*Note to my peeps: Don’t panic. You’re in the right place. I thought it was time for a new look.
As a recently reestablished resident of the Metro Nashville area in Nashville, TN, my husband and I have been engaged in the disheartening activity of finding a church to attend. Here’s a little background:
Once Upon a Time
I have been a member of a church, either in Tennessee or Texas, for most of my life. That means I have regularly attended, tithed, and served in different capacities in various mainstream denominational and nondenominational churches throughout most of my fifty-year lifespan. My family has been, traditionally, some incarnation of conservative Baptist. As a young adult in the 1980s, I switched to nondenominational, which has been the mainstay of my religious observance from that time until now.
My husband’s family attended the local Baptist church, as well, confining the bulk of their attendance to holidays and other special occasions. Because he is twelve years older than me, his experience of “Christian America” may entertain a slightly different vantage point, but not enough to affect a noticeable difference in our spiritual perspectives. Another important point to be made is the fact that we are newlyweds—a precious story for another time—which is certainly a factor in this discussion.
Where Do We Start?
Several weeks ago, we began our search on the Internet. Nashville has undergone a massive transformation from the city of my youth. Upon my return from a twenty-plus year tour of Texas, I encountered a beautiful, albeit alien, terrain. Thank goodness for Google! I can’t believe I used to drive around without it. Churches are everywhere so crawling the web helps to narrow the choices down a bit. Of course, prayer has been our key resource.
From sanctuaries and auditoriums, bleachers, folding chairs, and pews, I’ve engaged in enough congregations to have honed a specific criteria of what I’m looking for. Oddly, this list has become shorter over the years, which is noteworthy considering how church programs seem to be steadily lengthening. Confession moment: I should disclose the fact that I have spent the better part of the last decade in a weird sort of disillusionment regarding the Christian church in America. I found it increasingly difficult, at times, to attend. In his own life over the years, my husband, who became intensely involved in the Renewal Movement of the mid-nineties and active in prison ministry, eventually became discouraged, as well, preferring to worship privately through biblically sound, teaching tools (podcasts, recordings, etc.) and prayer. In my experience, no matter how sweet the people, how sound the teaching, or how moving the worship experience, I consistently came away with a growing sense of loss, like we were missing something—something important.
More and more, I find that I am not alone in this unsettling revelation. I am an avid reader and researcher concerning cultural shifts within populations. The American church is an endless source of observable data. While the Focus of our devotion is unchanging, our expression of His worship exists in a perpetual state of regeneration. Why, then, are so many once-committed Believers now choosing football and sandwiches over the wine and the bread (Hebrews 10:24-26)?
I would like to end this installment, here, and ask my readers to reflect upon this discussion. I will leave my comments section open. In the past, I have closed it, enabling me to read the content before allowing it to be seen by the public. Because I intend this to be an open discussion, I’m taking the safeguards off. Remember, we are discussing the Bride of Christ. No matter her state, she is His bride and we must treat her with the same love and respect that our Bridegroom has so graciously extended to all of us. We are flawed and imperfect, but we are loved beyond measure or human understanding.
One more thing: there’s a point to this extra-long entry. More is on the way. I want to not only start a discussion, but bring up an uncomfortable, yet foundational, component that I believe is one reason for the discouragement and subsequent exodus of so many faithful hearts (Matthew 24:12). Stay tuned. This could be good.