Why should choose a particular church?

The last two weekends my oldest daughter has accompanied her friend’s family to their church. She returned home and declared, “I’m going to their church from now on, it’s so fun!”. So she thinks. We will continue to attend our regular church. Her attitude regarding why she wants to attend that church is common among many religious minded church goers. But should it be?

I didn’t choose the church we go to because it’s fun, exciting, or new. Despite my disagreement on some doctrinal points, I chose it because it teaches soundly from the Bible. There is little emphasis on whether passages make you feel good or happy or spiritual. In other words, I chose it because I think what it teaches about what the Bible says is true.

What criteria should a church meet before you consider it acceptable?  Why did you choose the church you did?  What about your church makes it the right one for you?

Comments

  1. Why in a free society in which we celebrate liberty as virtue, do you choose which church another person goes to at all? I suppose an age argument could be made. I suppose a position regarding your rights as a parent, especially a christian parent will be made. But why not let her choose? Why not let your daughter/children explore with some respect for them as independent people, to allow for their own inquiry to lead them to their own place?

    • Nash

      Because I dont ascribe to relativism. I do think there a correct amd incorrect view. Im not going to allow her to choose, at this point, based on shallow vacuous reasons when the truth is relevant.

      • Is it really a conversation about what you subscribe to? Or could it be about the control over another person?
        At what age will your daughter be not under your control? At what age will her voice and her mind be free of such directed outside influences? At what age is her pursuit of happiness relevant?

        Would it be so bad or scary to simply lead by example and let her find her way?

        • It’s not about control in the way you’re parsing it. She is 13 and not steeped in the ability to discern clever and false ideas on her own. She can only determine what appeals to her, religiously speaking. When I’m confident her critical thinking skills are up to par, then I’ll let her investigate and explore Christianity’s competitors.

          Children are notorious for choosing things not based on what is best for them, what is true, or what is correct.

          • How can her critical thinking skills be honed without trying, thinking, discerning, re-testing and then connecting the dots under her own power?

            Children develop very sound critical thinking skills long before the age of 13. I think it’s a bit of an urban myth to treat children like they are not capable of independent analysis. Especially when one is generating their position for them.

            Have you ever engaged her objectively about christian doctrines or any other for that matter while letting her lead the conversation, letting her sink or swim on the merits of her own premise?

            I do this quite often with lots of kids including my own. And the only thing that is surprising is the surprise that I still feel when questioning young minds about the how and why of their presupposed ideas. The actual mechanics of how they got there.

            What I see quite often by many parents is the interpretation of the world and the dissemination of this wealth of information to their kids in a way that makes it easiest for the parents. A matter of convenience, so that they don’t have to go to the trouble of teaching their kids how to kick around an idea on their own.

            Recently I chastised an old friend of mine for “correcting” his neighbors kids for thinking that gay marriage was a negative. He attempted to replace their indoctrinated position with another that he thought was better or morally superior, instead of asking the children “why” they thought what they did. I find that a dialogue to distill ideas down to cause initially can be more helpful than assuming we have to guard our kids against something we don’t agree with.

            For instance, are your kids as versed on the positions of non-theism, as my kids are on christianity? I have never sought to protect or steer my kids away from christianity for fear that they might be swayed because of some idea about truth.

            • youre assuming I’m sheltering her and not developing her critical thinking skills. It’s not rival religious systems I have concern about, its rival Christian denominations that subtly teach error in theology and belief. I don’t want her ending up in a church like Dan Trabue’s. I’m not going to let her choose to be a heretic.

              • “Developing her critical thinking skills”, whilst dictating what she is exposed to and how she is exposed to it, seem at odds.

                “Not let her choose” to be a heretic or anything else is the antithesis of allowing for or enabling teaching critical thinking as a basis for filtering the world around us.

                Unless our defining parameters for the term critical thinking and/or understanding this term are that far apart, it would seem that your control/protection of your daughter is obverse to allowing critical analysis, no?

                Could she not come to you with questions or concerns? Maybe you could ask her what she thinks, no?

