Thursday, October 25, 2012

New Church

From the very beginning, we've felt that God would call us to a new church once we moved. On one hand, we loved the idea of worshiping in our community. On the other hand, we'd been at our church for most of our married life. It was our home. We were connected and loved, we respected our pastors and felt excited about the direction of the church.

We tried to tell ourselves that maybe we needed to let church be the same for a while; maybe our kids would benefit from something staying certain. The drive wasn't that far.

But it was clear to us - this was a package deal. It didn't make sense to us to live in one place and worship in another. We want to serve our community alongside a church family. We want "people" - close-by people. We have done it before, but it's harder for us to live connected, in close community, when there are too many miles between us.

I dreaded the thought of church shopping. It didn't help that there are about eighteen thousand churches in Goshen. We aren't particularly committed to a particular denomination.  We don't really have friends living over here to make recommendations.

We started to think hard about what means the most to us in a church. Aside from sound, Biblical teaching, what do we value most? Are we looking for a large church with plenty of opportunities to get involved? Do we want a vibrant kids' program? Top-notch communicators? A certain style of worship? Lots of young families with kids?

From the start, we knew it was likely that we would be happiest in a smaller church with some traditional elements.

That's pretty much all we had.

A few weeks ago, on a whim, we visited the church just two blocks down. The building is old, but not old enough to be cool. The congregation was a sea of white curls. Worship was a keyboard and two ladies with microphones; one of the songs we sang was one I hadn't heard in over twenty years. The pastor was soft-spoken, unassuming, not hip at all; yet he shared truth with conviction and wisdom. He spoke about sharing the Good News with the neighborhood - our neighborhood.

I relaxed into the hard-backed pew, wishing I could read Cory's mind, trying to decode his thoughts through the pressure of his hand around mine.

Through the hymn, through the Lord's prayer, my heart beat steady - Little is Much. This humble church with its retirees and potluck suppers, it might be just what we need. It might need us back.

It didn't make sense on paper, but not much of our life does anymore.

So this is where we've landed.

(We've never felt younger.)

How did you know that you'd found your church home? Is there a particular thing that tops your list? I'm way intrigued.


  1. This was my family's story exactly about a year ago. I felt compelled to write about our reasoning as well. You can read it here

    Also, it is so warmimg to see the "sea of white curls" light up every time our Littles are running around, to hear their stories of the good ol' days and to just be comforted by all the wise years they have experienced.

  2. A year ago we left a 'mega- church' that we had attended for 15 years. We had many memories there, but had started feeling completely disconnected. It had just gotten too big. We ended up visiting a very small church and at the end of the service our 16 yo looked at us and said "This is where I want to go to church. I felt like the Pastor knew I was there!".

    We have not looked back. It has taken a while to settle in, but we are loving getting to "know" and also being "known". (Our son actually goes back and forth between the old and new churches because of his friendships, but we know God used him as a catalyst to move us!)

    In this season of life, some of the things I love about our church are:
    1. The volume of the music is such that the voices of the people can still be heard.
    2. Periodically our pastor punts his planned sermon and opens the mic for a chance a testimony! It has been SO sweet!

    and this congregation we have never felt so old! :-)

  3. After much church shopping..Baptist, Methodist, Bible Church, we've landed at the place we least expected to ever join- a HUGE church (for this area) that meets in what looks like an airport. (Lovingly named "Six Flags Over Jesus" by one churchgoer we know- ha!) We wanted small, traditional, pretty brick with soft piano and hymns we know, and God has sent us to anything but, and we're excited to be a part of it. Partly for the kids' program, partly for the challenging, Biblical message, mostly for the burning desire this church has for showing Jesus' love in practical ways to the "unchurched." It's not about us at this church, and we like it. Makes me deeply uncomfortable in the best way.

  4. Ah, yes. The 18,000 churches of Gtown!! I once tried to explain this to a college friend. It really is amazing the number of churches in that area. I hope you have found where your part of the puzzle fits! I'll be in Gtown tomorrow & can't wait to visit all of the old haunts.

  5. Group of genuine people. Diverse in age, ethnicity, education, etc. Leadership striving to grow disciples rather than flashy programs.

