Church Search

I’ve gone to church all my life, except for The Wander Years between 18 and 24.

visitor parking

During that time, I was guilty of all sorts of unspeakable atrocities, including voting for Bill Clinton in 1992.

I jest. Sort of. My super smart PoliSci roommate was right about him all along.

Those years are replete with fascinating stories. Alas, that’s another post. Or maybe a book.

This post is about church.

Since relocating, we’ve been visiting churches. We’re weighing several factors: the doctrinal soundness of the teaching, the content of worship, the children’s ministries, how naturally we could fit it and participate.

Finding a church is a little like finding a doctor or hair stylist. There are a lot of good ones out there, but only a few you’d be comfortable seeing regularly.

Having been in church so long, I’ve experienced some vibrant, healthy, edifying communities. And I’ve seen my share of scandals, splits, legalism, and hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy. With trepidation I list it. The trespass all of us commit because none of us is perfect. That’s an important lesson I began to come to terms with to emerge from The Wander Years and give church another try.

first time guest parking

first time guest parking

People will fail you. It will happen.

One pastor I know said people often ask him if they will be hurt by becoming part of a church.

“Yes,” he said. “If you stick around long enough, yes.”

So why go? Well, that’s part of the lesson too. People will fail you; God will not. I go to church because it’s an integral part of following after Him.

My individual walk, my personal prayers, my Bible study are imperative, but incomplete if I’m not relating with other imperfect people who are also following after God.

As surely as some of those people will fail me, I will fail some of them.

More often on this trajectory though, glimmers of Christ-likeness shine through. We support one another. Pray with and for one another. Learn together. Stand together as a smaller community and as part of The Church, the greater congregation of believers across the ages.

Looking for a church is not easy. Some weeks I get discouraged. But I’ve been around this block before. I know the search is worth it.

If you’re looking for a church community, take heart. Don’t give up. Keep visiting. Pray for wisdom. Trust God to provide. Follow after Him.

If you’re in a good church, by all means go. With thanksgiving and gratitude, go. Be a participant, not an observer.

And if you’re in a church where you’ve prayerfully done all you can and it’s still not working for whatever reason, it may be time to move on. Quietly, without making a fuss, leave in order to find a healthier situation.

white cross on blue ground

Being part of a good church is too important not to pursue.

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT

Don’t give up. Let the Waters Rise by Mikeschair.

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26 Comments

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26 Responses to Church Search

  1. This is really something I needed to read these days. I’ve had a very hard time going to church since my father passed away. Not due to lack of belief, but because I get emotional and I feel it causes a scene and my kids worry and so on. But I know I need to keep going to find community and peace and all the wonderful things you talk about here. Maybe I just need to search for one that feels a bit more like home.

    • This weekend, run. Don’t walk. Start visiting other places if you like, but go. You may get emotional and that’s okay. Even expected. Your grief is still raw. Step out to the restroom if you need to. Or let tears quietly come.

      When my mom was sick, a wise woman told me something. She looked me straight in the eye and told me even if no one else gets it, God knows and understands and I can take anything to Him. That’s stuck with me all these years.

  2. Amen!! BTW, I had those “wander years” as well. Mine were a little longer due to the military though Just thinking of Panama, Fort Bragg and Korea make me cringe sometimes. I really don’t know how I made it through. LMBO!!

  3. We found our church sort of by accident and specific choice at the same time. It also meant changing denominations. That was a leap I’d never taken before but had always considered as possible. We willingly took that bull by the horns and have been very happy.

    • It’s funny you should mention denominations. I grew up in a smattering of different denominations, but my husband grew up in only one. We were married in a church of that denomination. When we moved out of state, our new city didn’t have strong churches in that denomination. We had to visit others. The church we ended up in was one of the best we’ve ever attended. We learned denomination is not as important as Biblical teaching and a vibrant fellowship.

      • That’s the truth. You mentioned Lutzer in one of your posts. That’s pretty cool. I hear him every now and then on the radio.

        One pastor I would have loved to have sat under was D. James Kennedy. He had such a boring affect, but man, he was sharp.

        • That’s the church I was referring to! For nearly two years we had the privilege of being members of The Moody Memorial Church in Chicago where Dr. Lutzer still pastors. It stands as a highlight of my life. No kidding. Amazing experience. And I can confidently say we were blessed with tremendous Biblical teachers in St. Louis, too. We’ve been gratefully spoiled by all this good teaching. Our standards are very, very high now!

  4. Very encouraging post Aimee! It’s a long process finding a church home. I think one of the most important aspects of finding a church is that we NEED spiritual community to walk with us through life. Yup, we will all fail ourselves and each other, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put ourselves out there. The Church is Christ’s bride! Scripture tells us how deeply He loves her, so there must be something important for us not to miss there. It isn’t an easy road to travel though. Praying for you guys as you search and put yourselves out there. Hugs! Tiff

    • Thanks, Tiffany. I’m glad you mentioned there must be something important in church bc the Scriptures say so. Such rich language to describe the relationship between Christ and the church. Hugs back to you!

  5. Great message! Since moving to Portland, my husband and I have had to let go of our ideas of what we thought would be the “perfect” church for us. We know that there is no perfect church, but we tried at first to find it anyway. Even though the church we’re at now doesn’t fit our personal tastes 100%, we committed and we’ve grown more in our faith than we ever expected and have found ourselves in a loving community that encourages us and where we are able to serve. I think that’s the best possible solution! Good luck with your own search!

