Monday, January 11, 2010

Church Hunting: Attempt #1

Going to church alone, like going to restaurants, movies, or amusement parks alone, takes a fair amount of courage. To some people, it is akin to having the word "LOSER" tattooed across one's forehead. To me, it is normal, but is still like being whacked over the head repeatedly with a reminder that I am single and don't know anyone in town yet. In other words, it's not something that I enjoy. But, I do need to be spiritually fed, and I know that my responsibility to go to church is in no way lessoned by my being alone. If anything, I am in greater need of a good church right now, since it will not only continue my spiritual growth, but will also help facilitate meeting people and making a new life for myself here in Lynchburg.

Last night, just before going to bed, I searched online for a church to try today. Sadly, there are no Reformed Baptist churches in the area. I had expected that that may be the case, since my denominational preference is not a common one here in the South. When I lived in Manassas, I went to an Evangelical Free church (that is, after I decided I was through letting my despot of an employer force me to go to a church that I hated). I really enjoyed that church, so I thought I would see if there were an Evangelical Free church here. I don't agree with 100% of their doctrines, but it is rare to find that at any church, and minor disagreements are no fit reason to discard a particular church or denomination. I found an Evangelical Free church online that was close to my home, and thought it might be a good one for today.

When I work up this morning, however, I changed my mind. I did not sleep well and had a headache, so I decided to try a church with a later morning service so that I could try to sleep off the headache (sometimes that works). Thus, when I got up finally, I did another quick search online and found a nearby Baptist church that looked promising.

The church was nice, but quite large. I have had a few bad experiences at large churches in the past, so I usually tend to avoid them. In my opinion, once a church reaches too large of a size, they stop serving their full purpose. I don't think that churches were meant to be just a place to hear a message on Sundays. I believe that God intended for the church to serve as a larger form of the family - a place where Christians know each other well enough to let down their defenses and be real with each other, and where each individual has their own niche. In a large church, that's next to impossible, and people become just numbers rather than individuals. The church, in that case, is just an institution rather than a warm familial environment that fosters true inner growth. So, the size was a deterrent, but I decided to give the church a chance anyway, since I was already there, and since I had a headache and didn't want to have too far to drive after the service.

The message was pretty good, and was applicable to me personally. I liked the pastor, and I liked the fact that worship consisted mainly of hymns. It's not that I hate modern music or anything like that; I just find that most contemporary worship seems to be little more than simple repeated choruses with little meaning behind the words, and lots of drums. Drums are great, but they cannot take the place of meaningful lyrics. There are, of course, several very stupid hymns that I can find absolutely no meaning in, but for the most part, hymns tend to be more reflective, worshipful, and even comforting than most modern worship music (and again, yes, there are exceptions). So, despite the size, the church definitely had its good points.

The thing that made me decide to keep looking, however, was the congregation. They were a pleasant enough crowd of cheerful, sincere-looking people, but there was one very obvious problem for me. I was, without a doubt, one of the youngest people in that about forty years. Now I do enjoy the elderly, but when it comes to church, I really want to find a place with at least a few people my own age that I can make friends with. Also, I would like to find a place with a youth or children's group that I could occasionally help out with.

Fortunately for me, I'm now living well within the Bible Belt, so there is no shortage of churches for me to try next Sunday (maybe even the one I had originally planned to try today). I'm hoping it doesn't take too long to find a new home church, but as long as I keep getting good sermons like the one today, the "church hunt" shouldn't be too unpleasant for me. I know that Liberty has a good church on its campus (Thomas Road Baptist Church), which I attended before when I was in college, but I would prefer not to go there now. Again, it's a matter of the church's size - Thomas Road Baptist is overwhelmingly HUGE. If worse comes to worse, I can always give it another try, but I really, really dislike being in a church so large that it feels more like a stadium. So, if you're among my Christian readers, please pray that I can find a good church soon. And now, it's time for me to go lie down and attempt to get rid of this nasty headache before it becomes my first migraine of 2010.

Have a refreshing Sunday, everyone!

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"