Tis is the season for church shopping! Some people are getting back from vacation and want to try something new, while others are relocating for school, work or family reasons. Over the next month or so (especially in Raleigh), we will see a number of people visiting, watching and trying to decide if “Church A” or “Church B” is better for them. If you fall into this category (or even if you don’t), I want to share 2 things with you.

1. Make sure you are asking the right question. Many people visit a church and on the way home process with their friends or family. The question that generally gets answered is, “Well…did you like it?” I wonder if we decided to change this question how it would affect the way that we “shop” for a church? I wonder what would happen in churches all over Raleigh if the question moved from “Did you like it?” to “Can I belong here?” The former makes us consumers, and the latter helps us to be disciples in community. If you really want to be a part of a community…if you want to find people that will spur you on in your faith…if you desire to be more than just a spectator…then perhaps the things that you see need some improvement are actually opportunities for you to belong. Maybe the lack of X or Y at the church is God calling you to fill a void. God can actually strengthen churches when we realize that worship services aren’t there to impress us, but to invite us into an authentic worshipping community. If we are asking, “Did you like it?” I promise that you will be disappointed at some point with your church decision. If we are asking, “Can I belong here?” you will see the needs, the opportunities and the warts that all churches have – and in seeing and knowing those, you will actually find what you are looking for: broken people, serving a God that makes all things new!

2. Sitting on the sidelines will increase your idealism and isolation (thanks to James Sutton over at Christ the King Raleigh for this one). A friend of mine wrote a blog post about his church community in the foothills of NC. He shares about his journey from being an “outsider” on the sidelines to finding a community of people that are pushing him to grow, love and live in the light of the gospel with others. Here are his words:

I remained skeptical/cynical.  I stayed on the fringes, critiquing every little word of the sermon that I disagreed with or the lyrics to the music, or–and this is a good one–I was critical of the fact that this tight knit group that said so much about community didn’t pursue me even though I chose to remain on the outside looking in.  Classic catch 22.  (or maybe not I never really read that book.)

But then or perhaps I should say but God…

I discovered a writer named N.T. Wright and read one of his books.  I started listening to a phenomenal preacher on podcast.  And I stopped critiquing everything Matt Orth [one of the teaching elders] said or didn’t say and started listening to his heart.  And most importantly of all I started listening to the Spirit.  About this time in a basement down by the river we started reading a book called Bruchko.  I didn’t like the first chapter.  I may or may not have made that public.  But as we went through the book discussing and praying, something happened.  I began to open up my life to these men–to this body of believers.  I stopped worrying about perception and began revealing who I was.  And they received it and reciprocated.  It just took a little effort on my part to realize that I wasn’t being kept on the fringes, I was deciding to stay there.

No doubt there are a number of factors in choosing a church community to belong to. Considering the structure, theology and even denomination can guide you as you seek to be part of a community, but perhaps more than these, we pray that the Spirit would call people over the next month to invest in communities of faith all over Raleigh, that Jesus might be praised more and more. If you want to talk through this blog post or anything else on your mind, shoot me an email.

We are less without each other…

Pastor Jay