Nov 29, 2010

Church Hunting

church huntingDisclaimer: This post is not about books.

Wake up early, on a day when you don’t work, go stand in a big, probably cold room with a bunch of strangers, and there may or may not be free coffee. Oh, and everybody’s going to sing. Including you.

Sounds like fun, eh?

That’s what I like to call, “Church Hunting”.

Church hunting in Wheaton isn’t a leisure activity. It’s more like an Olympic sport. According to Wikipedia, Wheaton has 45 within the city limits, 30 in the surrounding unincorporated area, and, reportedly, more churches per capita than any other American town.*

So I’ve got a lot of options. Seventy-five without leaving my new home town.

It’s overwhelming.

I think my biggest problem is that I don’t know exactly what I want. I do know want a church that’s theologically sound. I want a church with a good community. But other than that…well, my want list is pretty blank.

I belong to a generation that doesn’t quite know what to do with itself, churchilogically. We’re tired of the 90’s seeker-sensitive, praise song model. It’s loud and bright, but a bit empty. The emergent church seemed like it was going to be great: “Let’s return to our roots, but cooler! Let’s burn incense, but we can still wear Ray-Bans!” But then, in their quest for spirituality, they forgot some pretty important things, like inerrancy and omnipotence. Great glasses, though.

I am looking for a third option.

Here’s what I’ve tried so far:

The Dead Church

I was excited about this church because it’s exactly three minutes from my house. I love short travel times. I was still about ten minutes late. I figure, they might as well get to know me now. I walked in, and made eye contact with the usher. I was expecting a whispered welcome and a bulletin. Instead, he blew me off. Yup, the man whose job it is to welcome me, snubbed me. The sermon was great. But I don’t think anyone in the church cared. The pastor cracked a few relatively funny jokes, but they were lost on the congregation. No one smiled or laughed. I have a feeling that they may have been zombies. There was a pot-luck afterward, but since I don’t really eat brains, I got out of there.

The Mega Church

There was nothing wrong with this church. The people were friendly, they loved me even though I was late, and the sermon was solid. The usher was not only a Moody professor, but he helped me find a seat and made sure I was taken care of. The sermon was on racial reconciliation, and the church seems like it really wants to take care of the surrounding community.

There was nothing wrong with anything…but it seemed a little bland. Like I could have gone to any church of 2000 and heard the same sermon and read about the same programs. This is a perfectly good option. But it’s the easy option, and I don’t think I want that.

The Church-Clothes Church

Then there’s the ultra-traditional: the hymn-singing, organ-playing, no-you-may-not-wear-jeans church. That’s where I went this morning. And…as I was surprised to find…it was refreshing. There was nothing affected. The pastor didn’t mention any television shows. He wove a sermon around a passage. He told a complete thought. He did not make three alliterating points, and there was no PowerPoint. I think, I’m not sure about this, but I think he read the whole thing from a manuscript. My soul was stirred, yes, but I left with my brain turning. The sermon left me thoughtful.

It was reverent. In the church bulletin, they ask that you sit quietly after the sermon to reflect. It felt like Sunday.

It reminded me of the best parts of being at Moody.

Now, Church-Clothes Church is a little big. Three services. That worries me. And so does their propensity for trumpet solos. But I haven’t left a Sunday service feeling so filled up in a long time. It’s like I just ate a nutritious meal and now I can handle the long week ahead of me.

I’ve got more churches to try, and I want to give them all a fair shot. I’d like to to go Little Neighborhood Church, and I’m thinking about trying Church of the Incense. Are there any church-types that I’m missing? Any denomination you think I should check out before I settle into a church?

*If I weren’t so eager to find a church and get involved, I’d A.J. Jacobs this shoot, visit every church, and blog about it. I’d call my blog Church Hopper. And I’d get a book deal. You can have that idea. Just give me a nice shout-out in the acknowledgments.



  • How about these:

    Church that rebels against the church I grew up in church

    I’m going to seem really cool to everyone if I go to here church

    Over accommodating to visitors church (parking lot and late service are off limits to non visitors and non new people, assistant pastor calls you 3 times in a week to make sure you had a good experience, large gift baskets to first timers)

    This will make a great blog post church

    My biggest struggle is knowing where to draw the line and learn what is just things that I think I want/make me comfortable, and when I need to just get over it because it’s actually a great place. Am I allowed to be bothered if one of the pastor wears sandals, or an usher not so nicely tells me I can’t bring coffee into the sanctuary? Eh, who knows. I guess I just don’t want anyone telling me what I should be looking for in a church (and I think that includes myself sometimes) and I sense that many people post living at home who decide to go try new things go through the same thing.

  • So maybe I should church hunt a little more before I settle completely into Park…

    I think you’re great. If this were twitter, I’d retweet you.

  • This was so great!! I really liked what you have to say 🙂

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