Saturday, January 10, 2009

Church Shopping : A, B, or C

Tomorrow our church shopping will begin. And let me tell you -- I can dread nothing anymore. Finding the one place that teaches the way you believe, trains your children the way you teach, embraces your family like your grandma would and challenges you to become more; that my friends seems impossible.

I have really only attended two churches in my life, except for a mild switch over my high school years to follow my friends in a youth group.

As a child I attended a non denomination church in our hometown. It was a small country church with potluck suppers, hymns, river baptisms, and love. I learned more Bible from my Sunday School teachers and felt a greater sense of extended family. That pastor, Morris, baptised me and married me and blessed me on to Oklahoma.

Once I arrived in the land where the wind comes sweeping down the plains and I recovered from the shock that I would NOT be living in a teepee nor would I be allowed to smoke peyote, we began our church search.

We attended the Air Force base church for awhile, but we had to blow that Popsicle stand cause I could not get up at some UNGODLY hour to make their service. It was like 9:00 AM or some unholy time like that. I was 20 and NOT a morning person. IJ was 25 and he was accustomed to 5:00 AM cadence and super secret stuff like that. It embarrassed him to no end to SHOW UP LATE -- so we would just not go. It was not working out.

Then, by some divine intervention, I drove by a church one Saturday afternoon and saw a TON of guys out playing basketball -- and behind them was a sign that stated NEW SATURDAY NIGHT SERVICE AT 6:30 PM.

Uhm....did they say Saturday night? You mean I could SLEEP in all Sunday morning? And get up at 11:42 AM and eat lunch and never get out of my jammies if I wanted? SOLD! Sign me up.

What I did not know that next Saturday night as I entered those doors was that this church, this group of people, this experience would change my life -- for both good and bad.

I met some of my best friends that are still my BFFs even today -- Heather, Feather, Melanie -- I mentored some of the most amazing girls that inspire me even today -- Chelsea, Cass, Tiff, Jordie -- I was supported through diseases, miscarriages, moves, growth, and challenges. I grew up in this church -- they saw my journey: the good, bad, and ugly.

I am who I am today because of the support and love of these people. We actually even got out of the Air Force for three years to go on staff at the church. And oh what passion we had and were given. It was inspiring.

But I think when you open yourself up so greatly, you also allow yourself to get hurt more deeply. And while the church had been such a pillar of support and love for me, it soon became the biggest source of pain and hurt I had ever received. My main fault was looking to find Jesus in others instead of just looking for him. At the end of the day, you cannot expect PEOPLE to be your image of Christ. Only he can be. People are people and will inevitably fail, come up short, be immature, insecure, judgemental, or hurtful. Aren't we all?

So, we quietly resigned among pleas to stay and tears and long nights of turmoil -- Were we doing the right thing? Was this the right choice? I still struggle with it. But we had to regain peace. And the Christ I knew was no longer reflected in my church.

This was the single hardest decision of my life. This was my family. My friends. My life.

We wandered from this to that for a year - then we moved to Atlanta. Now, we have settled and we NEED to find a place once again. I would rather snort glitter.

But tomorrow I will load the crew up for one of the HARDEST things for me to do -- walk though the doorway of a new worship experience.

You have to find the right balance between being God centered but not having small animal sacrifices the third Sunday of every month. Having activities and groups but not a social club. Providing teaching and leadership but not like a seminary. But my biggest qualifier is a place that loves people for who they are -- the good the bad and the ugly. Because I have been all those things at one point and time. Aren't we all?

So tomorrow I am going to one of these. Check these three out. Let me know your thoughts.

The Bridge


Johns Creek


And Edie? To answer you question about who my favorite Bible character was or who I thought I was most like or who inspired me the most or something like that...

Five years ago I would have hands down said David because I saw so much of myself in him -- minus the harp playin part. And the giant killer stuff. And the warrior. And the part about being a king. And the red hair. And the bear and lion killing. But other than that we were EXACTLY alike.

David made more STUPID mistakes than anyone I had ever seen: adultery, lyin, murderin, bad parentin, etc. But at the end of the day, he had a heart for God like no other man had ever had. And God, through all David's faults, forgave him and loved him. And I felt like if God could love David, surely I had a chance.

Now I would probably answer Joseph. Oh, he inspires me. I hope to be able to love likes he loved, to forgive like he forgave, and to accept like he accepted. Maybe one day.

Because, Edie, at the end of the day I truly believe that life is about others. And Joseph, through his forgiveness, shows how much one can believe in the potential of others.
So let me know which one you would go to first and why. Love you all.


Vashti said...

