people you sit beside, the people who come up to you after the service and ask if you’re new. It’s hard and it hurts sometimes. This introvert had the hardest time jumping in, admitting I was new, and asking other’s names. But it was worth it.
So don’t church-hop. Church-search with intention and understanding that community is broken, but that is exactly where broken people belong.