Monday, March 02, 2009

Church Shopping

Apparently the Obamas and the Bennetts have something in common besides very cute kids and a predilection for rescued dogs. Both of us, along with many in America, are engaged in the reviled activity, church shopping. As a former pastor and non-seeker church guy, I have been against the idea on numerous occasions.

Even Slate Magazine has something to say about the subject. 

Unlike many of those that would be considered post-congregational, we have nothing against the church or churches. We love church but have found ourselves out of church due to a number of factors. As a former pastor, I had not church shopped since grad school until our move to Tampa. 

When we arrived in Tampa after my last church gig, we looked around for a while, had a few truncated attempts and gave it up for a house church community. Not wanting to give up on "normal" church, we found one via Internet search. It was less painful than others in the area and we gave it a shot. We were there a few years and I was one of the leaders. Through a series of events, including the pastor leaving and an ensuing power struggle, we felt it best to leave before the possible bloodshed.

Since that day, we have been church-less. We had a home church at our house for a number of months and have tried others on occasion, including the churches of friends and foes. We have been asked to be part of a wonderful young church and its leadership. I trust the pastor implicitly, but we live in 2 different worlds. Plus, my family does not feel comfortable in the setting for a number of reasons.

The church I used to work in (Interim) could be a possibility. The associate pastor, who leads the contemporary service is a mentor and friend and the music guy is among my favorite people in Tampa. However, socio-economically, culturally and locale-wise we are on the outside of the church. We have friends leading other congregations, but for a number of reasons it has not been a good fit.

So, we are at it again. We have thought about it for a while and our daughter came last week with the request, "can we start going to church again?" The answer to such a question in our home is an unequivocal, "Yes."

So, on Sunday we began our Lenten journey... to find a home church, however imperfect, by Easter.

We know that, as mutts with our emerging church background, finding a church that we feel comfortable in the walls of is not easy. We have some set criteria and are open to many new experiences, since we know we will not find a church in town that fits us holistically. We are interested in churches so outside our comfort zone that we have no such criteria. We tried a normal "Christian church" on Sunday we may return to at some time. We are thinking of a couple of orthodox churches, an Episcopal church, a Willow Creekish seeker church where we can be hidden for a while and our kids have a good program, a Presbyterian Church and some neighborhood churches. For some reason most Tampa churches are copies of the same template, so finding diversity is not terribly easy.

Let shopping the journey begin.


RDF said...

Try Buddhist!

Unknown said...

how bout it ron! either that or the sufi gatherings on wed nights...

Anonymous said...

Try an AME would stretch your comfort zone while still preaching the gospel. And in most cases, you would have good music!

RDF said...

Pardon my ignorance, but what is an AME church? It sounds interesting.

DJ Word said...

AME is African Methodist Episcopal a primarily African American denomination.

I have been to some very impressive AME churches in the past. I will see what tampa has.

Andy said...

If you are interested in a less than 200 member church, that does great things beyond their size, try Oak Grove COG -

Andy - your blog lurking friend.