When we moved to South Africa that was my greatest struggle, finding the right church can be so hard but I will be praying for you guys tomorrow,that God lets you know either way.
I have so many fav bible folk, 2 of my very favs are Esther, orphan to queen, makes me get excited to see what God is going to do in my childrens lives and what He will do in the lives of the 150 orphans that we work with every week.
one of my other favs is Hosea, what a man! Sticking with her through her most stupid decisions and horrible behavior.
So there you go!
Have a GREAT experience tomorrow and I pray that God speaks VERY clearly to all of you!

Loonstruck said...

Church shopping is never fun till you find the place you're head over heels for.

We had a hard time finding a fit in Kansas. I visited two or three churches, each for three weeks so that I wouldn't get the wrong idea if they were embroiled in a celebration or a conflict. The people were nice but it wasn't home.

I finally sat down and made a list of what I wanted out of my church experience and I called ministers to talk to them about it. It was interesting and it helped us find our home.

I don't know anything about Atlanta but I hope you find what you're looking for sooner rather than later!

3SonsAreMyLove said...

I like the "Perimeter"...I like their beliefs which are clearly stated on their website. I like their website too. Professional but not too feels like it would be a friendly place, but you can never judge a book by its cover...except for one Book...THE BOOK, The Bible :)

eurekan at heart said...

we are going through the same thing right now and have been for over a year. We moved to a place that is 90
% one religion that does not happen to be what we believe in, so it's difficult to find a church that is growing and still has that sense of family. I pray that God will lead you in the right direction.

vsmphotography said...

Its kinda like going to a new school... You walk in and it seems the pastor directs the spotlight in the rafters at cha... you'll do great.. smile a 100 watt smile and look people in the eye.

~Mad said...

I agree with Loonstruck about making a list.
I am most curious about Perimeter -Presby(PCA). I am Presby(USA)now Baptist....I know, odd. Contemporary,large with band,,globally mission-minded,all kinds of small groups. Corporate Worship is not geared to "winning" seekers, but "exposing" them to God's word & God's people.
And...they have a meeting this Sunday evening for folks to "check it out."(can you tell I work at a church?) Will be praying for your search.

Christy said...

I, too, know how you feel. In 3 weeks we are packing up and moving to a new area 3 hours away. And finding a church was one of the first things I wanted to do. Luckily, my husband met a guy at his new job, who goes to a great church. I think for now, we'll try it and see how it goes.
I would rather be chased thru the woods by a crazy guy with an axe than look for churches. Ugh. I feel for you sister, I truly do.

BTW, the first 2 looked pretty good.

God bless!

edie said...

Well, sorry it took me so blasted long to respond. I haven't had internet service all day and have been on the phone for hours with poorly-English speaking people to whom I've been saying 'Huh?' all day.

I researched your choices and here's how I see it:

1.The Bridge is a very Rick Warren-esque type church. Deeds not creeds. All things contemporary and 'church-growth' oriented. I could be wrong but they probably do not emphasize the sacraments and the pastor will probably wear a Hawaiian shirt...and they'll have a coffee shop. Despite the fact that every inch of my 'flesh' loves all that, I wouldn't choose that one.

2. Perimeter--is Presbyterian PCA. And I like it when it's easy to tell what a church actually believes. They will likely have a high view of the sacraments (a plus for me) and will be conservative in their theology (also good for me) but it seems to be a much more contemporary type worship style than most Pres-PCA's. It's definitely my fav of the ones you've chosen

3.. John's Creek United Methodist--very liberal theology--ordains woman (a - for me) but probably a decent view of the sacraments. I would not choose this one just based on the fact that their core beliefs are so different than mine.

All that said, I loved this post and my heart was so warmed to see that you and IJ were on staff previously. Don't tell anyone but I'd secretly love to go to seminary and Steve would too. Maybe you should become Lutheran and we should all move our families to St. Louis to go to seminary together. We could let the guys train for the ministry and we could school our children together and take turns sharing our faith at Starbucks and Macy's. We could set up a little boutique/free clinic and let our children apprentice there......we could sell good books, lip gloss, home decor,candles, and monogrammed items and counsel scared pregnant teens who are considering abortion and give flu shots. But I digress. I like number 2 best.

love to all!

Dreams of a Country Girl said...

edie -- define sacrements..

edie said...

baptism and the Lord's Supper---the means of grace---where we partake of God's divine grace.

Kim said...

I will leave the heavy lifting to Edie, but the choir robes at St. John's scare me. Just sayin'.

edie said...

Not a huge fan of choir robes either Kim or choirs for that matter . But I will support and love my friend CG no matter.

