Oh, how I hate that phrase... it suggests that we flit from church to church, as if they were nothing more than shops in a mega-mall and we were trying them on, like outfits, to see which we liked best. (Or which made us look best? Even worse.)
I could use religious language and say we were "seeking a church home." And we were.
Sometimes you have to leave a church. Or, rather, you have to acknowledge that the church has left you. In an unintended ironic twist, our former church once had a message with the theme 'The Church has left the Building." Sadly, it seemed all too true. So we searched.
Having belonged to only two churches for most of my 40+ years, visiting new churches was a bit of an adventure, a chance to sample from the smorgasbord of Christianity. So many to choose from. Different sizes, different styles, different beliefs...
It was also exhausting.
Years ago I helped deliver a sailboat from Portland to Honolulu. During the night, especially, we depended on the radar to warn us of any other boats we might encounter. (Though that may seem unlikely, in the middle of the Pacific, it happened at least twice. And when you are in a 42' sailboat, under sail, and a huge container ship is bearing down on you in the dark, it's fairly
As we visited unfamiliar churches, I had a similar experience. My radar was working like crazy, analyzing everything I saw and heard - what was said, what was meant, who was saying it. The Bible praises the Bereans (Acts 17:11), but I began to wonder if my "radar" was pinging on things that weren't there. I was always evaluating what we experienced - "Is this right? Is this wrong? Is this just different than what I'm used to? Does this really matter?" It's hard work. It's tiring to be that vigilant all the time. I wanted to find a church where I could rest.
And, thankfully, there were churches we visited that didn't ping our radar. I know that no church is perfect, but there were churches that were oases in a dry land.
So, why did we choose the one we did? Honestly, I knew the first day we visited. They had me at hello.
Oh, I loved the aesthetic beauty of being in an architecturally traditional chapel with snowy fir trees in view out the window. But that's no reason to choose a church. I loved the enthusiastic hymn-singing by everyone in the chapel, led by (*gasp!*) just the pastor, the pianist, and - for a couple of choruses - two guys with a guitar and a bass.
Even more, I love that the Pastor opens God's Word and preaches it. Every. Single. Sunday.
And then there was the card in the pew rack. (Yes, the chapel has pews.)
They welcomed my children. The chapel is full of families, with children. Right there in the worship service. Not off being entertained by some high octane willow-creek-wannabe children's program.
Oh, there is Sunday School, where the kids are in age-groups, and taught the Bible at their level of understanding. And I love that. But they are welcomed into church. They are a part of (not apart from) the church family.
The card in the pew rack was adapted from an 28 year old article in the Presbyterian Journal. (Our Pastor is PCA, the church was originally a reformed church plant, but it is non-denominational.) It starts out like this:
Worship Is For Children!
Somehow we got the idea that worship is an adult activity that is inappropriate for children. Therefore, we have devised ways to keep children out of worship services, if possible, or at the very least, keep them entertained so that they don't interfere with our worship.
Our Lord disagrees. Jesus found the worship of children to be not only acceptable, but exemplary for us. The unadorned, unpretentious songs and prayer of children are exactly what God wants!
So, it is high time we find ways to include these children whom the Lord finds so delightful. How can we do that?
1. Sit together and worship as a family. A part of parental training includes worship training. No children should be left sitting alone or with other children; all children should be attached to some responsible adult. Keep in mind that we are one large family of believers and can help take responsibility for one another's children.
2. Be willing to allow for a certain amount of noise and distraction when children are present. At the same time, be sensitive to those around you who may not be accustomed to children's ways.
That was followed by 17 suggestions (not rules) of ways to help your child prepare for and participate in the worship service.
And it's working. I see families together in church. I hear children's voices singing along with the adults. All the kids are encouraged to take notes, and leave them stuck to the fridge in the kitchen, for the pastor - who acknowledges them by name from the pulpit the following Sunday. Little whispers ask questions when they don't understand. And - yes - sometimes moms or dads have to excuse themselves with noisy or wiggly little people. (1 Corinthians 14:40)
And this church is a family. Salt and light in a dark world. Quite a contrast to churches following the "sinner-sensitive" model. Churches that remind me of George Orwell, with their so-called "Pro Kids" orientation.
So there, that's my soap-box. I don't climb up there very often :0) We stayed for a lot of reasons, but they had me with hello.