  6. Oh yeah, one more: a minister with theological training.

  7. My husband and I moved to our first [small] college town 4 years ago and never managed to find a church that felt like us, so we didn't go. Not having a church impacted us and it was something I really longed for. It was a combination of the area we lived in and our own laziness/busy-ness/pickiness. We moved to our current town for med school this past August. A church had been recommended by some people that we thought pretty highly of so we thought we'd try it. We went in and they had a lobby outside where NEEDTOBREATHE was playing and people were drinking coffee. The music before the service was like a concert...the people were talented and genuine. The pastor spoke about relationships among people...not among believers, just among people. We didn't try another fact, we joined a small group a few weeks later that has been incredible. This church is so focused on building relationships, serving, and reaching out to anybody and everybody. It's something we've never been able to experience before...super nontraditional and we love the change from both of our very traditional churchy backgrounds. There are also tons of young people, which is nice since we seem to fall into that category. Glad you all have found a place to invest in and receive from. =)

  8. We are kind of looking. Gary loves our church because there are three black people in it. I wish there were more black people. And hispanic people. And indian people. Every kind of people. I don't like our church right now because it is so high tech and new age and modern and into reaching every person. I feel lost there. But I do want Gary to be happy.

    I love white haired people.

    I love old but not old enough to be cool.

    I love listening to Jesus.

    Thank you for always sharing your light. You help me a lot.

  9. We drive 30 min. to church. We're Catholic. We have a very large beautiful church in our town, it has a very large active congregation. Our town is pretty affluent. They really don't need our donations. So that's why we decided to make the drive to the poorest community in Cleveland. They have a wonderful school that takes in as many of the neighborhood children for free hoping to offer peace in their lives. The urban areas are full of very old people. We're trying to help keep this church on life support going. It's not some cool, hip place. It's a beautiful church that still follows many of the old traditions. It isn't trying to compete with the new mega churches that's just not who they are. The Monks come in to help deal with the problem of not enough priest. Monks sure are jolly souls! We go for the children, we go for all the old souls that gave so much to this beautiful gem and we go to be honest for ourselves too. I just wish others had som e idea what they're missing.

  10. awesome. i love when it feels like home!

    we chose our church easy - kelly got a job there. : ) but! we really did pick it because he would not have applied there if we didn't love it. it's Gospel centered, gives 20% of budget to missions (if you look up church budgets that is unheard of) and not perfect, but we love it anyway because after all, Jesus loves us anyway.

  11. Awwww, this reminds me of a favorite church in our past. I love this post!

  12. My husband and I just moved and have started attending a new church. There are of course some things that don't strike our fancy, but most of it is personal preference because we've been used to the same thing for so long. We decided it was right when we joined a small group and met some of the other people in the church and saw how Jesus was doing big things.

    I hope you are able to overlook some of the things that make you uncomfortable in this new church and can make it your home :)

  13. I enjoyed reading through all the other comments- I have been in three different churches in my adult life- and have struggled as of late if we should be staying or going.

    All three are Bible-preaching, Jesus-loving communities. The first I attended was the one I grew up in and went back to as an adult. The second I changed to because of its strong preaching and strong small groups. The third and final one I have stayed at is because of the worship band. It absolutely rocks. Music moves me. And yet I've wondered if we should be leaving, a nagging question for the past year, as I've been craving stronger preaching and closer community (in physical distance and relationships...)

    Glad that you have found your church landing spot!

  14. Finding a church that feels right is soooo difficult sometimes. We aren't attending anywhere consistently because we can't find a good fit. Thought we had it, but the pastors were moved and now it just isn't right for us. I pray that the right fit will happen soon.

  15. We chose a church our kids fell in love with. I grew up in a church I loved as a child and I wanted my kids to love their church, too. Our church has an awesome kids program. I didn't want them to think church was a chore. They never do. For that, I am grateful. When the sermons don't always hit home for me, I glance over at my kids, and I know they are home. I wouldn't trade that for the world. We talk about all the Bible stories they learn in Sunday School over dinner. I was so intrigued that I decided to learn more by teaching SS myself. I would find a church the same way all over again.

  16. we love our church....of course, we're there because Andy has a job there, but we'd choose this church a million times over.

    our church loves the lost but not at the cost of watering down the's too large for some...the music is too loud for others...but we love it. We "get" two Sundays off a year, being on staff, and we haven't missed a Sunday yet because our kids can't imagine not going. In fact, we go to one service and serve at another one, and my kids have never complained.