  2. paynehollow says:

    I have to believe that you would not hate it, I’m sure, if she ended up at a church like mine. We are solidly Christian in our theology, challenging, uplifting, supportive, inclusive (heck, John, you’d be welcome at our church!) and on top of that, a great deal of fun and joy and beauty can be found at our congregation.

    She could learn to follow in Jesus’ steps at our church. Learn to pray. Learn to pray for and with the least of these, with the marginalized and oppressed. She’d learn about sound biblical teaching, especially the teachings of Jesus Christ our Lord. She’d learn about forgiveness and grace and working for justice. She’d learn about good news for the poor, healing for the sick, visiting and siding with and working with those in need.

    She’d learn to think for herself, not have pablum handed to her or insist that “our way” is the only right way. She’d learn to challenge others and challenge herself. She’d hear great acoustic homegrown music, deep in theology and joy and sorrow. She’d learn about church history and world history, about events old and new.

    You know, John, I bet even you would walk away after a few services thinking, “Hey, that’s not as bad as I was thinking. These are some very decent people and great, humble, flawed, sincere, serious followers of Christ…”

    All of these are the reasons why I am so glad that I found Jeff St. Be wise: Don’t criticize that which you don’t know. Hate on me, if you must, but the people at Jeff St are saints in a very real and tremendous way. Thanks be to God for Jeff St Baptist Community at Liberty! Even though they don’t know you at all and I only know you by these relatively few words we’ve shared, you and your family would be deeply welcomed and loved at Jeff St.

    If you’re ever in Louisville, stop on by. You’d be surprised.

    ~Dan

    • Dan, I would allow her at your church. I dont doubt she’d be welcome, im just not going to let her become like you in her convictions of I can help it.

  3. paynehollow says:

    One sad fact (for them) that most conservatives will have to adjust to is that their children are going to ultimately agree with those of us who embrace gay and lesbian folk as brothers and sisters and who support their equal rights to marry and adopt children.

    I have to wonder what over-all impact this will have on these families? Will they reject their children as “heretics” for disagreeing with them on this point? Will they finally recognize, “Hey, we can agree to disagree on some topics and I don’t have to demonize or deny their Christianity simply because we disagree on that point…”?

    I hope for the latter.

    The second Saturday of every month, we have an open mic coffee house for all, but especially for our homeless and mentally ill friends. Those are great nights to stop by and get introduced to Jeff St. – as well as getting to know the homeless and mentally ill.

    If you’re ever in town…

    ~Dan

  4. paynehollow says:

    For what it’s worth, in our cases, my family and my wife’s family (who vehemently disagree with our position on the topic) have ultimately still recognized our Christianity – came to see our kids baptized and all – and just avoid discussing the topic. An uneasy truce. As have most of our other church friends who come from conservative families, with the noted exception of too many of our gay and lesbian friends who have been rejected by their families.

    Tis a shame.

    I suspect that if and when your collective children turn out to be more progressive than you all, you’ll still by and large accept them and their faith, for who they are and what they believe, even if you disagree with it. Just as we’d continue to accept our children if they turn out to be more conservative than us (at least a couple of our beloved church children has joined/is joining the military and we still embrace and support and love them, even if it’s in contradiction to most of our position on peacemaking and Christianity… we disagree, it happens, no harm, no foul…)

    That’s one of the great things about the Baptist/Anabaptist tradition: a deep respect for the “priesthood of the believer” and religious liberty.

    ~Dan

  5. paynehollow says:

    It’s a good question. For me, a church of Christ should be…

    1. one that teaches the Gospel of Jesus, as found in the Bible, not in mere cultural traditions. In choosing a church, I’d want that to be in place first of all.

    2. I’d want it to be challenging and uplifting – a church that teaches and practices salvation by Grace.

    3. One that recognizes we’re mere mortals, not God’s gift to earth. As such, it would be one that takes itself seriously, but not too seriously.

