I wrote this about 3 years ago. At this point I did not know that I would not be a minister of a church and therefore not preaching on Sundays. I am free to worship where I want or not at all.
When I have been to worship though, I have always gone locally. Maybe this post still holds for me.
If I had a £1 for every time I heard that, I would be a very rich man (well my wealth would exceed £37 anyway).
I first heard that phrase in the 80s when I was a student. Apparently one of the goals of evangelical experience was to find a ‘gooood’ church (I elongated ‘good’ as it seemed to be said a lot like that- often in a southern middle class voice.) At this ‘gooood’ church you would find excellent ‘teaching’, kids work, music etc etc. And I bought it: I was young, away from home, a newish Christian and it all seemed so exciting. Besides students are largely disconnected from the indigenous community anyway & many are young in the faith.
When I moved away and got a flat, later getting married, I moved to a large town. I confess I didn’t go to the nearest Church, but the one the Methodist Superintendent recommended. It was still possible to walk there (just) and the community had some connections with where I lived. However, I don’t recall, except latterly, even going into any local churches or getting involved in the community where my neighbours ‘lived and moved and had their being’. I did begin to think it was strange that some people travelled over 10 miles to come to this church; presumably having even less involvement in the place where they lived.
If there is one thing the ‘Fresh Expressions’ Movement has opened our eyes to it is ‘place’: God loved this place, this time….start with what God is doing in a place- either in a local church or with some involvement/contact with it. The world has too many churches/denominations without starting another one. If the world needs Christ, it has more chance of seeing him if your community sees you sticking around as opposed to watching your exhaust fumes as you travel to that goooood church and spend a good deal of your social time around there.
One of the many reasons why I am reluctant to use the label ‘evangelical’ much anymore (apart from the fact I loathe labels), is that this desire to find a ‘goooood’ church seems to mark this movement especially strongly. I found a really helpful post, albeit from a different cultural setting here:-http://chrisbreuninger.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/surprised-by-rant/
Here is an extract:-
‘The problem goes like this: the church implicitly or explicitly promises spiritual growth through it’s various programs, and when the church does not deliver on that unrealistic expectation, some feel let down and start shopping for a new church.
Now, there’s nothing wrong about changing churches. Sometimes that’s a good move. But when it’s precipitated by the expectation that the church is responsible for my spiritual growth, it becomes problematic on a number of levels.
For one, it displaces responsibility away from the individual and onto the church to “feed me” through… you name it: sermons, music, programs, socials, etc. As such, it trains people to become consumers of religious goods rather than equipping people to become disciples of Jesus‘.
I love that phrase: ‘consumers of religious goods’- it marks us all; protestants more, evangelicals even more so.