Thinking Out Loud

June 16, 2011

So Which Church Would You Visit?

On Tuesday I created this hypothetical story and then posed a question…

  1. You are just married, no kids, and have moved to a rather small-ish town with very limited church choices within the type of church you’re familiar with; in fact, there is only real possibility according to the information you were given before you moved.
  2. You make contact with someone to get the address and time only to discover that this particular church has had some kind of split with half the congregation staying and half going to a new location.
  3. The person you’re talking with is very helpful and informative, but doesn’t attend either and really can’t offer you a thing as to why the church split and what the particular issues were.
  4. You have to choose between the two; picking something else or staying home isn’t an option in this particular scenario.

So which one do you choose and why?

There is actually a good reason to choose one over the other.  But it might be a different choice for different people.

Let me begin by saying that I think there are strong compelling arguments for both choices.  Especially when you consider that in information point #1, it says quite clearly, “you have just moved.”  Starting at the beginning, at the church which was recommended to you, makes a lot of sense.  It would also give you context to know the situation the breakaway group is coming from.

Church of Star Trek south of Lynchburg, Viriginia; You never really know what a new church is all about, do you?

You’d also want to consider the possibility that the breakaway group is simply a bunch of malcontents.  The complainers.  The trouble-makers.  The chronically dissatisfied.  I’ll grant you that.

You would also want to consider the possibility that the splinter group is the beginning of a cult fringe; the possibility that they broke away over some obscure point of doctrine or some misinterpretation of a scripture passage.  Here are some comments from Tuesday:

  • My gut reaction is to go with the church that stayed and didn’t move to a new location. My reasoning is that I would be very suspicious of why the other group left, was there no effort made for reconciliation if there were obvious differences between the two camps? However, it really is hard to answer not knowing all the details, maybe they left due to theological differences, if so, can they really be faulted?
  • Being Anglican, the church that moved onward would probably have been the group that was more orthodox. Liberals [or revisionists – for revising what Scripture says to allow non-biblical moral standards of behaviours] would stay. Only those keen for Jesus would move on.
  • i would be inclined to favor the group that “stayed the course.” if there are issues within a fellowship, leaving (especially en masse) is a last resort. if they had stayed and prayed, the lord would have made the necessary changes (in the situation or in their hearts).
  • …The group that stayed could have become liberal in its thinking and social in its outlook – or the same could be said of the group that left, departing from the true basics… (One of a couple of comments that tried to break the rules and suggest going to both; which you probably would eventually, but this was about choosing your first visit in your new hometown.)

The deck seems a bit stacked, doesn’t it?

Having said all that…

…I’d choose the new group.

The reason is simply the argument from church history that so many new movements and so many fresh works of God began in places where a group reached a crossroads and decided it was time for change.  I would want to see if the break-off group fits that paradigm and if indeed a fresh wind of the Holy Spirit is recognizable in their Sunday worship. 

I’ve also found in my own life that sometimes it is interesting to be part of something at its genesis.  Plus… I would always be able to visit the original group afterward without having actually arrived and “left” in that particular sequence.

Furthermore, if the new splinter group is off the rails doctrinally, it would be good to find that out right away; but if they are doing a good thing, it would be good to support them at a time when they need warm bodies.  

So… does that work for you, or are those arguments insufficient?

Remember, people blog because they write well and because they are provocative!  You’re allowed to disagree!

1 Comment »

  1. pithy bits of wisdom. I guess there are implications for a small town too, since people at each church could get to know you, and give you [or not] a welcome into their portion of town life…

    Comment by Brian — June 16, 2011 @ 11:37 am

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