    4. Because Jesus began his ministry by announcing that he had come to bring Good News to the poor and his ministry focused so much on the poor and marginalized, I’d want my church to do so, as well. I’d want it to be a church that practices Grace and Justice WITH the poor (as opposed to being a church TO the poor or FOR the poor, which seems to be too patronizing, patriarchal, Top Down, rather than Bottom Up)

    5. I’d want it to be a church that believes in the notion of religious liberty and the priesthood of the believer – our right and duty to follow God as we best understand it – and makes room and welcome space for such a potential diversity of opinion, which can be messy. So, see 3. (don’t take ourselves too seriously)

    6. I’d want it to be a church of Joy, one where we find great joy in the company and presence of the Community of Faith.

    Like that.

    I would let my kids (expect my kids) to figure out their own way in understanding God, but I certainly would want my church to be a place where my kids felt a sense of community and welcome, too. I think it would be quite damaging to my kids’ faith to take them to a place where church made them miserable. I’ve seen too many kids just itching to be old enough to reject church because it was so out of touch, as they understood important matters. I would want my church to be very much a church that is involved in the world, even if they aren’t of the world.

    Thanks for asking.

    ~Dan

  6. paynehollow says:

    You reject the notion of religious liberty?

  7. paynehollow says:

    I don’t really define religious liberty the way you appear to be. I define it as the notion of having the liberty and responsibility to decide for yourself decisions about religious questions. That’s not really the same thing as “any other way to God is just fine.”

    Look, let me give an example: A fella in church believes that smoking is a sin (it harms the “temple of Christ”). Another fella believes that it is not a sin. They both respect the others’ religious liberty to decide for themselves on this matter and don’t let that disagreement break their fellowship.

    One person thinks that the Penal Substitutionary Theory of atonement is the best understanding of atonement, another thinks the Ransom theory makes most sense, another thinks the Moral Example is best and yet another doesn’t think we need to hold to any theory of atonement.. and all of these folk can worship together because they respect the religious liberty of the others to decide for themselves which is the best explanation.

    I have to think that, at least to some degree, you do agree with religious liberty – that we each are responsible between us and God to follow God as best we understand God. You don’t think that we need to hold to the Pope or some other human’s answers on any question, do you?

    The notion of religious liberty is not the same as Universalism (which sounds more like what you’re speaking of – “any way to God is fine…”)

    ~Dan

  8. paynehollow says:

    Oh, and I have not said anything about “outside of Christianity.” Your words, not mine.

    Perhaps you are speaking more about universalism?

    ~Dan

  9. paynehollow says:

    Nash, in response to some of your earlier comments: Would you let your child (say, under the age of 14) attend church at a snake-handling church? The Westboro church?

    I think there is plenty of room for limitations for younger children.

    ~Dan

    • Of course I would. Not only would I, I have.

      I took my oldest to a gathering of WBC in Dallas last year. Not a church service of course, because they don’t take any outsiders beyond their family, but I let him see what they do on the street while they protested using christianity to spread their message.

      As for snake handling, no. There are none of those congregations anywhere near here. But if there was, I would certainly accompany him, if he wanted to go at all, which I am sure he would because at 8 years old he loves a good loud bizarre spectacle. Would I let him handle a rattlesnake? No.

      Why do you feel it is so necessary to protect children Dan? That’s a tendency for for the new liberal bent, to make it their mission to protect everyone’s children from everything. Like I said above, kids can ascertain a much more than this culture gives them credit for.

      In fact we had a chat about the KKK recently, he was floored.

      So “limitations” apparently means something very different for me than to you or John.

      I limit my childs exposure to lots of things I deem dangerous or activities in which with no degree of certainty can I claim a modicum of safety. My kids have zero access to porn, no rattlesnakes, liquid mercury, or volcanoes, but a corrective or protected state against ideas? No way.

  10. paynehollow says:

    Well, since Jesus has not told us any one reason of why he specifically “had” to die, why would we demand others “must” ascribe to one theory or another?

    There are many verses someone might point to in order to support one theory or another, but Jesus did not tell us, “Yeah, it’s the Ransom theory of Atonement,” or “you must believe in the PS Theory of Atonement in order to be saved…” or “it’s definitely all about the Moral Example atonement notion…” These are all human ideas and theories about something not strictly, literally mentioned in the Bible (theories of atonement).

