Based on the number of hits this little blog o’ mine gets, I’d venture to say that sometimes, God uses me to write something that speaks to the heart of some people. Now, statistically speaking, the percentage of people who actually write me to express their thoughts about what I have to say is roughly .00034% of the readers that the counter tells me have read or visited this site.
This means, in Southern vernacular, some a' ya’ll need ta start talkin’ to me more.
Some of that I say generates more emails than others (like this, this, and this). Recently, the entry I wrote about church shopping (or, as Steve Taylor first referred to it, going on a steeplechase…a pun you may or may not get) caused a couple of folks to write me directly. Some people agreed wholeheartedly, expressing similar frustrations or experiences, while others asked for clarification. Specifically, what the heck are Ashley and I looking for in terms of a church home?
Now, I would not presume to speak for her, so allow me to just say what it is that I’m looking for and how – in the words of the Prophets Edge and Bono – I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
MY ADJECTIVE OF CHOICE: The term “authentic” gets tossed around so much in church-speak and Christian-ese that it has, in some ways, lost its power and meaning. I find it beautifully ironic that the number of churches who put on a façade or shiny veneer to show how authentic they are probably wouldn’t get the joke they’ve just made. I guess what I’m looking for is better summed up in the word “honesty.” Honest leaders. Honest parishioners. These are my/our scars. These are my/our mistakes. This is what I/we have learned. This is where I/we need to grow. This is where I/we are good at something only through the mercy and grace of God. We’re not the “IT” church. We’re just a bunch of ragamuffins.
OVER MY HEAD, I HEAR MUSIC IN THE AIR: Contemporary. Traditional. Blended. These are just words without the soul to back them up. To me (and yes: I understand the juxtaposition in my musical snobbery stating this), I don’t really care if the worship music rocks. I don’t care if it’s practically a chant. I’ve had the experience of hearing a band playing that was pitch- and note-perfect, but pretty much a clanging gong (see also: I Corinthians 13). I’ve had the experience of hearing some of the most tone-deaf and out of tune musicians in the world play with such amazing sincere worshipful beauty that the “mistakes” in their performance transcended any perceived auditory insults and connected me with God in ways I never thought I could.
GET THE HI-TOPS AND KOOL-AID OUT: Theologically, I’m not looking for a church, denomination, or even pastor whose words I match up with 100%. That way lays group-think and you're probably only about a handful of automatic weapons away from an FBI raid. Yes, there are some non-negotiable aspects. Yes, I do feel like the mission and the heart of the body is something I can stand behind and support. But really – I don’t think I’ve EVER attended a church where the pastor and I agreed on everything, and I know that I’ve never been in a position where I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with all my fellow laypeople in what we specifically believe. Case in point: one Saturday morning back in Athens, when someone who would become one of my nearest and dearest friends and I were having breakfast and debating theology at 8:30 in the morning (because, really, what ELSE is one to do at 8:30 am on a Saturday?), I stymied the dickens out of him when we started talking about predestination. To this day, I don’t think Ryan and I line up 100% with what each other thinks, but we have such a deep love and respect for one another that we’re willing to listen to the other, see where their perspective is coming from, and then eventually capitulate to the fact that I will forever be right and he will forever be wrong. (Just kidding…mostly…)
I guess what I’m looking for can ultimately be summed up as thus: I’d like to have a teacher who can engage my heart and mind with what God has laid on their heart to speak about (note: “kewl” multimedia and/or stone-washed jeans are not a requirement). I’d like to meet people who don’t come across as monochromatic, either on the outside or the inside. I’d like it to be a celebration (note: this does not mean a rockin’ song set of exclusively Chris Tomlin tunes) of friends who come together, who WANT to come together, to connect into one another’s lives. I’d like for Kai to have a chance to play with other kids. I’d like to see ways I can get involved with the mission and heart of the church, either by serving in it or in some aspect within the community.
I’d like to have love expressed. I’d like to have love shown.
Oh, and coffee. Good coffee is a must. Otherwise the whole deal is off.