We recently had a guest on a Sunday morning that mentioned to me they were “shopping” for a church. Now, I don’t say the following to try and single out this person or anyone that has ever used the term “shopping” while looking for a church. But this phrase has really stuck with me since I heard it and I’ve spent some time thinking about what it really means. So let’s explore the idea behind using this common turn of phrase.
We live in a consumer driven culture. When we shop, we ask questions such as: Am I getting the best deal? Is this product going to live up to my expectations? Will this serve me as I need it to? How will my life be made better or easier by using this product? And those are valid questions to ask when we are purchasing the things we need. Is that Thanksgiving turkey going to feed the family? Is that new car going to get me to work and back home again? Is this shirt going to fit?
But when it comes to consuming things, we rarely, if ever, ask how we will be of benefit to that stuff. What can I contribute to that Thanksgiving turkey that will make its existence better? How can I make this car have an easier life? (Sure, we take the car in for regular maintenance, but that is more of a benefit to us than the car since it extends the life of the thing we use so much.) Am I making this shirt better by wearing it?
A church is not something to be consumed. It is something to be lived in, something to be a part of. To paraphrase the words of John F. Kennedy from his inaugural address in 1961, “Ask not what your church can do for you, ask what you can do for your church.” What is your reason for seeking a church? Are you trying to find a place to fit in, to utilize your gifts, to become and integral part of? Or are you seeking a group from whom you can take, that will fulfill your needs, that will only benefit you in your life?
Being part of a church family will be of benefit to you, no doubt. There is a satisfaction that comes to us in not only belonging to the greater Body of the Church of Jesus Christ, but becoming immersed in a local church as well. Of course, we must find a church in which we fit. But remember, there is no such thing as a perfect church! If that is what you are seeking, or shopping for, you will never find it. If you are a t-shirt and jeans guy and that church requires a suit on Sunday, that probably isn’t for you.
When seeking a church, I suggest you ask yourself these three questions: How can I contribute to the lives of this group of imperfect, broken people? How can my gifts be tapped to benefit my new congregation? How can my presence be a blessing here?
Blessings to you on your journey towards our Savior, Jesus Christ!