  17. I was 30, not married, no kids. Commuted to the city everyday and wore a business suit. I tried a lot of small churches. But, I had nothing in common. I didn't know what a Ladies Aide Society was. And, when someone asked for my favorite brownie recipe, I answered, "Betty Crocker." True story.

    I knew I was looking for 3 things:
    1. A church that opened a bible.
    2. Had a music / worship program. (Anything...even bells would be ok.)
    3. Was faithful in growing up their children. (Since they were the future. Ironic, since I didn't have any.)

    Then a friend brought me to my current church. We walked in a bit late. The paster was talking about something that really interested me. We began to worship and when I read the words on the screen...I thought to myself, "I can whole-heartedly say every one of these lines." (They were all new to me.) Then I found out that not only did they have a wonderful childrens ministry, but they had a rocking 30's ministry - something I never dreamed of. (Their flyer said, "Come meet us before the service with hang time and java." Java...I do java, I thought.

    That was 1997. I have been there ever since.
    Even thought it takes an hour to drive each way.
    2.5 in snow - lol.

    Interestingly, in 2009 God would re-introduce me to a guy from college who would later become my husband. On the phone we quickly found out that he had attended the same church when he was a teenager.

    Get this. My step-son is involved in that in that ministry that somehow my heart knew I needed to find in #3 above.

    God knows what we need. And, he will speak to the heart. When it feels like home, when it touches something deeply - even if it's completely unfamiliar when you look're home.
    ~ Dana

  18. This is a great question…
    This year has been a difficult one church-wise, as we began searching for a new church home in January. We had been very involved at our church for over 11 years, and when things started to go south we stayed for a long time, I guess out of loyalty more than anything.
    God has clearly led us to a place where we initially didn't see ourselves--a very large church, a seeker-friendly church where a great friend of ours is the pastor (it felt kind of strange for one of my best friends to become my pastor's wife :) ).
    However, Rebecca's post on margin today defined it beautifully (;
    this new church of ours gives us the opportunity to let God move to reach people who are hurting. We lived an insulated church life for far too long.
    God has been reminding me as I've told our story through 31 this month that by making ourselves vulnerable,
    He has room to work--where we are weak, He is strong. I'm excited to be in a place where people can be real and ask hard questions without being judged. We are excited to be a part of it!

  19. After years of big churches we have landed in a church that sounds just like the one you described, and I love, love it! It is unimpressive in every way, except that they love Jesus and love their neighbors, and to me is the very best representation of Christ's body that I have encountered. Our family is so blessed to be a part of this little church! Last week we sang the hymn, "kindle in us love's compassion so that everyone may see in our fellowship the promise of a new humanity." It brought tears to my eyes to think that this- THIS- our little fellowship, is Christ's plan for a new humanity. . . it was never about politics!

  20. We started our marriage with a tug-of-war over church. I came from a background where my dad got bored every 3 or 4 years and we'd change churches. We lived in one city 9 years and attended 4 different churches during that time, all because my dad would get restless or irritated or whatever. Over the course of my life I've attended something like 13 churches, most of different denominations, so I wasn't buying into the "this one has the TRUTH" myth that some churches like to put out there. My husband, on the other hand, grew up in one denomination, one church, of which his dad was the pastor. You did NOT venture far from home base, in his opionion, lest ye die.

    For a while after we were married we went to Sunday School at my church and worship service at his, but that was a recipe for tension and frustration. Eventually about 3 months in we realized we were going to have to find something that wasn't his or mine but OURS. So we started church shopping. I hate church shopping. It turned out to be the best thing for our marriage, though, because we both had to step out of our comfort zone and force ourselves to be as open-minded as possible. We've been at our current church for 15 years now, and all the things that drew us to it in the first place continue to draw us there -- excellent teaching from the pulpit, people loving on kids in Sunday School, servant hearts that look outward to the community -- not just ours but other communities in our city that aren't like ours, opportunities to get our kids involved in serving others, opportunities to be involved in ministering and teaching ourselves, a feeling that God was just THERE, working through these people.

    I will say, though, that it has been like a relationship, this church thing, because while we liked this church better than the others we tried, we did not immediately fall in love with it. In fact, for several years there were 3 or 4 things that irritated the heck out of us and several times made my husband wonder whether we should start looking again (bleah!). But we hung in there, and our love for our church and the people in it grew, so I'm now of the opinon that while love at first sight is nice, it's not necessary for a good relationship with your church. There's give and take, growing pains and coasting, comfort and struggle. But it's okay. It's better than okay, it's good.

