Lately I've been talking to lots of people around me about church. The church is a big subject and it's hard to talk about it without offending people. But notice, I'm blogging about it, so I'm not too worried about that. What I am worried about is my friends growing in Christ in a healthy, Godly way.
Many of my friends are searching for a new church- just as I was a few months ago. Many of them have been hurt by the church. This saddens me. And it saddens God too. I've heard people talk about why they did or didn't like a particular church. I see them going from one church to another trying to find their place-- which is great! I want them to find a place that feels like home to them. I want them to feel like they are making a difference in the Kingdom for God. And many of them have found church homes! (YES!)But the process can be painful. If you are one of these people, believe me, you are NOT alone!
So just some advice ... take it for what it's worth to you. I have advice to give because I've been through it and I'm perfectly content now. Throughout this process, I prayed, studied, fasted, read, talked to people, asked hard questions, and learned at a rate faster than I have in a long while! God revealed things to me during this time like no other! It was and still is an exciting time for me!
What I have to say about finding a church is already assuming that you've; 1)prayed through this and God has released you from your church, 2) God hasn't already called you somewhere and you're just being disobedient, and 3) Your focus is GOD-- Finding a Christ-centered church-- one that isn't all about PEOPLE. That's idolatry! If the worship feels like a concert centered around one person, RUN! If the pastor isn't preaching a pure Word, RUN! If the youth teachers are distracted and just filling in until they get into a better position, RUN! If the church claims to be spirit filled and you see no evidence of that, RUN! Okay, not that that's covered ...
I believe that God gives all of us a purpose. It is our job to fulfill it. To always be ready! When God gives you an assignment be ready to walk through doors He opens! In order to accomplish God's purpose for our lives, we've got to align ourselves with people that are like-minded- that share our vision and want to see it birthed -- come to pass. I believe we ALL have a purpose! Don't think yours is to fill a pew on Sunday morning from 10-11:30! Believe me, it's bigger than that!
I met a woman at a women's conference a few months ago that had stepped down from being an associate pastor at a church in Atlanta. She still has a ministry! It's called 'Hands and Feet' and she keeps socks and gloves in her car to give the homeless people in the winter! EVERYONE has a ministry!!! Don't get me preachin! Okay ...
1. Look for a church that fits the vision God has given you. What does that mean? It means what do you think God has given you (and your family) a heart for? Match that with your new church's vision. If you have the heart of a missionary, find a church that supports this work, equips you for missions, and will send you. If your heart is to reach your local community, find a church that is really involved in that work. Churches have different visions- *that God gave them*. Just because it's not the vision God gave YOU doesn't mean it isn't serving its purpose. (This advice was given to me by one of the elders at my old church and actually through several blogs by a pastor--Thanks for that!)
2. Look on the Internet and find local church websites and read their mission statement. This will narrow your search and prevent you and your kids from the craziness of going from church to church. Call and talk to someone at the church. Have a list of questions ready so you don't forget them.
3. After you find churches that align with the vision God has given you, evaluate your family's needs and visit that church to see what the church has in terms of discipleship classes, youth programs, etc. No church is perfect, don't get crazy! (LOL) And remember; church programs change, the vision DOES NOT.
It's an amazing feeling when you find a church that shares the desires God has given you. It really grows you quickly. You realize you don't really mind filling in for a teacher or coming in early to help ... because your VISION is the same. If you don't have a common goal to be working towards, you will burn out quickly!
If you have a calling in leadership, I just want to encourage you to find a place that will build that up in you! The purpose of the church is to equip the saints! We must be equipped! It is your responsibility to make sure your church provides training, mentoring, and discipleship for your craft. If they don't, don't feel guilty about moving on. God put something inside of you that he wants you to protect and nurture! He will also put people alongside you to encourage you, strengthen you, love you, and pray over your vision and ministry. Let others sow into that as much as they want to. Find a person in leadership that hopes you become more successful than they are! Those are the people that are going to help birth God's purpose in you!
Don't confuse any of this with the most important aspect of all, Jesus. Understand that you are growing in Christ every single day of your life. Find out where you are in your own personal relationship with God and seek out ways to get closer and closer to perfection. Make friends with people that will hold you accountable and who are not afraid to be corrected themselves. This is not like shopping for a new car to suit your every need. GOD will take care of that. But know where you are with God. Don't rush that process by putting your own growth aside. If you don't know where you're at, pray and ask God to point out areas of your life that you need to grow in.
*DISCLAIMER: If God hasn't called you out of your church, don't leave it. This was just a subject that keeps coming up in my life with friends in the military that move around, friends that left the same church I left, and anyone who might find it helpful. Blessings!