    Jesus speaks…

    1. of his life being “a ransom”
    2. of how his blood will “seal a contract/covenant”
    3. of how he didn’t have to die at all, but that he chose to lay his life down

    4. The author of Hebrews speaks of how Jesus died to “beat” Satan, ” that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil”

    5. Peter speaks of how Jesus came, “leaving us an example, that we might follow in his steps…”

    6. And Paul speaks of how Jesus came to “pay a price” to “purchase” our forgiveness and salvation.

    There are, of course, other passages and other words, speaking of various aspects of why Jesus came, lived, taught, suffered and died and rose again from the dead.

    On what basis would I say that someone HAS to choose one or the other in order to be “right…” and accepted at my church? I choose to give my brothers and sisters in Christ the liberty to figure it out for themselves, the best they can, as they do for me. Or rather, not to “give them the liberty,” but recognize that they/we/I all have that liberty and responsibility to figure it out for themselves, the best they can.

    I can see no rational or biblical reason why I would insist they must agree with me on this point. Do you have one?

    ~Dan

  11. paynehollow says:

    Oh, my kids get around, and have for years. They’ve been to Muslim meetings, interfaith meetings, fundamentalist meetings, etc, as have I. I don’t generally “protect” them too much. I, like you appear to do, am fine with exposing them to a wide swath of beliefs.

    But I would not let my child – especially my young child – go to just any meeting and certainly not unattended. I wouldn’t let them attend a KKK meeting alone, or a Westboro Baptist meeting alone. I’m just acknowledging that, as much as I value exposure to a variety of beliefs, I have limits. Certainly, I would not let them attend a Pedophiles Anonymous meeting alone.

    I’m not talking about a protective state against all ideas. Just limits on where I’d let them go, which do exist.

    Surely you have some limits, too?

    ~Dan

    • We have limitations. John, has his which are quite narrow, yours which are looser, and mine which are probably regarded by most christians as alien and irresponsible.

      I let my kids do and see a lot and then we engage those ideas/beliefs, but as I listed above, there are limitations, and I do accompany them when I think it’s necessary.

      For instance, my oldest has a friend across the street who comes from a huge christian family. The father is a youth pastor, and they are fundamentalist to the core. Before my son went the first time I had a chat with the Father about what my kid should expect, and he said that beyond the rules of the house and saying grace over dinner, nothing.

      He plays there all the time, we talk about what grace means to these folks, what there god means to them, and I ask what he thinks. So far he remains unconvinced of an eye in the sky, but who knows, maybe someday he will.

      I think this shows my point above about how generally the religious, limit children, whereas non believers don’t. Of all of my atheist friends, none of them indoctrinate their kids with non-belief.

  12. I choose according to how faithful to Biblical teaching the church is. The sincere desire of individual members to also be faithful would result in less variation between them in what is believed to be true and accurate. That’s not to say that there would never be disagreement, but such disagreement, should they be expressed in discussion, would lead to deeper study of the issue in question so as to expose truth. Exposing truth is the search for what is, not merely what one prefers to believe.

    That truth is that Jesus came into the world to save us from ourselves, to provide a means by which we would no longer be separated from God because of our sin. This is the Good News He brought to all (not just the poor) and the purpose of His ministry.

    I have no respect for a church that is afraid to preach the truth and stand firmly for truth. Far better a church close its doors for lack of membership, than to preach that which is pleasing to the ears in order to remain open.

    “One sad fact (for them) that most conservatives will have to adjust to is that their children are going to ultimately agree with those of us who embrace gay and lesbian folk as brothers and sisters and who support their equal rights to marry and adopt children.”

    This is not a sad fact merely for conservatives. It is a sad fact for all. Conservatives, by and large, are simply too convicted in the faith to reject Biblical teaching in order to appease the world, even if that means losing their children. We do not forsake embracing our children when they stray from the truth, as has Dan and his ilk. And we weep when they refuse to accept truth in favor of worldly temptations and pressure from evil influences, such as Dan and his ilk. But as for me and my house, we serve the Lord and that might mean casting out unrepentant sinners, even if they are also our children. I have no doubt that those poor, victimized but holy as hell homosexual friends of Dan’s were of that lot. They likely were not cast out by their churches and families for “being” homosexual, but for insisting on living the homosexual lifestyle. Those churches and families were righteous in refusing to compromise their belief just to appease the feelings of their unrepentant children.