Dreams of a Country Girl said...

so two huge aspects for you are the beliefs in baptism and communion because you feel these are the ways we find God's grace into our lives? and by God's grace do you mean forgivness? ??????

Please know i am genuinly askin....

edie said...

I know you are Genu-WINE.... my friend. When you think about what it is God left us here with.... He gave us His word and He instituted two sacraments. He said 'Go ye therefore into all nations teaching and baptizing them in the name of the father, son , and holy spirit." He also said, "Take eat this is my body..." Now we could reinvent the wheel and have coffee shops and small groups and sessions on "Ten ways to have a better sex life"---which some church in FLA did.... and maybe there's not anything necessarily wrong with all that. But we should at least have a very high view and practice of the things that He made clear we should do when we gather together. That's all I'm saying.

Also, we all know that Christ died for us on the cross as atonement for our sin. But how does that forgiveness which He won for us....get to us? And how do I know I've 'got' it. It is delivered to us through His word and sacraments. And I know I have it because I trust His words. Without the sacraments as a tangible means by which I know I have His forgiveness, i'm always trying to look to myself----at my moral improvement or my increase in love for my neighbor---to reassure me that i belong to God. I much prefer trusting His words to MY supposed improvement. Does that make sense? I know it's subtle....but a lot of these teachers will always have you looking to yourself as proof that God has saved or forgiven you. Hence, I was goin' forward every week as a child getting saved over and over again....just to be sure. So that physical tangible assurance---in the bread and wine----is just unbelievable to me now.

So I'd make sure whatever church you choose has a high view of scripture and a high view of the sacraments. Like how often do they serve communion? And listen carefully to the sermons. Is there a clear presentation of the gospel? Or is it more like Dr. Phil pop psychology? Don't get me wrong--I like Dr. Phil. But I can get that at home.

Try this tomorrow. How many times is Jesus mentioned? Is He the subject of the verbs? Is He doing the doing? What are the verbs? Is He my helper when I'm stressed....or is He my Savior? who saves and redeems me? Is my problem stress or is it sin?

Good luck and layer away!

Sarah said...

Just read your post.
I thought I'd add my 2cents.
I have tried different church/religious back grounds through the years. While I don't think the Bridge would be a good fit for me, I would want to visit the other 2 at least 1 time & then listen to my gut & make a return visit to the one you have the strongest postivie feelings for.

Plus I know there must be over a dozen churchs to choose from if you don't find what you are looking for from these.

Which brings me to my next question what are you looking for. Do you need to be feed or are you looking to help feed. Only you can answer that.
I agree that a church that really practices the lord's super (ours is the 1st sunday of each month plus easter & christmas) & baptism would be high for me. I agree with Edie - see how many times they mention Jesus & how he is "used". Choir robes ?? along as the choir doesn't seem like some monster - then that's not big a deal to me. I just don't like huge choirs that take over the alter, they don't need to be the main character, just a small supporter.

Our church as 3 services the 1st has a small choir less than 10 or 12 - the 2nd has a band & no robes & a lot of our youth helping with the music & the 3rd is tradtional. So a little something for everyone, but the same sermon for each. I'm going to see what my sister-in-law knows about each of them. She's at seminary at Emory.

I another thing I would do. Is pray for God to lead you to the church that's right for you & then give him a chance to speak to you & be open to listening. He'll show you.
Good luck I know it's hard & important, but you will make the right choice, don't stress over it, he doesn't want you to.

Christy said...

How did it go? Was it everything you'd hoped and dreamed?

Tana said...

Hi CG,
I'm new to your blog, but I've been reading (and laughing) for a couple of days now. I wanted to invite you to Northlands (in Norcross). You can check us out on the web at It's where I've found my home away from Home for the last couple of years.

Dana and Daisy said...

see what I miss when I go off my blog for just one weekend? geesh!

Okay, we never have found a church for us, so I cannot advise, but if you know of a good one in a 741-- zip code, tell me, or even near it, like 740, 748,

I never really figured out exactly where you were from in Oklyhomer so I give you some slack if you only know the red earth area.

Love, and good luck on this one.

brainella said...

So did you try out Perimeter? We drive by there a lot and I've always wondered about the services there.

Kelley said...

I stumbled upon your blog recently from Edie's who I had stumbled upon from who-knows-where and, first want to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed it. This particular post and its comments have been interesting to me and I'm curious how your first week of visiting went. Do tell.

I currently have some church "issues" that I'm dealing with and somewhere here (either in your post or someone's comments) read something that I'm seriously pondering and that I want to feed or be fed? Wow! I will bathe this in prayer.