Sunday, September 10, 2023

On Searching For A New Church: Questions

 As I wrote about in last Sunday's post, I am in the process of looking for a new church home.  Thanks to all for the comments and suggestions.

One thing I attempt to be on this blog (to the greatest extent I feel I can) is transparent; thus, it seems appropriate to list out the criteria which I am using. I note that other than the first two, these are not set in any sort of ascending order.

1)  Acceptance of Scripture as the Inspired Word of God:  Not a great deal to say here; either they accept it as such or it is a series of stories and parables and good advice.  That latter part I can literally get anywhere.

2)  Acceptance of the Seven Ecumenical Councils:  The seven commonly accepted ecumenical councils (325, 381, 431, 451, 533, 680-681, and 727 - all A.D.) hashed out a lot of important doctrine (the Nicene creed being one prominent example) and contributed greatly to the language of how the Church discusses doctrine (for example, the Nature of Christ).  Not all churches will acknowledge or refer to the Ecumenical councils as such (for example, some non-denominational churches I have attended are very specific in the references, some mainline churches never talk about them), but the ones I am likely interested in will at least acknowledge the Councils' output.

3)  Regularly offers Communion:  Communion was something that I grew up with happening almost every Sunday or on a very fixed schedule (first and third Sundays, that sort of thing).  There is nothing Scriptural about how often communion is to be given, just that it happens.  In my current case, it is almost never offered.  I certainly benefit from it.

(Note One: I understand that certain denominations - Roman Catholic and Orthodox - have specifications around this based on one taking communion based on one's understanding. That is also part of the calculation).

4)  Worship that lifts up God:  One of my significant complaints about current worship in a lot of places is the songs seem to be more about us with God thrown in, instead of the other way around.  I tend to judge this be the number of times the words "I" and "we" are used in conjunction with doing things for God, instead of "I" and "we" being used in how we are saved by God and are to worship him.  I note "current worship" because this often seems to be the case; the traditional hymns (pre-1960's) I grew up with did not have this issue.

(Note Two:  Secondarily in worship, as mentioned before, is volume.  Also - and a personal preference - endless choruses of the same thing that repeat themselves)

5)  Offers a domestic and international vision, focused on God:  Some churches only see around them, some churches only see beyond themselves.  Scripture clearly has both sorts of views in mind.

6)  Provides a structure to live in:  I am a person that simply does better when my life is structured.  Having some sort of regular structure - be it A Rule or Practices or Mode of Life - would be helpful. 

(Note Three:  Evangelical non-denominational churches seem to suffer in this realm especially.)

7) Has a theology and background that I can dig into:  Theology is not always interesting to everyone; it is to me.  Tell me a church's theology and I can tell you what they practically believe instead of what they profess to believe.  If there are written works, so much the better

(Note Four:  By written works, I mean actual written works on theology, not the "pop culture" theology books that seem to proliferate today.)

8)  Has a traditional understanding of Biblical morality:  Although it is not something we discuss here (because it often polarizes instead of encouraging discussion, which is main goal at this blog), I actually have opinions on such things.  I will note that in general where traditional Biblical morality fails, other things like theology, worship, and structure all seem to suffer accordingly.

9)  Does not have an annual "giving" campaign:  Scripture talks a great deal about money and how to handle it, and talks about giving to the local church (as well as charitable giving) so my complaint does not lie there.  Where it lies is in the practice of some churches to have an annual event - usually a month - called something like "Giving Month", where every service is focused on giving and the dreaded "Annual Pledge" is to be pro-offered (or even worse, the more-dreaded "Capital Campaign").  It makes the church seem like it is only interested in money (thus confirming that believe any who happen to be visiting.

I will say this is something our current church does well:  they have an opportunity for giving at every service and occasionally do "flash giving" campaigns (one or two Sundays dedicated to a single purpose), but they never drag on about it.  Of note, they continue receive increasing amounts of tithes (which is as it should be).

10)  I "fit" there:  This is the most subjective measure of all and by measure, I mean "I will know it when I see it".  Simply put, it means that I belong there, that it is the sort of place that I want to spend more time and and people I want to spend more time with, not somewhere that I try to go to as little as possible and people I try to find every reason in the world not to encounter outside of Sundays 0900-1100 - a place and people that become part of one's life, not something to be endured.


Chances I achieve anything close to a ten of ten on this list?  Not great.  If such a place fulfilled all these things, likely it would be filled to the rafters (and getting seating on Sunday).  Do I have a "minimum threshold" for acceptability? Not yet - partially because I think so much rests on item 10 that it outweighs everything except items 1 and 2.  

