Monday, April 09, 2012

The Church Shopping Saga Continues: Is It a Jesus-led Church?

This post is one in a series about the adventure of finding a new church to attend after moving to a new town.  It began with Church is Not a Buffet.

In that post, I wrote:
As we were talking about the four churches we've visited, and weighing our likes and dislikes, my husband pointed out that we can't just choose the music from one, the sermon from another, the programs from another, etc.  It's not a buffet.  It's more like when you order your entree and it comes with various other items and you eat them or pick them off and set them aside.
We've now visited six different churches.  As we were talking about them yesterday, we started coming up with "qualifications" as to how we would rank them and, eventually, pick one to attend.  The qualifications we came up with are:

  • Is the church led by Jesus?
  • Is it a place in which we can be fed?
  • Was there a good sermon?
  • Does it have good children's programs? 
  • Did we like the music?
  • Are there mission/service opportunities in which to participate?
  • Do they affirm women in leadership?
Some of these are more important to my husband and some are more important to me, but we were hoping that by doing something like this, it will help us decide.  Unfortunately, coming up with these qualifications and ranking them places us squarely in the camp of being a consumer of church, and I can't stand that.  Choosing a church should not be about all the benefits that I receive; it should be about being a tiny part of the larger Body of Christ.

I also think that the qualification I first listed, "Is the church led by Jesus?", should be the most important.  Here's the question, though.  How do you know for sure?  I am sure that every Christian church believes that it is following Jesus, and various committee meetings likely begin with prayer, and the pastor can make announcements on a Sunday morning about decisions that have been made by their Jesus-following committees, but for the average churchgoer or those like us looking to find a church to attend, how do we know?  

Immediately what comes to mind are the two commandments that are most important to Jesus:
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?"  Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one;  you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.'  The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." --Mark 12:28-31
But again, how do you know?  People who have been attending a church for a long time may know whether or not the church finds these things to be important.  It could be that it is an important theological concept, but not one most people put into practice.  It could be that people practice it individually or as members of small groups, but not one that is used in major decision-making at the "church" level.

What do you think are the marks of a Jesus-led church?  If you were visiting one for the first time, would you be able to tell?  Are there some "qualifications" that you think are important that you would add to my list?

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