    And this is a sign of a good and righteous church. It’s doors remain open to those who would repent, even if repentance does not come smoothly and the sinner continues to struggle with their temptations. Dan’s church acts on the heretical by insisting that what is sin is not sin at all.

    One can search Dan’s blog archives and find a few posts dedicated to sermons preached by his pastor. One can then see what poor theology is honored there.

  13. paynehollow says:

    I don’t know, it doesn’t sound like your limitations are any different than mine. My kids are free to associate with conservatives and fundamentalists, with Muslims or different faith traditions. And I’ve taken them places where I’ve been with them. John was speaking of an instance where he let his daughter go someplace unaccompanied. I was just acknowledging that I have limits of where I let my kids go, especially alone, but they’re mostly due to safety, just as you have noted.

    I would not let my kids attend a KKK rally – on the side of the KKK, but that is 1. for reasons of safety and 2. I would not want my very young children be there alone and I would not go and stand with the KKK just because my kids wanted to.

    On the other hand, I hope (and believe) my kids would be like that young person who stood between a KKK member and someone trying to beat him.

    For the most part, I’m not especially worried about my kids being indoctrinated by more fundamentalist types for at least a two reasons: 1. I trust my kids, they’re smart and we’ve raised them well and 2. fundamentalists tend to be boring to listen to (beyond the fascination factor and not especially intellectually inviting.

    ~Dan

  14. The difficult part of dealing with one’s children as regards their desire to attend church and/or believe what is taught, is largely the result of the difficulty of staying engaged with one’s kids and helping them to understand what church is supposed to be about. It is nice to “enjoy” going, but enjoyment is not the reason for attending. Worshiping God is the reason. The sacrifice of the time it takes to prepare for and travel to and attend & participate in worship services is a worthy expenditure of that time. Kids don’t easily get that. “Fun” churches likely do little to truly instill the proper message, as “fun” is the focus. Attention spans being what they are, especially with kids, compels churches to provide “kid friendly” programs, but if the result is kids not getting the most important message about why we are Christian, they will likely stray anyway.

  15. paynehollow says:

    As to other answers to your post’s question, I would say it may also depend on where the person is at in their lives.

    For those who are in dire need of emotional healing and welcoming, a welcoming, healing, affirming church is what they may need.

    For those who are feeling comfortable in their faith and like they have all the answers, a church that is exceptionally challenging and questioning may be what they need.

    For those who have been betrayed by former churches, a church that is loyal and loving to a fault may be what they need.

    Christ comes to meet us where we are. Our churches should do the same, seems to me.

    ~Dan

  16. brycelancaster says:

    The biggest problem I had with the Mormon church, (and this is something I articulated well before I started to come to terms with being gay), is how the leaders are nearly worshipped by the congregation, and almost are like mini-gods themselves. Hell, the top leader is called “The Prophet”! Here in Utah, it’s not uncommon to have an announcement at a basketball game informing the delighted (mainly Mormon) crowd that somebody from the Quorum of Twelve Apostles was watching the game. I disliked the hero worship heavily, they were just men after all. But they were treated as rock stars, and I had a problem with that.

    And it wasn’t just at the top of the organization. I detested meeting with my Bishop before temple renewals and being asked about any masturbation habits, porn watching habits, cursing habits, and having my entire life explored by a man I barely knew. It was invasive and humiliating. Every young man and woman had to go through this process in order to advance in positions in the church. Each time they advanced. The Bishops and The Stake Presidents had a very frightening amount of power over the congregations and I hated it.

    I’m currently searching for a new church. My old experiences left a very sour taste in my mouth for religion overall, but I miss the spirtuality. In my search for a new denomination, I think my biggest criteria is how highly the leaders take themselves. If the local pastor thinks it’s okay to take aside every young man and woman and ask them if they masturbate, I’ll take my spirtuality somewhere else. If they acknowledge the fact that they’re men and women just like everyone else, (I paused before using the pronoun “her”, but I’m sure there are female pastors), and they’re job is to articulate messages already given to us, than that would meet my biggest criteria.

