Thinking Out Loud

March 12, 2018

Cruising the Denominational Spectrum

Over the years we’ve known people who remained loyal to a single church over the course of their lifetimes. This degree of faithfulness is certainly commendable in some, while with others it seems to represent a measurable amount of stubbornness. In a few cases, it cost their children access to children’s and youth ministry which would have served them well; the absence of it having detrimental effects.

Others have simply packed up and moved on a regular basis. One couple I knew had a three-year rule. It wasn’t written in stone — sometimes it would be four years — but when they felt they were “getting too close” a particular church (their words) it would be time to hop somewhere else.

My thoughts today are about an aspect of this which is particular to the denominational choices implicit in moving from one church to another. In other words, we’re not consider church politics here, or situations where someone was hurt by a church member, or a pastor whose preaching was simply deficient. All of those are significant, but we’re looking at choices made for purely theological reasons.

Generally speaking, many of us will choose a church which is simply like the last one we attended. We may be moving from large church to small church (or the other way around) or moving from traditional music to contemporary music (or the other way around) but we’re not looking to rock our personal boat in terms of core beliefs on both primary and secondary matters of faith.

But there are others who want to shake things up and spend a season of life in a congregation which is quite different — perhaps even the total antithesis — of their current church home. Like these people:

Brett attends a church which is planted smack in the center of Evangelicalism. But he keeps hearing about assemblies which identify as Spirit-filled, move more in terms of gifts like prophecy and healing, have a longer, more dynamic worship time, and are equipped to handle issues in spiritual warfare and deliverance. He decides to check it out.

Amanda attends the same church as Brett. Increasingly she’s finding the services too unstructured. She keeps hearing about churches which follow a more pre-planned order of service including readings from both Old and New Testaments, the gospels and epistles. There are written prayers including classic ones from people long departed. For her this isn’t about superficial worship elements, it is a doctrinal thing. It’s about propriety in worship and she’s found a church that offers that without moving into liberal theology.

Both of these people are moving in different directions along the doctrinal spectrum.

There are also people making greater moves. Imagine someone moving from Brett’s new church to Amanda’s new church. That’s a rather significant change of address. Is this a bad thing?

I would be worried about people whose moves from one extreme to the other are more like pendulum swings. I would also want to watch out for people who are making moves too often; too frequently.

Where I would find value is with people who have spent time at various points on the spectrum; people whose background includes a variety of Christian experience.

The people in my opening paragraph have been, in my opinion, simply stubborn. I say that in their case because it has involved a price to pay — their kids’ lack of good youth ministry exposure in their teens and the results of that — that I would say is too high.

On the other hand, if your church gets high marks in all areas that are relevant to your family, you may find no need to move on. If you’re on board with the church’s programs and priorities, if the teaching and worship are to your liking, and if the community involves people you’ve been doing life with and you continue to be invested in their lives (and they in yours) then there’s no need to move on…

…Most people leave a church because of push factors or pull factors. In other words, there is either something happening where they are that has created in them a need to immediately vacate, or this something attracting them somewhere else that has created a desire to want to not simply check that out (for a visit) but to immerse themselves in such a community for a period of months or years.

The challenge comes when the desire is more of a pull, but the destination is not certain; when the name of the church being sought is an unknown quantity. That may ultimately involve some church-hopping. One does need to try some different flavors to know what one might like. That’s not a bad thing. As long as we’re worshiping God somewhere each week, we don’t have a problem. We are members of a worldwide family of Christ-followers and we should feel welcome anytime we drop into any branch of that family.

Eventually God will show us and circumstances will give us the language to describe what we’re seeking. In a large metropolitan area there will be greater choice. In non-urban situations, it may mean driving a half-hour to get to where we need to be…

…In the pendulum pictured above, there is an apple core. That represents our core beliefs. These are being shaped and formed over the course of our lives. Individual doctrinal spectra might have extremes, but I’ve deliberately chosen to rest the pendulum in the middle. Our core beliefs are formed from a balance on various issues.

Where I stand on issue “X” and “Y” and “Z” might be different from you. Hopefully we all agree on doctrines “A” and “B” and “C” and “D” which form the Statement of Faith of most of our churches. I hope even on “X,” “Y,” and “Z” I’m balanced in my perspective.

If you feel it’s time to move on, leave gracefully.

If you feel it’s time to simply to do some visiting for a season, then don’t burn your bridges. The place you currently call home represents family, and neither they nor God wish to see relationships fractured. You may want to return at some point, and you’ll do so bringing your charismatic or liturgical experiences back with you.

Like Brett and Amanda, be prepared for some new adventures.

Finally a caveat: Avoid chronic church hopping. When you find a landing place, be prepared to stay. Let some roots — even if they aren’t deep roots — sink in.

 

 

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July 9, 2014

Wednesday Link List

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I was looking around for pictures of the 2014 Wild Goose Festival, and found this one from 2013.  Anyone know the backstory on this?

