STATIC DISCLAIMER: All the stuff in here is purely my opinions, and they tend to change depending on what mood I'm in. If you're going to get bitter if I say something about you that you don't like, then maybe don't read. I avoid using names as much as possible, and would request that people who know me do the same in their comments. Basically, I often vent my frustrations on here, so if you happen to be someone who frustrates me, expect to read a description of someone very much like you in here!

Sunday, November 06, 2005


My wife and I are looking for a new church. I don't remember if I've blogged about this before, but basically we decided that we weren't entirely happy with the direction and focus of our current church, and with our son coming up to the age where he'd be learning from sources other then us we wanted to make sure that the church we were attending him was giving him the foundations we believe are important.

So we've gone to a handful of different churches, but as yet we haven't really been grabbed by any of them. Perhaps we're looking for an impossible mix (AOG-style enthusiasm AND solid teaching like we both remember from our Anglican days) but I'm still holding out hope. We've been to a small handful of local churches but as yet we haven't really found one that's made us go "Ah, yes. That's what we're after." I think the closest so far is Hawkesbury Valley Baptist Church, where some of our friends and extended family go. They seem to be quite laid back with their approach to leadership and authority, which is a big relief for us coming from a church who were already quite focused on it, and then launched into a series to draw more focus.
Church isn't about control - and never was supposed to be. "Religion" is about control - Jesus is about freedom. I had a great conversation with my Dad about this issue on the weekend. {sub-tangent}My Dad is probably the one person who's Godly wisdom I value the most. He tends to worry unnecissarily about a lot of things, but when it all comes down he always has solid advice that's yet to steer me wrong when I follow it. {/sub-tangent}
However, the thing about this is that I'm really quite surprised at how few churches we've been able to find. We've looked on the net for websites, and in the phone book and stuff, and there's just not the plethora of choice and style I thought there would be. Finding a non-"Hawkesbury Church Affiliated" Penticostal church in the area is impossible. And the fact is that churches that are affiliated with Hawkesbury Church all subscribe to the same set of teachings that made us want to leave in the first place...
Finding a good church I think is a saga in itself. There's people out there who I've spoken to who think the only way to find a really good church is to start your own. Now I'm not really a start my own church kind of guy, but I do like the mentality. It's not a "bitter at organised church" thing, as some might suggest - but rather an understanding that church was never about buildings and ordained Pastors and youth programmes. It's about people who love God spending time together and worshiping as a community. If you've got a handful of friends who can't find somewhere that feels like home, why not start your own church? Not that there's anything wrong with an "organisational" church either. I think both have their merits. And to be honest, that's what we'd be looking for at the moment, as we'd like somewhere that has an awesome kids programme. We're just trying to find a church where I can send my little boy off to Sunday School, and not have to debrief him on it when we get home. Somewhere where he'll learn about the faith of Daniel in the lion's den, rather then how vitally important it is to give 10% of his pocket money to church. Giving is all important, but tithing is Old Testement law used to spiritually guilt congregations into giving a minimum amount so that Pastors can feel financially secure. Don't like this statement? I don't care - it's my opinion and I believe I can prove the modern misuse of tithing as a law using direct Biblical text (as opposed to inference, which is what those little boxes in the Spirit-filled Life Bible use to bring tithing through to the New Covenant). There's a whole other rant right there.

Anyway, if you go to church somewhere in or near the Hawkesbury valley, and you think your church is pretty good, I'd be keen to hear about it. Post me a comment, and let me know where you go, and what you think of it. You just might see us at your place next Sunday. :)


Nathan Zamprogno said...

That's the second post in a row where you've used the word "tangent", and in this one you actually had a tangent off your tangent. Wow. Is it worth pointing out that a tangent off a tangent actually points back exactly in the original direction? Mmmm.

As far as your search for a new Church is concerned, you have my hearty sympathies. In my own situation, the very questions you raise have been in a crucible for me for several years. I would make these observations:

1. Are you really making your assessments based on the values or doctrine of a church, or as a result of disappointments or friction with people? If so, then a new Church may ultimately seem lustrous only because there's no "baggage", & not because it's actually any better.