    (You can argue that it’s okay for leaders to do things like that, I can understand that argument. I personally think it’s invasive and an abuse of power. I certainly wouldn’t want my kids exposed to it.)

  17. I choose my church based on how attractive the pastor is. The guy at our church is pure eye candy. ;)

    PS- Stand firm, dear brother.

  18. paynehollow says:

    Creepy.

    I’m sure you’re not in Kentucky, but just to give you a taste of other churches out there, here’s a link to my baptist/anabaptist-y church’s blog, with some snippets of life there, just for what it’s worth…

    http://www.jeffstreet.blogspot.com/

    And yes, there are women pastors out there. My pastor is the best preacher I’ve ever known, to my tastes, anyway.

    And I agree that one huge red flag would be any church that idolizes their leaders too much. Enjoying, respecting, supporting them is one thing. Giving them too much power, too much authority, too much worship, that is not a good idea. Seems to me.

    I prefer the more egalitarian, communal approach to church (meaning, I think it’s the more biblical, more appropriate, more reasonable approach).

    ~Dan

  19. This is a relevant question for me, as we had been searching for a church through much of last year.

    There were a couple of things we wanted to avoid. One was a church of the “feel good” variety. The sort that was more about the show and making people haaaappppyyyy, rather than about truth. I had stopped going to church around the time more and more of them were including all out bands, with electric guitars and so on. It was more about trying to attract a demographic with flash and a show than about reality. I found it obnoxious.

    The other was excessive dependance on ritual and routine. I appreciate the value of it, and the significance it can have, but I saw too many people obsessed with the rituals rather then the reason for them. Sit-stand-kneel may have a purpose, but that purpose is not to deaden the mind with endless routine.

    I also wanted a church that welcomed children. I tried to go to mass one time after my oldest daughter was born. She behaved really well, but being a baby just a few months old, she did make some slight noises. I got death glares for it. We were certainly not welcome.

    Growing up and going to church, the entire family took part. Yes, there were places for parents to take their kids if they needed to, but the idea of farming the kids off into “Sunday school” instead of sharing mass with everyone else bothered me a great deal. It seemed like the adults didn’t want the kids around at all.

    As for what we *did* want, we searched for something more cerebral. Dessert may be nice, but it was steak we were craving.

    We went to a number of churches around our city. The first was a non-denominational evengelical church. We actualy quite liked it. Congregation was welcoming, and diverse in age as well as ethnicity (in a heavily multi-ethnic city such as ours, that told me something). We enjoyed the sermons and the Bible study we took part in one time. We actually considered staying there but decided we really ought to check out more.

    There was a “megachurch” that we’d wanted to check out for some time (Canada’s “megachurches” are not quite the same as in the US, from what I understand. For starters, they’re a lot smaller). It was more curiousity. We really didn’t expect too much out of it. This place had just expanded to a new location and hadn’t even had their “grand opening” yet. They had a “Kidz Church” in another building, but children were welcome with the adults, too. It was packed and energized. They had a band with smoke machines and big screens and lots of singing. I happened to have a really bad day (week, really) that day, and all that positivity was exactly what I needed. We were pleasantly surprised by the sermon, which was quite informational. We learned quite a bit.

    I was a little startled that people could make their offering by using debit or credit, in the lobby, after service.

    The congregation was quite young, enthusiastic and multi-ethnic. I went a few times, accompanied by one daughter or the other (my husband was unable to join us for health reasons). One daughter liked it, the other didn’t. The little ones (now 8 and 9 yrs old) liked both the children’s church and the main church.

    There was, however, no weekly Lord’s Supper. This startled me, as not having communion every Sunday just hadn’t entered my mind. Turns out they had it only once a month, or for special occaisions. When they did have it, the bread and grape juice was handed out in little plastic containers as people entered (we came in early and missed them) that had to have their tops peeled back, like creamers in a deli.

    Then we tried another “megachurch”. This one was much larger and more established. The children’s area was actually a “Kidztown,” complete with a store. The little ones got gift bags and stuff to take home. They certainly liked that, but it wasn’t much “church” for them.

    The complex not only had Kidz Town, but a book store, coffee shop, library and more. Like the other church, people could use debit or credit for their offeratory.

