Yesterday was our first venture out to church on our own in London. We went to the church that we can actually see from my bedroom window. It is a very large church, probably 2000 attendees over three services on an average Sunday. It is a very polished church: theatre seating, flawless sound system, impressive musicians, engaging dramatic presentation, attractive kids area. The pastor preached a very good message. Janelle enjoyed the kids program, and found a friend from her class there. Connor prefered to sit with us, and although he was quite fidgety by the end, he seemed quite interested as well. All in all, this was probably a great church.
But the problem with church shopping is that it is impossible to figure out on one Sunday whether or not this is the church that will feel like home someday. Everything about this church was excellent, but no one wanted to talk to us. No one cared that we were there. The problem with church shopping is that we are trying to replace something very personal with something that, necessarily for a while, is completely impersonal. It is like replacing a pair of favourite old shoes that fit like a glove, that maybe have some holes and don't look very nice anymore, but feel wonderful, with a brand new pair that looks perfect, but feels a little too tight and leaves some blisters after a few hours of wearing. Our old church was far from perfect. We did our fair share of complaining at times. But it was ours. It was home. We knew everyone, and many of them felt like family. Chris had been part of that church for over 30 years. It was impossible to walk in the door without saying hello to a dozen people! I worked there for three years. It was quite literally my second home. How do you replace that?
I made a joke at "Kidmo" a few months ago, on a particularly rowdy night (must have been a full moon) when the kids were driving the leaders CRAZY, that perhaps I'd like to find a big church where I could be one of the anonymous 80% who comes to church Sunday morning but does nothing to add to the ministry there. It was a joke, because everyone knew I wouldn't be able to do that. I need to have a ministry outlet! For the past several years it has been a number of things: nursery director, mom's club leader, choir, praise team, home group host/leader, Sunday School teacher, "Kidmo" leader, Junior Church volunteer, among other things. I'm not bragging about all I've done. My closest friends have contributed just as much. I just need to be a part of things; I need to do things that I feel are going to matter in eternity.
But I can see how it would be easy to become one of the anonymous 80% at a church like the one we went to yesterday. It would be easy to remain invisible. No one recognizes us, no one knows that we are new. No is going to ask anything of us. No one is going to seek us out to find ways to get us involved in their church. I think I'm just coming to understand that it is up to us to find a church, to find friends, to find an area of ministry where we can be used. It seems daunting. It seems overwhelming. It seems like something that is going to require much prayer.
I hate church shopping. I don't want to "try out" all sorts of churches in London. I want to walk into one and have it feel like home. But, I doubt that is going to happen. I don't think any church is going to feel like home without requiring something of me.
We are going to a different church next Sunday. Just to "try it out". But we may be back to the one we tried yesterday. You can't judge a book by it's cover, and you can't judge a church by one Sunday. This is going to take some time. And effort. And serious prayer.