Looking for a Church

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Having recently left a 20-year engagement as a minister at Covenant Baptist Church, I’m suddenly asking a question that is both familiar and unfamiliar.

“Where will I go to church?”

It’s a familiar question to me, because I’ve watched other people ask it over the last two decades. Church shoppers often dropped by our church for a visit. New to the area or new to the idea of going to church, they were in the market for a faith community. I tried not to feel like a salesman as I outlined our approach to church and went over our various ministries and church schedule. Some stayed and joined us; others didn’t. And now I’m the one asking the question. How weird is that?I’m determined not to approach looking for a church as if I was a consumer searching for a good deal. Instead I’m trying to pay attention to what is happening in my heart and soul as I stretch and worship God in new ways and with new people. Four different churches have been meaningful to me these last few months. I’m trying to pay attention to what these experiences say about me.

1. The church of mowing the lawn at Covenant.

Let’s start with the strange one. I’m still a member of Covenant Baptist Church. And I like Covenant. I attend worship there a couple of times a month. I’m not joining the discussions about how to find a new pastor. I keep a low profile. I’ve joined the lawn mowing team, and I’m finding that mowing the grass at the church is one of the most important spiritual practices I’ve ever enjoyed. Alone at Covenant on a Friday or Saturday, I trudge along behind the lawnmower, contented, talking to God, thinking, and musing. It’s both physically demanding and emotionally relaxing. I absolutely love mowing the grass. I look forward to it. The pleasure I feel when mowing the grass tells me that I might need to avoid positions of leadership that require me to be in charge or up front in this new season of life. I think I’ve been called out of the foreground and into the background. I think God has some lessons to teach me in my new place of service.

2. The Quakers.

I’ve been attending the Quaker meeting in San Antonio. Quaker worship is very counter-cultural for most Americans. We sit in silence for an hour. There are no spoken prayers, no liturgy, no order of worship, no sermon, and no singing. Apart from a comment or two from the occasional Quaker who feels moved to speak, there are mostly no words at all. I love it. I love the silence. I love the lack of structure. I love the luxury of sitting for an hour with no agenda, listening hard and waiting for the Spirit to move. My love of Quaker worship tells me that I need to be listening in this next season of life. Having spent twenty years programming worship for a Baptist service, I need some unprogrammed time. I need quiet. I need less words, not more words.

3. The Orthodox Church.

This one cuts against the grain of the others, because Orthodox worship is perhaps the most ritualized and highly organized worship in all of Christendom. Seriously, it’s like two hours of liturgy with occasional breaks where long sections of scripture are read in a monotone. I’ve been strangely drawn to Orthodox worship for reasons that I do not fully understand. Perhaps it is because I don’t know what the heck is going on half the time. I’m not even qualified to be an altar boy. And that feels nice to me. My love of Orthodox worship tells me that I need to become a child again. I need to rediscover mystery and encounter the unknown in worship. I need to be a part of something that is much bigger than myself.

4. Home worship with the Soupiset family.

Jeanene and I have been taking our kids on Thursdays to a friend’s home where we eat together, sing, pray, and do all sorts of creative things. Some might call it a house church. I don’t feel inclined to label it at all. But it’s been very important to me. Getting to know Paul and Amy Soupiset and their kids has been wonderful for my spiritual well-being. My love of our home worship group tells me that years of being somewhat invested in the lives of every family in a church took a toll on me. Many pastors know everyone and feel close to no one. Perhaps this next season of life will allow me the luxury of putting my energy into a few deep connections.

So what have I learned about myself in my search for a church?

I do not need to be up front. Less words are better for me right now. Mystery is good. And I need deep connections with spiritual brothers and sisters of faith. I have no idea where I’ll end up. For now I consider myself to be a lawn-mowing, Orthodox Baptist Quaker with leanings toward home worship. And I think that’s enough for now.

Next: How to Find a Church: Church Shopping Tips from an Ex-Pastor