    Aside from the big song and dance entertainment, we were quite impressed by the sermon and they didn’t back away from issues facing Christians around the world, such as persecution in Islamic countries.

    The congregation tended to be more middle aged, though there was diversity of ages. It also seemed to be quite wealthy – and people were more than willing to share that wealth. After going there a couple of times, my younger daughter didn’t like it, but my older daughter had an interesting thing to say about it. It was a place she’d love to giver her money to, for the amazing things they were doing, but she didn’t want to go there.

    No weekly Lord’s Supper in this one, either.

    The next one we went to was a Baptist church near the care centre the mother of our little ones lived in. We passed it every time we took them to see her.

    This one was… odd.

    It was absolutely packed. The congregation was very … white. And fashionable. Hipster, even. There seemed to be a lot of money there, too. They had singers and musicians in front – not a big band or show – and people didn’t really seem intent on singing along, though there were sheer cloth veils and cloth ribbons on sticks for people to dance with at the front, if the mood struck them (we were squeezed into the back and it took me a while to figure out what I was seeing). Then, when a song would be done, it felt really weird not to be clapping (the musicians were quite good).

    Then things got weird. After the sermon, which didn’t really say a whole lot, there was talk about mission trips and two people went up to talk about one of them. They did this strange little skit that involved a recorded voice speaking Spanish, which one of them lip synched to, while the other “translated.” People were laughing at the “jokes” but we were just cringing. It was so unadvertently racist!! Then this young woman was brought up and introduced, as she was about to go on a mission trip, and they talked to her for a bit. She came across as incredibly ditzy (we really hoped it was nervousness), then made comments that were also inadvertently racist.

    We were glad to get out of that one.

    No Lord’s Supper, again. No idea if they did it regularly.

    After that, we decided to try a Lutheran church. There’s a street a few blocks from us that has something like 8 different churches in 3 blocks, including 3 Lutheran ones. The little ones went straight to Sunday School, which they liked. My younger daughter and I went to service. As much as I hadn’t wanted to do the sit-stand-kneel thing again, I found the routine very soothing (the only kneeling was during the Lord’s supper, which my knees didn’t appreciate. I needed my daughter’s help to get up again). The congregation was tiny, much older and very German – in fact, we took in the only English service of the day – and I did have some troubles understanding the pastor because of his accent. The sermon was really interesting, and finally sharing in the Lord’s Supper really hit home for me. For my younger daughter, of all the ones we’d gone to so far, this was the one she enjoyed most.

    At that point, I figured it a Lutheran church was what seemed to be what we were after, we may was well check out the one just up the block from the Baptist church we’d gone to, since it was so close to the girls’ mom.

    It wasn’t a large congregation and it was mostly much older, with a young pastor. Part way through service, there was a call for kids to come up for the children’s service. My two were the only ones. Pastor talked to them for a while, and they loved it. I loved how he talked to their level, without talking down to them, as so many adults tend to do. Then the Sunday school teacher took them out to a 2nd floor classroom, bringing them back for blessing during the Lord’s Supper.

    Everyone was amazingly friendly and welcoming. The girls fell totally in love with the Sunday school teacher, and the entire congregation fell in love with them. Coming to this church literally felt like coming home. I was decided pretty much by the end of the service, and after talking to my daughter and the little ones, that decision was finalized. We’ve been going back every Sunday since, and I’d started going to weekly Bible studies, too. There are also Bible studies before every Sunday service, but I have not yet been able to take one of them in, yet.

    Over the next while, we got to know more people there (I had to have a special talk with the pastor to explain our situation with the little ones) and it was an amazing thing for the girls. Soon, they both asked to be baptised. We talked about it with them, their mom and the pastor to make sure they understood what they were asking for. They were insistent. They were baptised on the 2nd of March. Their mom was even able to attend, zipping down the street in her wheelchair in -30C weather!

    On the 7th of March, their abusive father suddenly returned from Egypt, and by the end of the day, social services had taken the girls from me and turned them over to their dad, at his hotel, and left them there with nothing but the clothes on their backs and the contents of their backpacks.

