My family moved to Denver about two and a half years ago, and in that time we still haven’t landed at a church. We’ve had a few stints at a few places that lasted longer than others, but we still tend to only manage a few months before we fizzle out and leave. There are a load of reasons we’ve had a hard time (sermons that were fundamentally opposed to the gospel, lack of diversity, kids programs that literally made my kids cry, small group leaders who referred to gay people as “flamers” etc…), but the fundamental issue for me is that I really want church to be about community. And we haven’t found one yet where that’s the case.
Some do better than others. And admittedly a few of the church’s we’ve attended have seemed to have great community if you fit a certain mold (under 35 and without kids for example), and I recognize that with our four kids it’s quite difficult to get plugged in. People invite singles or even small families over for meals to get to know them, but I’d be a fool to not acknowledge that it’s a quite a different level of commitment to have a family as a big and chaotic as mine over.
So it’s been rough, and I know it’s not all on these churches, I know I’m the biggest problem in this situation—me and my lack of patience with American cultural values around church.
Yesterday was particularly rough. We finally found a church that our children absolutely love. There was one they liked attending before, but they really only liked that one because the church gave them candy at the end of each service (honestly, I’m totally fine with whatever it takes for my kids to be excited to attend). This current one seems to actually have decent teaching, and there are other kids for ours to connect with (and time for them to actually connect).
But the teaching in the adult portion of this church is really painful. Not wrong mind you, just painful.
The teaching yesterday was about praising God. There were some good points, such as God is the one who enables the praise and praises through us. We don’t need to show up worthy in order to praise etc… But then it delved for about 10 minutes in to what the different body gestures in worship meant. “One hand in the air is like shaking a hand with God, two hands is like…. kneeling is like….”, and my wife turns to me and says, “Are they somehow pulling this from the Bible?”
No. No they’re not.
On the drive home we passed an old church building that was bought by a new-age-y group and, while there is no longer any tie to Jesus or evangelicalism, it is still labelled a church. “A Center for Spiritual Learning”. Something like that. The building is huge and the parking lot was absolutely packed to the gills. The church sign said the topic that morning was “Divisiveness and Strife: Spiritual Basics for Toxic, Troubling Times”. My wife sees the title and says, “Which would you rather hear? A talk about what I’m doing with my hands during worship music? Or something that actually engages with what’s going on in our society and helps people enter in to the discussion? No wonder that place is packed.”
She’s not wrong.
Maybe they bomb teaching the truth (I can say with some confidence that this is highly likely), but I bet they get community right.
So many of the ways a church is run today are results of strange American Christian cultural values. Sitting is pews isn’t inherently evil. But it’s not in the Bible as the prescribed way of doing church either. Nowhere does it say that there must be a white male with a beard, a guitar, and a real desire for a record deal at the front singing songs as loudly as he can.