Just thought I'd update you all on the church hunt. At this point, the number of churches we've visited is definitely in the double digits. Most churches we've visited only once; just about all of them have been recommended by Christian friends who live in this area. A lot of them have been quite large. Large churches are what most people have heard of, I guess, and large churches are the most likely to have contemporary worship.
Last weekend, we definitely reached a low point in our church search. The Sunday school class where we were sent had just fired their teacher, and we got to be there for his hurt response to the news. Just peachy. Of course, we had no idea what was going on, but it appeared that the class had requested a different teacher after a few months of him teaching, and he was sitting there apologizing for whatever it was that he'd done wrong. Some of the members of the class were crying. I have never understood the tendency in some churches to send a person from outside a class to be teacher of the class without asking the class what they think first. What we witnessed was one result of that decision. Bad for the class, bad for the teacher. After sitting through that awkward class session, we found out that the contemporary service at that church occurs during the hour that most Sunday School classes are taking place. Bad again. We came home, discouraged, to a cold, smoky house (see earlier fireplace disaster post).
Months have passed, and sometimes I feel like we're no closer to finding a church home and church family than we were when we moved here in July. It's discouraging. Sometimes I feel like I don't even know exactly what I'm looking for anymore. I want God to hit me over the head with a 2 x 4 and say "This is it." Maybe I'm being too picky. Maybe one of these that we've visited is it, and I'm nitpicking over something small. Maybe what I'm looking for doesn't exist in Raleigh. Maybe there's no way to find what I'm hoping for on a search engine. =)
Sometimes I feel like what it boils down to is that I'm looking for a church that has found that delicate balance between Sunday morning faith and legalism. I'm looking for a place where it is apparent that the church members are enthusiastic and excited about serving God every day of the week, not just on Sunday. I want to be in a place where the other Christians are eagerly looking for God's answers for how to draw their families and their own hearts close to His. I want to be in place where believers are questioning the effects of our culture on their faith. I'd like to go to church with people who have made the decision to homeschool their kids, because that's what I'd like to do with Seth one day, and it would be nice not to be alone in that.
One problem... what I've just described is great, but enthusiastic Christians who meet these criteria often run into the problem of heading toward legalism without even realizing it. Eagerness to figure out how to live a life that is pleasing to God can often lead to artificial rules and standards that the group feels most in it should follow in order to look most Christlike. Questioning the culture can lead to looking down on others who aren't pulling back from it as much as you think they should. Homeschooling can lead to questions about whether Christians you know who aren't homeschooling are sinning because they aren't doing what you're doing. Disputable matters can become far too important in the quest to become more like Christ. In the quest to become more Christlike, people can create points of doctrine to argue over where there should be none.
On the other hand, a church where Christians are not as eager to find God's leading in their daily lives can have a host of other problems just as bad. Christians live in premarital sexual relationships, and no one tries to gently lead them to truth. No one thinks about the content of the media that they put into their minds and hearts. They just watch what everyone else is watching. The Christians in the church look no different than the non-believers around them. There is no struggle against sin; there is easy acquiescence.
What I'm crying out for is a middle ground! I want to find a place where people care greatly about finding God's will for their lives. I want to find a place where others are crying out for God's leadership in their day to day worlds. But I want it to also be a place where that leadership doesn't have to look the same for everyone. Even though I want to homeschool, I want to go to a church where everyone doesn't, and that's ok. Even though I want to cut most TV out of my life, I want to go to a church where everyone doesn't feel pressured to follow me in that. I want to go to a place where people laugh and joke and smile and don't take themselves too seriously in their quest to serve God. I want to be in a place where I sense that disputable matters stay just that, disputable, and where the pastors have not attempted to figure out the one best procedure for most things. I want to be in a place where the feeble attempts of weak Christians to serve their brothers and sisters are applauded and encouraged, even to the point of leadership changing plans to accommodate this important spiritual growth.
I want to find a place where I can relax, be my best, most godly self, and where I don't have to live in dread that either a) blatant sin by either me or anyone else will be smilingly ignored or b) that minute issues will be inflated out of proportion in the never ending quest for the most doctrinally sound, Biblically based solution for something or other. Sigh. Sometimes I feel like I might as well ask for the moon....