  21. First time poster/ you are a writer that speaks straight into my soul ! I think god has allowed your powerful words to push me, encourage me, challenge me in some ways that my current church experience does not. This particular post confirmed what I believe: no 1 style, type, denomination is Best or Right and we NEED to give each other grace in this area just like homeschool/public school, mom at home/working outside, etc. thank you for being brave to show us your struggles and victories. My husband of 29 yrs is in ministry/ I teach at an alternative high school. Sometimes I just feel worn out. Your posts often allow a light to shine on long-forgotten or never-considered thoughts. I pray God will bless you and continue to empower you as you open that big heart to desperate (or self-satisfied) lives.

  22. My husband and I have moved a lot. As I look back over the churches we have attended I have realized that most of them have found us. Years ago when we first moved to Florida we sought out a church from the same denomination we had been attending (there was only one choice) and that is where we landed. Through a series of events a church from another denomination offered my husband a job as pianist. I wasn't sure about changing, but we visited and my fears were alleviated. It turned out to be the best decision we could have made - I feel like that church was the beginning of a spiritual growth that we needed at the time. Since my husband is a musician and was a worship minister for awhile, most of the churches we have attended were due to job offers. They have all taught us something, even the one's that had a different worship style than I would have preferred. The church we are attending currently is out of necessity. It is the church I grew up in and due to a recent change in his health my father is not able to drive. We recently moved back home, so we attend church with him so that he can still attend his church. It is a very small congregation and probably not what we would prefer style wise. But the people are Godly and humble, and God has provided opportunities for us to use our gifts of music and teaching. For this season of our life it is where we are supposed to be. The one thing I have learned from the many moves is that the most important qualification for church is that is has a solid foundation. As long as the foundation is biblical, then the other stuff - style of music, programs offered, traditions etc shouldn't have to be deal breakers. God can use you where he plants you.

  23. This makes me think a lot of the Calvary Chapel my family and I serve at. The first time we went, our pastor, who is often called "dry" or "boring" from visitors who don't return loves the Word and spends much time listening for the Lord. This was a church and a pastor like I was used to, but my husband, not growing up in church at all, wasn't quite feelin' it. We ended up spending about a year at another church with a congregation of 700 people and a pastor that wore Hawaiian shirts (WONDERFUL man) - but as we grew to want to be closer and have a more intimate relationship with God and his people, we came back to that Calvary Chapel. By this time - my husband, who is in the field of IT said, "You know - most people like Windows, because it's more convenient and user friendly. But I prefer Linux. It's harder to learn, but you can do more with it. It has more depth and substance. This church is like Linux."

    So we made our home at the Linux church.

  24. My Dad was my only pastor until I got married, so finding a church was extremely hard for me! I was kind of used to everyone talking to me because they had to. ha ha! But we've been married almost 10 years and have only really loved this church we've been attending now for over a year. I LOVE it. We were able to join a homeschool group and that way we got to know a few families. For me that's the deal-maker, I guess. A community. One church we attended for over a year was pretty cool, but the same greeters asked us if it was our first Sunday every single week. It got kind of weird. We tried out tons and tons of churches over 9 years, since we've moved a lot, and the big joke was if it had pews and choir robes it was a no for me, and if it had chairs and coffee shops it was a no for my husband. Our church now is medium-sized, I guess, and has pews and choir robes (I LOVE the music), no coffee shop. :) The pastor is 75 and I just love hearing him. So truthful, but soothing at the same time. I pray every service that he won't retire soon. But I suppose my favorite part is that we finally know people. Really nice ones.

    I guess I love my church because it reminds me how much I love being part of the beautiful body of Christ.

  25. This time last year (September actually) we switched to a church that is within our church. The young adults have their own building and service across the street from the main campus. We came to "help" bridge the intergenerational gap, to host a small group, and thinking we'd connect w/ the college kids (it's a university town). We have ended up connecting more with people just a phase or two behind us, and I'm more of the behind the scenes/one-on-one girl. We didn't connect well with the people we were "supposed to connect with" at the main campus - the families of our demographic. Nice people, mostly, but did not connect. The singles and young marrieds we've met this year have been a unique and wonderful connection. We feel very much at home even though the style of worship took a bit of getting used to for me - even just a few years older than the "target" age. It's really about relationships and following Jesus with this group. We love it.