Now that the eye burn-in from weekend fireworks has faded, it’s time to see what people have been reading over the past few days:

Not sure of the origin of the picture below. It was captioned, “What Happened to the Dinosaurs” and the picture file was labeled “Shoo!”

What Happened to the Dinosaurs

August 21, 2011

Changing Churches for all the Right Superficial Reasons

I don’t plan it out this way, but some of the best items here dealing with church issues end up getting posted on Sunday.  This piece at Vic The Vicar’s blog really got me thinking.

…We go to a church because we like the way they play music and yet in doing so ignore the quality of the teaching, the theological truths and the essential tenets. We swing from Anglican to Baptist because they have better coffee and by so doing move from paedobaptism to anabaptism. We move from Pentecostal to Anglican because of the teaching and suddenly we’re into proper liturgy (should start a fight ;) )!

We make our consumer choices without realising the theological and spiritual statements we make.

We make decisions about what our churches should be – we decide that pews restrict the use and then struggle to move or do anything because of the stacked chairs (we always forget to have a room to store stuff!). We speak of open, fluid spaces, which allow us to do so much and then put the chairs out in the same way the pews were…

It’s true, and since I read this a few days ago, I encountered two people who said they changed churches because of the music, and in both cases the change represented a dramatic shift in doctrine, one of which was so extreme that I can’t actually print it here as I have local readers who might immediately recognize the story.

Anyway, I posted this comment at Vic’s:

…I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of someone changing churches because as they were studying a particular scripture they became convinced as to a particular doctrine. It is, as you say, often coffee or music or…

On the other hand, I’d like to see churches offer both decaf and regular coffee, but alas I digress.

Vic the Vicar also has an excellent piece about churches which are given historical site designations which end up hampering their ability to do anything with their building.

  • …One of the members of the offending society visited the building and explained that we were effectively ‘guests’ in a building that was a monument to William Morris…
  • … I did ask whether the society would like to take on the running and maintenance costs of the building as they held it so dear but apparently it wasn’t that dear!!!

Although North America doesn’t have the wonderful old buildings that they have in his native England, this problem is increasingly showing up in Canada and the U.S.

March 24, 2010

First Spring Wednesday Links

While New Mexico and Arizona had snow this winter, we here in Southern Ontario, Canada have hardly seen a flake of it.   But snow in May is not unheard of, especially out on the Canadian prairies.   Here’s the past seven days online as I saw it:

  • If you haven’t seen it already, Peter Hitchens, brother of noted atheist Christopher Hitchens details his conversion in this Daily Mail (UK) article
  • Kent Shaffer has once again dusted off his calculator and slide rule and using a mathematical formula known only to NASA, brings a list of the Top 100 Christian Blogs plus 30 bonus blogs.   (I’m pretty sure the one you’re reading now was # 131.)
  • Speaking of charts and lists, the blog Floating Sheep offers a map showing the dominance of different forms of Christianity around the world, although, maybe it’s just me, but the North American map and the world map seem somewhat conflicted.  See for yourself.
  • Because I don’t watch the animated TV show, King of the Hill, I had never seen this incredibly accurate, must-see bit from two years back where Hank Hill and family decide it’s time for choosing a new church.
  • On a more serious look at the same subject, J.D. Greear — whose goal is to plant 1,000 churches in 40 years (it’s true) — discusses the thorny topic, “On What Grounds Should You Move to Another Church?”  He sees this as finding a balance between two truths.
  • The graphic at the right is apparently page eight of a coloring book, Jesus and the Dinosaurs as posted online by David Kirk at the blog Frogtown.  Love the line, “He probably did.”
  • We talk a lot about the “un-churched,” but Skye Jethani asks the musical question, “Who are the de-churched?” in Part one of a two-part post at Out of Ur.
  • John Stackhouse discusses what happens when pastors — or any of us for that matter — get asked to offer a prayer at an academic, civic or sports gathering, and comes up with an answer you might not expect.
  • Jim Lehmer adds up all things he’s looking for in an ideal church, and finds them in a completely different kind of place.
  • Ever wonder what kind of books pastors are reading?  Greg Boyd — who may not be 100% representative! — shares his list and they’re not titles most of us are familiar with.
  • C.S. Lewis may no longer be with us, but he seems most contemporary when he discusses the where our focus should be in worship.
  • Internal links:  If you missed the two-part series on the weekend, my wife Ruth grieves the loss of our church (again) on Friday, while I look at the issues of who gets to serve — and who decides — on Saturday.
  • The website Fast Company summarizes the implications of Google’s pullout from China, including how it might affect a similar situation in Australia.
  • From The Online Discernmentalist Mafia site; first there was Build-a-Bear, and now…



And before I started this blog, I remember happening on the Prayer Pups. After a two year run, there haven’t been any new strips posted since August, but the archives are worth visiting.


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