Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Worst Shopping Trip

I know I have mentioned before that I do not care for shopping. But this shopping experience has been particularly excruciating. Sure, there are the usual assessments: this one is too big, that one is too small; this one just doesn't feel right. This shopping experience is different, though. It involves people. Us. Our future. Our children.

In September, our church was affected by the floods that inundated much of the state. But the physical flood of nature was just one flood the church was battling. We were battling a huge financial flood, and the waters of that flood continued to rise even as the weather-induced flood waters began to recede. The financial story is too long for this forum, and in fact, I do not even know all of the details of the story. What it finally meant for our church, however, was The End.

Although the final service at our church is not until next week, we bowed out a little early for a number of reasons. One is that I have such a strong desire to find a new church home by Christmas. For some reason, that is very important to me. Secondly, we already grieved for the church on that day back in September when the flooding rains just added to the financial catastrophe we were already in. Since that time we have been serving with the children's ministry and felt so detached anyway.

So we began our big, excruciating church shopping trip. It's been awhile since we've done this. When we got married, Mark and I continued to attend the church we attended when we were dating. There was never a question about whether or not we would stay there. But after a few years, we no longer felt it was right for us. That began our first Church Shop. It was a difficult too. We were trying unsuccessfully to start a family, and it seems everywhere we went, we found ourselves in the midst of groups of young marrieds who could talk about nothing but their children.

We finally gave up looking for that church that listed in their church bulletin: Young Infertile Group, Meets at 11:00, Rm. 201 and returned to our church where we were...comfortable. God answered our prayers and gave us 3 children in as many years. By that time, we knew we could not stay at that church any longer. We could see it was a church in trouble, and no one was taking any steps to fix it, nor was anyone listening to our suggestions. We were one of the first to leave. The church closed within a year or two of our leaving.

After we left that church, we found the church where we have been for the last 6 years, the church that has been our Home. It's gone through lots of changes too. The last two years have been tough because of all of those changes. Still, it's been Home. We have created precious friendships there. It is the only church our children remember, the only church our 4th child has known. But those changes have been disheartening, and we kind of just knew the end was near.

So now we are here. Shopping. Some in our church family have merged with another church, but we have chosen not to. The other church is an even greater distance from us, plus we are afraid it will just be "more of the same". The other day I was asked if I felt God "calling us away" from the church that agreed to merge. I'm sure I've mentioned before that I really stink at discerning God's calling. I've been asking God to just tell me what church to go to, but I have yet to hear an audible voice, and I have a difficult time knowing if the prodding I hear is from God or my selfish desires.

We have visited two churches thus far. Of course there are always positives and negatives to each. What's difficult is carting the children around from church to church. Thankfully, the older two are not shy and are therefore game to walking into a room full of strangers; later I have them report to me 3 positives and 3 negatives. Today even Audrey went into her class. They definitely appreciated today's service more than last week's. We felt sort of comfortable today, although the worship time was a little showy. We loved the singing at our old church--we felt we were a part of a contemporary band, yet we didn't feel the worship team was putting on a show. Today you throw in a smoke machine and flashing lights, and it turns kinda showy. Not to mention the pastor didn't go real deep.

I have found that to be true almost across the board. I have listened to more sermons online over the last three weeks than I typically listen to in a whole year. I don't know if it has to do with the "dumbing down of America" or what, but very few pastors go deep. In fact, many pastors barely crack open the Word of God in their sermons. That is very disturbing to me. The problem I'm finding is that we want contemporary worship combined with sermons that go deep, and that combination seems hard to come by.

So that is our journey right now. Thankfully, one difference in a Church Shop in this day and age as compared to our very first Church Shop is that we have the internet where we can "screen" churches before we spend a Sunday visiting. Meanwhile, I continue to hope God will just give me a church name as I read my Bible in devotions tomorrow.


tsinclair said...

I understand all too well. I really like our church a lot, but could do without some of the "showiness". I really like the teaching the pastor does, he goes pretty deep. I just really don't understand the smoke and lights either.

Good luck!

Courtney said...

So frustrating, indeed! So many churches want to tickle the ears of the unsaved to get them in the door and then have something fancy like smoke and lights to keep them there, all the while, the believers are suffering from lack of in depth teaching and discipling. If the Word of God isn't enough to bring them in and keep them there, then they unfortunately, are like some of those seeds in the Parable of the Sower. (Okay. Off of soapbox.)

5thsister said...

I am so sorry you are experiencing this. It can be really frustrating. It seems to me God has been answering your prayers. He's guiding you away from something but towards what? That is the ultimate question. I have no idea what background your faith is in but maybe, just maybe, you are being called to another "brand" of faith. I wish you well and pray you find a church home really soon. God bless.

Momma Such said...

How sad about your old church. I do hope that you are able to find the perfect church for your family. Do not give up hope. Sometimes it takes time for God to answer us (as I'm sure you already know.)
Good luck, although I'm sure you won't need it. :)

dclouser said...

This must be a really hard time for all of you. Losing a church is somewhat like losing a family. We will be praying that God will lead you to just the right one. I never even knew that there were churches with smoke and flashing lights - are you just making a joke there? That is very bizarre if it's really true!

CrossView said...

I feel for you! We left a church after many years because the preaching had gotten so unscriptural that we just couldn't take it. It was hard since we were so heavily involved in it. Teaching SS, leading VBS, etc. It was really tough. We did find an awesome church that had contemporary music and the most amazing sermons. It was a one hour drive - one way. But we stuck it out for 3 years. Then it went to the smoke and lights (literally) and started becoming just a church and so we're looking again. We need something closer that we can plug into. Our biggest problem is living in such a rural area, surrounded by churches, it's too hard to find one that simmply sticks to God's Word and not a preacher's opinion. Some of our best worship times as a family though, have been at the dining room table with Guy doing the talking. But that only works since our kids are older. LOL!

Lately, we've been given opportunities to visit other churches when the 20-yr old is invited to sing at them. I'm praying that one of these will be "it". In the meanwhile, we've met a lot of God's people under different denomination titles.

None of this helps, I know. Just wanted to say that I feel your pain.

And I didn't mean to hijack your blog. ;o)

mareseatoats said...

We did the church hunt about three years ago and were also thankful for all the online resources that helped us weed out those that "didn't fit." I wish you were closer to Cumming because we'd love to have you come check out our church. I pray you guys will find your home soon!

Kathleen said...

You didn't hijack Treasured Chapters, my dear friend Crossview! ;-) No worries!

I'm sorry to hear you are going through the same thing. I pray your shopping trip will end soon, and you will find a new church home where you get fed and are able to form some awesome relationships!

Arby said...

Smoke and lights? In church? It reminds me of, "But I have that within which passeth show; These but the trappings and the suits of woe." Or maybe better, ""Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'" Church shopping. It is a long and arduous process. You will know the right answer when it is given. Just remember: God’s timeline might not match your Christmas deadline.

Kathleen said...

Arby, you are absolutely right about the timing/deadline. Thank you for reminding me of that!