I’ve been on a Study Break for the past month, exempt from most of my regular responsibilities, especially meetings, and preparing for an upcoming series of sermons from 1 Corinthians 5-7, Sex in a Broken World. So, my wife and I have attended a different church every Sunday, most that we’ve never visited before, the exception being the last one, though our previous visit was to the traditional service.
I don’t recommend it as a common practice, looking for the “best show in town.” Most people are gone enough on weekends and vacations that we need to be as faithful as we can to our local church, to benefit from the consistency, the relationships, and the opportunities to serve. But for pastors, it is good to see how others “do church” as well as experience worship without being in charge. It’s also a reminder that the family of believers is much larger than our local church, that we aren’t the only good thing going… and it’s a way to get some fresh ideas and get out of some of our own well worn ruts.
We attended four churches in four weeks, the first a moderate sized independent Baptist Church, about the same as our church, several hundred, but less than a thousand. The second was one of the largest churches in the Indianapolis area, an independent Christian church several thousand in size. They were expecting 10,000 the following Sunday, Father’s Day, as Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty would be there to share his testimony. Admission that day would be by ticket only, distributed freely, but necessary for attendance.
Sunday three was a Presbyterian Church (PCA) not far from our house, a few hundred attending, much less staged, observing an infant baptism (practically speaking a baby dedication with water), and a great message on work and rest. Sunday four took us to another large independent Christian church, the contemporary service with heavy rock music and lights, lights and more lights accompanying the singing. The sermon was on the Feeding of the 5,000 and there was also a Duck Dynasty theme. The worship leader looked like he could be a member of the Phil Robertson family.
The Body of Christ, those who openly declare faith in the crucified and risen Christ as their eternal hope, is refreshingly diverse. It’s hard for me to attend anything, my own church or any other without being a critic (I could make a list of things needing to be fixed from all four experiences), but I found meaningful worship that connected to both mind and emotions (the integrated heart includes both) in all four churches.
We successfully attended all four churches without any meaningful personal connection. The most personal connection was the “Greeting time” when the purpose seemed to be to shake as many hands as possible without actually sharing even as much as a name, I call that anonymous fellowship, which is actually an oxymoron. As a visiting pastor, it wasn’t that important to me, but what if we had been visiting for the purpose of finding a church home? It wouldn’t have necessarily been a deal breaker, but we would have had to take all the initiative to go further.
But more than anything, I thank God for the Church. Worship in other contexts and cultures (the Congo, Israel, India, Czech, Hungary, Mexico, Kenya, Ukraine, Lebanon, Texas, Massachusetts to name a few) have all been enriching experiences, but there is “no place like home” where you worship with those you know, serve with, and pray for; those who are called to challenge you and hold you accountable and love you when you are hurting or you mess up.
Faith Church, Indianapolis, has many weaknesses to be sure, but I’m thrilled to call her my church home and family, a vital part of Christ’s body, a church I love. Enough of Church Hopping!,