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.