Archive for January, 2011

“Blind Dating” Churches

Posted in Uncategorized on January 23, 2011 by jaymallow

Looking at a quick Facebook update on my phone today at the bottom was a big “People you may know” suggestion with Josh Harris smiling at me. Of course this proves the absolute uselessness of that feature. Sure fourteen people I know are friends with him but I’ve only spent one complimentary breakfast at the Founders Inn with him. (He was promoting “Boy meets Girl” on the 700 Club) I like to say I don’t “Know People” in Sovereign Grace Ministries, but I know people who “Know People”. But this brought a thought to mind- if we were friends it’d be ironic since Josh also wrote “Stop Dating the Church” and that’s pretty much what I’m doing now only worse, I’m blind dating churches.
But see it isn’t my fault, I’m new to the area and I don’t know anybody. Don’t lump me in with serial church daters. I’ve been a church member before and I had good reasons for leaving. And yes I want to be committed to a church and I hope to be a member again, I just don’t have any friends to introduce me to a good church in my area right now. So I’m church blind dating.
Google the e-harmony of church blind dates
Thank God for Google. Before you had to look in the Yellow Pages and just see a name and a phone number. How awkward would that be to call up a church you didn’t know and say, “Hi, I’m thinking about attending on Sunday and I’m wondering about your beliefs on predestination.” No now we have the ability to custom search using words like, “reformed, charismatic, Baptist, contemporary, etc.” Google then delivers churches, if not with those words in the name, then on their website somewhere. This also allows for snap judgments based on the websites. (Or lack thereof)
No Website= Fundamentalist or way too small: If you have no website you’re either scarily fundamental (I’m in Texas so I can presume “right wing”), out of touch, technophobic , or your “church” is less than forty people and you need to grow up a little before I can attend you.
Small Website= small church= maybe: I grew up in relatively small (-500 attendees) churches. I learned the fear of Jesus in a small church. I can live in a small church. I can breathe in a small church. “Ohhh it’s goooodd enoouuugh for meeee…” (Sorry Melencamp moment) I don’t care that all the pictures on the site look as if someone took them with a cell phone and inexplicably they’re all of small children from the back. (“We’ve got not so cute kids!”) I’m down with at least taking a shot.
Mega site=Mega church: If I pull up your site and a live pop up window tells me who their name is and asks me if they can help you’ve officially made it into mega status. (And creeped me out, I HATE those things-it’s called BROWSING) But I will say it’s difficult to make out what a church is all about with all the Flash enabled content and invitations to take a personality survey. (I kid you not that happened)
But that brings me to the frustrating thing about looking for Agape online- it’s so difficult to tell what a church ACTUALLY believes. The “Statement of Faith” portions of websites remind me of “About Me” parts of personal profiles in that seemingly vital and totally useless information co-exist simultaneously. No church is going to add an addendum to the end of the usual, “We believe in the Bible… Jesus was the Son of God… You need to repent and believe…” stating, “Actually we’ve so watered down this with ‘Seeker Friendly’, therapeutic, feel good moralism that the above really doesn’t apply.” Or worse, “We are so judgmental and self righteous as a church that your relationship with God will be scarred for years if you come here.”
One of the things I’ve personally found that’s helped is looking at the pastors. A big kicker for me is a woman pastor. I’m a complementarian by the way I was raised and by conviction. While I can respect those who are “Bi-Pastoral” (Egalitarian) it’s just not comfortable for me. (Thankfully even the one church I saw that had a senior female pastor didn’t have the pastors married to each other, that just weird’s me out)
The Day Of
I have a new found appreciation for visitors of churches. First there’s the question of what to wear. No seriously that’s an issue. Is this church a “suit and tie” or “jeans” church? A “four star” or “Golden Corral” kind of place? Do I bring a physical Bible or is Olive Tree on my iPhone acceptable? Then there’s getting to the church. Face it, your directions on your website stink. They just do. I don’t care, unless you have your directions hyperlinked to Google maps that instantly pull up directions on my iPhone (SUGGESTION!!!), your directions stink. (Remember I’m NEW TO THE AREA!)
But then comes the meeting, that moment where impressions will forever be forged. Out of love for the church and my fellow brethren let me offer some do’s and don’ts.
Do -Expect I’ll be late and welcome me warmly ushering me to the sanctuary: For the lateness read above. As for the ushering, you would think that all church architecture is the same but it’s not. A big fear upon approaching a new church for me is that I’ll go through the wrong door and spend ten minutes wandering around the children’s church classrooms trying to find the sanctuary in a Christian Spinal Tap nightmare.
Don’t-Immediately haul me aside to fill out a visitor’s card: I get that you want a record of visitor attendance, but really allow me the courtesy of deciding what information (if any) I give you about myself.
Do- Thank the visitors for coming: Yes I did almost decide that it was “God’s Will” that I not come to your church after the second time I had to turn around because I missed your sign.
Don’t- Call me out by name. This is the equivalent of telling a restaurant that your date has a birthday so they can sing “Happy Birthday” in order to get free desert. It’s embarrassing and elicits the “Flight or Fight” response.
Do- Approach me after the service and welcome me again.
Don’t- Block the exit. Be Ok with me leaving.
Finally please understand that I may want to see other churches before settling down. Your church may be right for you I get that, but that doesn’t mean it is right for me. Realize that I am a mid thirties single guy, what I need right now is fellowship most of all. If your church has four “singles” fresh out of high school, realize that I might be looking for more. And really pray for me, I’ll probably be “blind dating” another church next week.