Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Before you start ranting about the devil, cults and how Halloween is a celebration of evil take a deep breath and relax. It used to be a fun holiday before Fall Celebrations and Harvest Festivals replaced it. It was a night when free candy was given out to children and all you had to do was ring the doorbell. However, you couldn’t show up in street clothes – you had to be in costume. Think back to some of your favorites. Superheroes, ghosts, robots, movie icons and others were an excuse to let the imagination come to life.
There is one costume I never saw, though. It’s one that would have fit into the category of fantasy and impossibility perfectly. That costume is: the perfect local church. To be accurate, you would have needed to start a building campaign a few months before costume construction, but the only place a perfect church exists is in the imagination. I’m sure Superman and Batman are deacons there.
Many of the conversations I have with other believers eventually move to what is happening in the local churches we attend. Factions angling for a power play, mission trips to the jungle, people whose feelings are always hurt about something, and the combination of worship/music/preaching always seem to come up. And that’s just a sample.
When I moved to Fort Worth I had to find a local church to attend. I was in seminary so it kind of made sense – plus the tuition increase if I didn’t find one was a good incentive. I had never really church shopped so I was looking forward to it. I thought, “This is Bible Belt headquarters, so there must be some gems!” Wrong. I attended probably a half dozen or so over the next few months and finally realized that a decision was going to have to be made. I could keep jumping around, looking for perfection, or pick the flawed one that fit the best. So I joined the one that God seemed to put on my heart.
No one honestly says they think a perfect local church exists, but don’t we like to imagine it’s out there somewhere when a friend tells us how wonderful things are where they attend? It’s like the temptation to click on the Bigfoot special on the Discovery Channel. You’ve seen and heard it all before, but maybe this one’s different. Both are usually a waste of an hour or two.
Churches that appear to be the perfect combination of mortar and Spirit only seem that way on the surface. Join that church and get involved and then you’ll see pretty quick that local churches, like Halloween costumes, may look awesome at first but can become uncomfortable after a short time. It’s because a church is an assembly (ekklesia) of human beings. Most are believers, some aren’t and some have no idea what they’re doing there.
Is one of them a narcissist during the week? She’s going to be a narcissist at church.
Does one of your coworkers annoy you? He’s going to annoy you if you go to the same church.
But a church’s existence isn’t for the purpose of making you feel all giddy and entertained on Sunday morning. It’s a place for you to plug in, grow with other believers, worship God, and do ministry. It’s a relational place. You give and you get; you don’t just ring the doorbell and get some candy. By “candy” I mean meat market. And by “meat market” I mean the church that has the best-looking singles class. Ever noticed the “call” to attend church somewhere else when your class gets uglier?
If my approach to a church is “Is this the place where I can best serve God as a part of the body of Christ?” it may simplify the process of finding a local church. Of course, this assumes that you’re trying to commit to a church and not just lurk in the back pew. Granted, if they only play hymns on an out of tune piano and think that any technology created after the VCR is from the devil, then I understand your hesitation, but God’s call on your life includes where he wants you to go to church.
Any church that is seeking to glorify God from a biblical standard should be a good place to check out. They’ll have different styles, but don’t we all? The common factor of course, is that they’ll all be messing it up somehow. So get in there and see how you can mess it up with them.