One of the things I stress over each time we move is finding a new church home. "Stress" is probably too strong a word because I trust the Lord to lead us and place us, but I know that we're human and in our humanity can be drawn by the wrong things. At any rate, finding a new church home is one of those things we start working on pretty quickly and in that, we have to more or less grade the churches we visit. I have to guard myself against being judgmental and critical, instead praying to be discerning.
When examining a new church I find myself right away reading the crowd. Are they welcoming? Are they joyful? How do they worship in music? Are they inhibited? Are they "too" exuberant (What does that mean anyway and how would I know?)? Are they showy for showiness' sake? Do they seem sincere?
Then there's the reading of the church leaders? Is the Bible taught in a responsible way? Are they trying to follow some recipe for having a big church? Are they determined not to have a big church? Are they on a track to be decidedly progressive? Are they resisting change at any cost? Are they controlling? Do they let just anything in?
OK - maybe "stress" is exactly the word.
In addition to the above, living at the lake presents a bit of a different challenge for us. We're out from the main heart of city life. It's a 25 minute drive (give or take) to "town" and there really aren't many options for worshipping close to home. As a result, we have add in to our decision the question of whether or not we're willing to drive a good distance to go to church.
So this past Sunday, we decided to start with something close to us. We visited a very sweet church with a very welcoming atmosphere. Now, understand that this church is small enough that everyone knew we were visitors, but still, they were willing to come over and introduce themselves without being pushy or nosey. (I have a thing about nosey.) We noticed right off the bat that there was a guest speaker that day. That's fine. We prefer to hear the main preacher when we visit, but a guest speaker is good, too.
Break: I want to tell you about the guest speaker. I really liked him. His name is listed at "Bro. Kurt Labouve". He is blind and sings as well as teaches. He's country-style. The first thing he did was sing a few gospel songs while he accompanied himself on the piano. Great piano player! He sang these really great songs, several of which he wrote, each filled with good nuggets of Biblical truth. He wasn't a performer as such. He sang from his heart. I liked that.
Next he took the podium to speak/teach. He opened the Bible to Philippians.
Break #2: This really excited me because that appears to be the book of January for me. Louie Giglio taught from Philippians at Passion 2011. Francis Chan taught from Philippians at Passion. I sensed the leading of the Holy Spirit to read Philippians that morning. So... cool.
Back to the sermon: Here are the main points of the sermon.
1) Phil 4:6-7 Cultivate the presence of God.
2) Phil 4:8 Contemplate the principles of God - guard your mind.
3) Phil 4:11 Acclimate to the place God has you.
4) Phil 4:13 Demonstrate the power of God.
5) Phil 4:18-19 Activate God's provision.
Now, back to church hunting (before the 1st break):
This church is probably not where we'll be. It seems to be a bit stuck in a rut and lacking in vision (and I think that we have to keep pressing on in our faith and ministries). However, God provided a timely message for me and I am glad that I had a place to worship this past Sunday. I look forward to trying another church this next week. And just so you know, we don't mind driving a good distance to join others in worship, but we aren't going to go running after the flashiest, most known churches in a "just because" kind of way. We're going to start looking nearby and work our way toward town. It's the only way we really know to do it. In the midst of it all, we'll be praying and asking God to show us where He wants us. I know He has work for me to do and I'm a little anxious to know what it is but I don't want to rush into anything. After all, as far as we know, we'll be here for the rest of our lives. I've never been able to say that before....