Still, for the first time in perhaps my life, I have some kind of standard to use.  I am curious to see what comes out of this kind of approach.


  1. TB, that is absolutely the best analysis I've ever read on this subject. I think the only other thing I would personally look at, is the weekly preaching/teaching that comes from the pulpit. Maybe that point would come under your #7; part of their theology should focus on the spiritual maturity of the congregation.

    I say that because we're in a region where week after week after week, every sermon is a gospel presentation. This is true in most of the local churches as well as local radio programs. I was once told this is because there might be someone out there who has never heard it, but the result is that the membership just camps out at the Cross, and is never encouraged toward practical spiritual maturity.

    There is a wealth of wisdom in Scripture if we'll only dig for it. Maybe it's just easier to kick around a few stones lying on the surface before running back to repeat the same message week after week.

    1. Thank you Leigh. I am glad that someone else thinks it is rather complete (I do, but I am prone to oversight). The preaching/teaching is not a category per se, but rather a combination of acceptance of inspired scripture and theology.

      To your point, it is critically important. And it is one place that the churches that label themselves "Seeker Sensitive" never really caught on with me. The preaching tends to come down to a single subject as you note, a message to the unsaved. Not that there is anything wrong with that per se, just that for those that are already saved, they are not getting "fed" on the weekly basis they should be.

      There is an abundance of wisdom in Scripture. Part of the Western Church and especially the Evangelical Church's weakness is that their view of historical Christian documents tends to be rather focused on their own history and denomination. Am I helped by the writings of Martin Luther? Absolutely! (Would that I had his passion.) But I am also helped by the historical writings of the Eastern Church, something that is virtually ignored by almost all other churches. Part of that is likely historical bias, but I suspect part of that is also "We have no need for anything outside of our tradition". Which is a shame.

  2. Nylon125:38 AM

    Agree with Leigh, all very good points to consider. IMO the evangelical non-denominational churches are a bit loosey-goosey in too much. Take your time.

    1. Nylon12, it is a weakness that Evangelical non-denominationals can be prone to. That is (at least for me) the points on theology and acceptance of the seven Ecumenical Councils is so critical, as well as the Bible as the Inspired Word of God. If they have those, there is a higher potential for some grounding.

  3. I don't know if I commented on the last post on this subject, but reading everything you wrote then and write today I just sit here thinking you are searching for the Catholic Church. Try a couple of your local Catholic churches. A good sermon, traditional hymns, theology and scripture that goes back to the beginning. The original religion before all the others broke off and started their own. Hopefully you'll find what your soul is searching for. :)

    1. Hi Mer! I cannot find that you did, but to be fair Blogger can sometimes be very uncooperative on such matters when it chooses to be.

      I do actually have an "inside track" for the Catholic Church as one of my best friends (from high school, and still is) Uisdean Ruadh is a life long Catholic. We have certainly had discussion about similarities and differences and I have (to be fair, occasionally) attended Catholic services. For some reason, nothing has "clicked" for me yet, but that does not mean that it will not.

      Thanks so much for the good wishes!

  4. Anonymous10:46 AM

    Religion is one of the social barriers in human society. I was raised (loosely, I admit) as a Methodist. As a young Lieutenant I found that I wanted to marry a Jewish girl. Her temple was Reformed, but the Rabbi was difficult. While overseas I found a Jewish chaplain to instruct me, and convert me to Judaism. When I returned Stateside, we were married. It worked out OK - 2 daughters, a son, and 6 granddaughters later we are still married. 59 years. A case of love over social barriers.

    1. It can be a social barrier (although I feel like these days, almost anything has the potential to be a social barrier). I do think - as your story illustrates - the other parties involved make all the difference in the world. A bit odd actually, as I would think any religion would be interested in bringing people in, not keeping people out.

      Congratulations on your 59 years of marriage and children and grandchildren. We still have a fair ways to go to get there.

  5. Good or bad, agreeable or not, we Catholics have it easy. Each church does the exact same mass. The differences usually comes in the people we sit near and talk with for a few minutes after mass. There isn’t a lot gained by seeking another church. I hope you find one that meets your needs.

    1. Ed, that is a relevant point - and true of most denominations. Appreciate the good wishes; I am sure the search will ultimately yield a place I need to be.

  6. Everything we do has the faults of man. Only One is truly perfect.

    1. Agreed, John. I suppose it is just a matter of finding those faults we can endure.


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