    • There is so much wisdom and encouragement in your response. There are no perfect churches, but there is much to be learned from committing to a “good enough” church that has sound Biblical teaching and caring, imperfect people.

  6. zweberfarms

    It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized that people “switched” churches. I grew up Catholic (and still am today). Our small rural town had two churches: one Catholic and one Lutheran. You were one or the other. Part of your identity was which church you belonged too. It never crossed my mind that there were more choices.
    Today, we only have one choice in our town (Catholic). I have found that it isn’t necessarily the “church” that needs to fit my needs, but the community I find within it. About a year ago I joined our churches Mom’s Group. It has really changed my experience with our Mass. While I don’t have ‘choices’ when it comes to churches, I do try to seek out people and experiences within our church community that help me grow in my faith.
    Best wishes finding your faith community!
    Emily

    • Awesome, Emily! Great perspective. One of my closest friends in St. Louis is Catholic and I adore her church community. Her family has been very involved in their parish school too. That seems to make the experience of “doing life together” all the richer.

      My husband’s small town didn’t have many choices for churches when he was growing up there either. He was Protestant, but denomination was very important then. Even without a lot of choices, his family was (and still is) part of a wonderful church community. With or without many choices, I guess a lot of it is about committing to a church and to the people God has placed in your life there.

  7. I had wander years too…and I also voted for Clinton during them! Even actively campaigned him, and you can bet Hubs will never let me live that down…

    Needed this post today. Sounds like we have much to discuss next week! :)

  8. Aimee, first things first. I read your blog via my phone while driving. I know not the best habit. But it posts overnight, goes to my email and I read when I have time which is always in the car But I don’t comment while driving! Therefore I have wanted to comment on this and am just getting to it. I am going to SHARE this with many friends. I am deeply concerned that we have a generation that is not going to any church, raising their children with out church. I fear for our future because of this lack of church. I am a Christian. I have attended 4 different “denomination” churches in my lifetime. There is not a perfect church. I once heard Beth Moore speak about rather than complaining about our pastors and church to pray for our pastors and church. She changed my perspective on the current church I am in. It’s the community within church that matters. I won’t agree on all the doctrine. If when it’s not the ideal, perfect fit sometimes God is calling you to be there. Because as my dear Godly mentor told me sometimes “God wants us to be the fly in the ointment”. I applaud you for venturing out to find a church family. You and your family are going to be assets to your new church and I hope you grow in your faith in the church home you find. You inspire me!

    • Katie, you inspire me too! I hope you know that. And I’m honored that you read!
      Great comment about praying for our churches and pastors instead of complaining about them. Jeff and I have found what you write to be true: the community is a vital aspect of what church is all about.
      It is disheartening that people these days don’t seem to make church a priority or try to instill the importance of church in their children. I find courage in remembering God always, always preserves a remnant to carry the Gospel forward.

  9. There’s definitely some work to finding a church family that fits. I grew up in a small town congregation and haven’t found anything similar since living in college towns. When I was almost 18, I lost my mom and haven’t been able to find the discipline to be a regular at services since. It’s tough moving on without that accountability she held me to, and finding a church family that will do that is tough for someone my age. Ya might call me in those “wandering years” but it’s a work in progress.

    • Very tough in college towns and when you’re single. And I agree it with your thoughts about accountability. It almost takes more discipline when you’re on your own, and that’s precisely when you need a good group of people around you.

      My husband actually had a positive experience with church during his college and single years. I know he was supported and blessed by the groups of young Christians he hung out with until he was 33 (an old-timer) and married me! They are still some of his and our dearest friends. Part of why I think it worked for him is that he took a role in leading the groups he was a part of. Don’t know if that helps.

      Another good place to look would be a Bible study like BSF. It’s not a replacement for the church, but it is a good place to meet other Christians in your life stage and find out about the solid churches in the area. Think of the study as part of your education. And if you’re in need of discipline and accountability, you’ll find that in the study too.

  10. Community is so important and it does take discipline. I feel in a sense that perhaps now – in China – these are my wander years, but each time I go home I relax into the warm embrace of that church experience. I also think that not having that option in China after everything that has happened here has changed the culture – so much so that in a well publicized case last year a baby wandered into the middle of a busy street in front of dozens of people, got hit by two cars and no one helped her. Finally a street cleaner moved the baby to the side and went to find her parents. It has opened a lot of dialogue here about morality which is good, but so, so sad.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting. You offer a unique perspective, at least for this American.

      Several years ago, I remember seeing photos of a dead infant girl in a gutter in China. Her parents didn’t want her because she was female. A journalist snapped the pictures and they appeared in a mainstream pub here in the States. It made me physically ill to see them. So, so sad. Morality matters.

      I also wonder how “underground” the church still has to be in China. I remember reading another article about how the Chinese government was more open to allowing organized religion. If you are able to stop back by, I’d love to get your take on this.

      • Religion is more available here – there are some churches and obviously there are temples all over. It still seems somewhat forced and when the government doesn’t want something to happen (ie Falun Gong) – they stop it pretty quickly. I sometimes go to a catholic church where there are services in English, but in that room there may be 1% Chinese people, so the idea of religion in China is still a bit nebulous.

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