I have been blessed to have grown up in a great church community. Don't misunderstand me, there have been plenty of times of unhappiness or frustration, but my church family is made up of some of the most caring, genuine, Christ-followers I know.
The reality is however, that Brandon and I have seriously questioned whether or not my childhood church is supposed to become our home church.
When we started dating, Brandon and I spent a lot of time talking about our faith, what we felt was important in a church, and how to grow together and support oneanother in our spiritual walk. While my childhood church has a lot of the elements we are looking for, we have also questioned whether or not we would like to start out married life in a new church setting - a fresh environment for both of us.
As we've talked and visited several churches, we've started to realize what elements are important to us in a church home.
Non-negotiable Dogma (as far as our beliefs)
1. Preaching and teaching of the Bible as the inspired Word of God, without error.
2. The Trinity - that the One True God exists in three persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
3. Jesus Christ is God's Son and his death on the cross provided the only perfect sacrifice for our sin.
4. Salvation is a gift of grace.
Elements we would like in a church
- Strong preaching - for us this is defined as teaching from the Word that keeps Scripture center. We also appreciate when the pastor incorporates exegesis.
- An emphasis on fellowship and community - for us having a strong faith community is essential. Weaker preaching or a less favorable style of worship can be supplemented elsewhere, but a strong Christian community that practices accountability is irreplaceable.
- A multi-generational environment. While we don't have children now, we plan on having our children remain with us during congregational worship someday. While it isn't an essential, we appreciate churches that welcome and encourage this. In the same way, as fairly young (almost) newlyweds ourselves, we appreciate worshiping with a wide variety of ages and the influence that more mature members of the congregation can potentially have on us as we being our married life and look to grow in our faith :)
- Sticking to the basics. I am especially tired of visiting churches where the majority of the time ends up being spent on "special" music, dramas, videos, announcements, etc. I appreciate a church that sticks to the basics - prayer, worship, and teaching.
- Size. We would appreciate a smaller church, although I think Brandon is less adverse to a larger church than I am. While I have nothing against larger churches, I do think it is a bit more of a challenge to really develop community and accountability in a mega-church setting (although not impossible :) ).
What you won't see us stuck on....
1. Doctrinal preferences. While we certainly do have doctrinal preferences (some stronger than others), we don't tend to let a particular doctrine drive where we worship. In fact, we have both been raised with quite a variety of denominational influences, which I think has made us both quite well rounded. Here is a synopsis:
- Brandon: Primarily raised in the Lutheran church, but also attended non-denominational, Baptist, and Evangelical Free churches while growing up, and attended a Baptist college.
- Julianne: I was born into a staunch Christian Reformed family, raised in the Evangelical Covenant church, attended Assembly of God and Baptist schools, and went to a Christian Reformed college.
We certainly know what we believe and what doctrine we plan on raising our children with and incorporating into our family, but we also believe that many Christians allow rifts and division to be created based off non-essential doctrinal differences.
2. Music snobbery. Maybe this is a little harsh of a description, but my dad is the Minister of Music at our church and I have grown up always hearing someone complain about the music! Brandon and I both appreciate hymns and more contemporary music, but our only strong preference is nothing uber contemporary (i.e. feeling like you're more at a rock concert than a church service).
What about you? Have you ever had to look for a new church? What drew you to the church you attend now? Do you live in the metro-Detroit area and have a church you would recommend? :)
The incredible thing about this whole journey is that last week I was asked to attend a conference at my childhood church. It ended up being an amazing experience where the church leadership met and discussed where our church was at and where we were heading, and it made me wonder if what Brandon and I had thought was a call to go elsewhere, was really a call to take a second look at where we were and how God could use us. So while we are continuing to visit other churches in the area, we are also spending some fervent time in prayer asking God to reveal where we can best be used to glorify his Kingdom.