    1. THat being said, we don't know what we will do as our kids get older if we are stil in this town. We are pondering all the different factors that go into church finding as a family, rather than just an individual or a couple.

  26. I'd say solid, biblical, expository preaching is number one for us. Followed by a community of genuine believers. These two are non-negotiable. The negotiables for me are size, worship style, number of programs, etc. Preferences are smaller than 500, local, current/relevant, but not trendy. Moving WAY too much in the last 10 years has given me plenty of experience church shopping. It can make you really cynical if you let it because there is something to pick apart everywhere you go and a church-formula becomes obvious. You just have to pick one and own it. Kudos to you for picking and sticking. The Lord will grow you and use you wherever you are.

  27. Our church is full of white heads, too, and we can hear every exaggerated decibal of their sweet exchanges in the very front row nearly every sunday. "WHAT DID HE SAY??" "MATTHEW 15!!!" God chose our place in this church. Its not huge, not flashy, and our Pastor is as steady and as solid on the Rock as they come. Humble, too. He preaches the Gospel every Sunday in one way or another and he may just have a a magnet in his pocket as a visual illustrator for the simple minded like myself. We sing hymns, my daughter sometimes plays for the service, and we teach Sunday School but I pray we never feel too comfortable where we dont see the opportunities that God may have in store for us. Comfy is safe, but theres a whole world to reach.

  28. I'm here because everyone tells me your blog is a MUST read. Like now. And 2 sentences into this post, I'm thinking they are right. As the pastor's wife of a small church plant in a largely unchurched area, I. LOVE. THIS. POST. I love your obediance. The fact that you didn't quench the Holy Spirit and are not scared of the potluck. Small potlucks, at that. I can't wait to read more.

  29. Our church welcomed me back into the body when it felt like no one else would. ;) that spoke volumes to me.

  30. The first Sunday we visited our pastor was preaching on actions of a Christian. He had a list. He segued by saying "that is a sum up of what we DON'T do. Now lets talk about what we do do" in my mind, like a child, I laughed. I looked at my husband who was already looking at me and he said "heh. He said doodoo. " we chuckled. Then tuned our ear back to the pastor who was giggling. He said "ha! I just said doodoo. In church" I laughed right out loud. He pointed at me and said "thank you" and we stayed for seven years. God knew what would convince us to stay. It was a great fit for all those years. Then sadly he moved us. Now I am trying to see how I fit where we are. Here's to a new segue.

  31. I don't know? I wish I did. I was raised Catholic and have felt lost for a long time on just where exactly i "belong". i'm not sure. i really love reading all fo these comments though and reading what others, that i consider to know a lot more than me, think.

  32. when we moved 2 yrs ago and began searching for a church.. i got to the point where i told my husband, "the first church we walk into and someone actually SPEAKS to us, that will be the church for me!" gee. but christians can be unfriendly. God kinda did the opposite w/ us.. led us a to a big church, the kind we swore we'd never go to! and yes. it actually WAS the first place where people were legitimately kind and friendly.

    sometimes i think finding the right church is like finding your life mate - when ya know, ya know!

  33. "Does the place you're called to labor seem so small and little known?
    It is great if God is in it, and He'll not forget His own.
    Little is much if God is in it. Labor not for wealth or fame.
    There's a crown and you can win it, if you'll go in Jesus' name."
    This is a hymn in one of our song books. It's one of my favorites and I wanted to share it with you. :)

  34. This is a fantastic post, and I've really enjoyed reading the comments. They are very instructive to those of us who have found our church and want to welcome others in a way that is meaningful and effective. I am a youth minister's wife in a Seminary town, and there are churches on every corner. When we moved to New Orleans, it was the first time we really had to explore what we were looking for in a church. We wanted a place to serve. We have served in all different types of churches, and I have learned that "home" is wherever God has a place for me to serve! I don't want a church or a staff that pretends like they can do everything and leaves no room for the congregation to become involved in ministry.

  35. I'm always amazed how much churches are able to help people. I Knew a family that had a lot of problems and going to church as a family helped to solve a lot of family issues. It's amazing how going to church and believing in god can resolve issues in life.

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