Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Church Home Finds Us

We make much in the "Christ-haunted" South, as Flannery O'Conner would say, of "finding a church home."

Yet another peculiar phrase of our provincial religious lingo, "finding a church home" implies that worshippers are not pilgrims but consumers. Which is it: are we on the prowl for the place that suits us best or in search of a community where we might serve?

Maybe our church home, like our biological family, finds us instead.

Shortly after we arrived in Atlanta, we couldn't help but notice the Peachtree (wouldn't you know it?) Baptist Church right down the street from our home. I knew nothing about the fellowship or the pastor or its mission or theology or affiliation.

But, the message on the marquee got our attention: "our doors and our hearts are open to everyone." Sabbath day rolled around and we headed to Peachtree to give it the "truth in advertising" test.

We were greeted warmly at the door, seated hospitably by the usher. Looking around, we saw that all kinds of folks, like us, were testing the message on the marquee too: old and young, black and white and brown, male and female.

When the worship began, the music inspired, the preaching challenged, the pastors-- both female and male-- blessed. The minister extended the invitation, and I felt my wife's elbow in my side. "Get up," she whispered. "We're joining."

"We are?" I asked, shocked, as Jana nudged me out into the aisle.

Within seconds, we were huddled at the altar praying with our new pastor and being introduced to a new fellowship of Christ.

As you might have guessed, we have discovered in the ensuing weeks nothing but delights of meaningful relationship, purposeful mission, and impactful ministry. In the midst of these glad discoveries, we will also soon see that this fellowship too, like all other bodies of Christ, has its struggles and shortcomings.

No surprise there. One need only look as far as the newest members to see that mixed bag. A seminary professor of mine used to suggest that folks dispense with their arbitrary ecclesiastical consumerism-- after all, how do I know what church is best for me?-- and simply attend the one nearest their home.

Try it. You might just be found by a church home.


Anonymous said...

Wow, you are an adventurous duo! Finding a church home is so challenging at times. Finding people who really love you is an important part of church life because many have had bad church experiences.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad the Peachtree found you, I know they'll be glad you found them, too.

Steve Puckett said...

I like your wife's style and I totally agree with the idea of connecting with a church near you. I still believe in community and it's power and that the church is extension of that community. We should be showing the larger community every day what's it like to get along and love all those in our community.

I got to your site through Real Live Preacher.

I have family in Duluth and a bro-in-law who preaches in Norcross.