2. Finding a Church you like is not as important as finding the Church that God wants to plant you in, which may at times include friction or 'square-peg-in-round-hole-ness'. We've both been brought up to believe that Churchgoing is not a passive activity but a key to the fruitful outworking of our faith. Thus, we feel the need to find somewhere where we can affect the sphere around us. You have already said Church ought not be an environment of 'control' where we meekly submit and 'function' like we're told to. Rather it's a two way street where our participation affects the nature of 'the Body' itself. Fruitful and fulfilled Christians in fellowship are not just agents, but catalysts as well. Thus, when you approach a potential fellowship, ask yourself "would I feel so cushy here that I would feel no need for me to affect it, but only to let it affect me?" If the answer is yes then you're missing half the equation.

I've had cause enough to throw in the towell over the last few years because of my disappointment at how the Church I love mutated into something I no longer recognised, an authoritarian "look at me" club.

The reason I do not leave is because of a deep, deep conviction that when God plants you in a place, you don't walk away until you hear it clearly from God that that season in your life is over. I haven't had that call yet, and therefore, I must believe that God has a role for me to change the culture around me by just being who I am. You need to ask yourself that same question. For my money, someone with your thoughtful brand of faith needs to be in a Church that requires committed people to ensure that God's hand of blessing continues to remain on it instead of leaving because of personal or doctrinal excesses.

It's like my political colouring. If I decided to look for a political party that exactly matched my quirky set of beliefs I would have to end up forming my own party, which would have a membership of one. At least, until I myself left because I changed my mind over some issue. Instead, I joined a party broadly representative of my values and brought with me a steely resolve that I would persuade people to see things my way, and like it.

PS, God told me that you and your family have to come to Richmond or He will smite you with His plus-five vorpal sword of ultimate smiting smitiness.

Well maybe not, but I had to slip the word "smite" in there somewhere, 'coz smite is such a cool word. Smitey smitily smite. Mmmm.... I eat Vegesmite which is smite-a-licious.

Justin Warner said...

Thanks Nathan - as always, your comments are well thought-out and close to what I've been thinking through myself.

One thing I will say, is that the idea of being "planted" is one I don't 100% agree with, as I think it has come not (or at least not in it's present form) from the Bible, but rather from Pastors who wish to ensure that their congregations will stay with them regardless of the bad decisions they make or false/poor teaching they teach. This isn't a jab at anyone who's been my Pastor thus far, but reading Hybles and other Penticostal-styled leadership books, I get this impression that there's a general overtone of "protecting our position" when it comes to leaders. There's this unspoken (although often implied) sacredness applied to leaderships, that I honestly would like to see rebuked. It certainly doesn't line up with the "servant leader" model that Jesus put forward. Show me one person in the Bible that Jesus forced to respect his authority. You won't find one. And yet it's He who had the most right of anyone to insist. To appropriate a certain softdrink slogan: Position is nothing, service is everything. This is one thing I'm looking for in a church, and I have seen in at least one we've been to - an understanding that leadership isn't a right to rule, but an opportunity to serve, and that from a leadership perspective, congregations are there to be served not to be servants. I'd like to be a leader in a church like that - one where I'm not working towards better delegation, but more towards effective service. Where the Pastor will help pack up the chairs, or will take a turn at being an usher. Many churches I've been in would gasp at that, and say it's not honouring your leaders. But who taught them that letting their leaders pack up chairs is dishonouring? Their leaders, funnily enough.

At a church we went to the other week, a friend of mine (who we both know, but I'm doing my whole "no names" thing) who had only been going for a few weeks offered to help out with their kids ministry. They snapped up her offer, and she helped out. She asked them about what they'd require from her if she wanted to keep helping out. The answer? Nothing. It was completely up to her. No one would judge her for not being "sold out" to kids ministry, or not attending a midweek leadership training meeting... She could just serve where she had giftings, and choose not to at any future point. I want to go to a church that does this, because although it gives lazy people the ability to be lazy, the massive upshot is that it gives people who love to serve the oppertunity to actually serve rather then being told what to do.

Thanks for your input Nathan - I will definatley be taking much of what you've said into consideration as we continue our search. :)