    Once word of this got out, the entire congregation has come out in support of us and their mom. Their Sunday school teacher turned out to be a maintanance enforcement knee breaker, and I don’t know what we would have done without her. She literally walked me from place to place, getting things done that I wouldn’t have even known to find out about.

    The whole situation is really bad right now, with huge screw ups on the part of the social worker, which children’s services is now trying to cover for. It’s been crazy; on the one hand, the social worker is making excuses for the dad’s behaviour and treating their mom and I like we’re the threat, while on the other, the courts have granted their mom an emergency protection order and a restraining order for myself. The church we found has been a source of both comfort and tangible help. We have a long battle in front of us, but the church we found, that felt like home the first time I went there, has been right there alongside us in ways I never would have expected.

  20. John,
    This is a really good topic. I respect your decision as a parent. I believe that an entire family should attend the same church. I think this is a good teaching moment to make sure she doesn’t develop any postmodern objectives to your church. I recommend this short book for your family as a Bible Study. I suggest you read it first (http://www.amazon.com/Am-Church-Member-Discovering-Difference/dp/1433679736).

    At the same time it’s important to balance that with the fact that God may one day truly have a different denomination or church for her. This is my story. In hindsight I have addressed many of the postmodern/”unacceptable” reasons for leaving like, “the music is slow”, “people gossip”. I believe the acceptable objections should be Bible based where theological imbalances are raised for which one cannot pay the cost for and there is just no spiritual growth or fruits of the Spirit in one’s life. If any believer can find a place where they can have spiritual growth so much to the fact that non-verbally they are a witness by their transformation from deep strongholds and issues then they should stay in that church.

    I have learned that no church is perfect. This is almost a cliche but there will always be a cost to following Jesus and something will always be off in a church. Something will always be off because we humans are in the church. If one church is strong in works, it needs more teaching on faith. One church is continuationist but they are weak in God’s practical truth like you have to eat fruits and vegetables. Etc, etc. All of these polarized examples are because of man and NOT because of God and the Bible (..Let God be true and every man a liar..Romans 3:4). James 2 addresses the balance between faith and works and Eccelesiastes and Proverbs have plenty of practical God given information.

    The question is can we pay the cost of following Jesus, Can we still gather together in love and through prayer bear up one another when we see something off and does your church allow for some freedom for you still seek to grow in faith.

    • @Zanspense and All,

      It doesnt bother me if she would want to align with a different denomination. Like I said, I attend a theologically reformed church even though I’m not reformed in my theology because it’s either that or hyper-liberal theological churches like United Methodists, Unitarian, or PCUSA Presbyterian.

      Once I see that she can think critically when it comes to religio-philosophical issues, and can recognize true theological falsehoods and how to deal with them, she will have a longer leash, so to speak.

  21. LOL. Love AskTheBigot’s on time funny comment.

  22. John,

    At the risk of opening a can of worms, I just want to point out that not all PCUSA congregations are hyper-liberal. Many are, the denominational leadership is,but not all of the congregations.

    It’s actually been Interesting to see how, as the theologically liberal folks have taken over the denominational leadership, that the amount of intolerance and hatefulness has been directed at the folks who think that moving away from the historical stances of the denomination is a problem. You know, like basic theism, and other radical concepts.

    On topic, I agree that as parents we need to provide guidance to our children as they grow, and that attending church is one of those areas of guidance. However, I’ve been pretty open to my kids visiting other churches, certainly wouldn’t give them free reign at a young age. I have to say that it has been encouraging to see that my oldest has made an excellent church choice in the city where he goes to school.

  23. Hey John,

    I started to give several reasons as to why I’m a member of the church of Christ (and why I believe others should be too) but I remembered that one brother wrote an article the other day that basically sums up what I’d say: http://forthright.net/2014/03/06/why-i-am-a-preacher-in-churches-of-christ/

    The article deals with why he preaches for the church (as the title obviously states), but the same principles apply as to why he, I and others are members regardless of whether or not we preach. To his “list” I would ad others reasons like the nature of Jesus and the nature of the church herself (origin, mission, fellowship, etc.) but I believe it to be a fair enough article as far as your main question goes.

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