June 4, 2013

Can We Go Church Shopping?.....

....What? What? What?
I'm gonna praise the Lord
With a childcare sticker in my pocket,
I'm huntin',
Coffee bar and donuts,
This is....awesome.

From about January til April of this year we were in the process of Church Shopping, or Church Dating, as my funny friend Krista says. It kind of started a while ago and it's been a slow breakaway not like a quick bandaid pull.  We never really made an announcement like "Hi. We are changing churches." How do you say that? It's awkward. There are lots of questions to answer. And when you only know what God is telling you, it is sometimes hard to communicate that in a way where others understand. In many ways  it's like a breakup or even a divorce.
And y'all know I like to put disclaimers out there. Here is my disclaimer on this post--It is not to tell you why or how we left our old church, a church we were a part of for 4 years, the first body we were a part of as a Caney family. But more of a post to ask you about your heart and your {church} body and your place. Hope you get some giggles from our church shopping tidbits over the course of our marriage.

*all names of people and churches have been changed to protect me 

The Big & Rich Texas Presbyterian Church

This was the first church we attended together, this was before we were married. It was down in Highland Park. If you are from Dallas, you know what this means. If you are not from Dallas and reading this, Highland Park is the old high dollar neighborhood. The church itself was gorgeous. Old and exactly what comes to mind when you think of a pretty Dallas church. Sadly, most Sundays we attended, I was still nursing a hangover from the frat party the night before and only thinking about when I could get home to take my Sunday nap. Formal Sunday Best was the best way I could describe the dress. Men wore suits. Women wore suits and carried Louis Vuittons with their 5 carat diamond clad hands. I  felt homely in my Ross sundresses and flip flops. What's a Louis I would ask?  Being newly engaged and struggling with my own identity as a woman and in Christ, I felt inadequate rubbing elbows with Dallas's elite. Now that I look back on it, the teaching was actually really great. Very old school but very sound. I was so closed minded to so many things. It was about 25 miles from where we ended up landing after marriage so the proximal distance made a good excuse to not return.

The Sneak Out the Back Door Church

We visited this small little Presbyterian church in Frisco once after we were married. Pretty sure we were the only people under 50. We didn't even make it through the whole service. About 10 minutes in, Michael whispered, "You sneak out like you're going to the bathroom and I'll follow you."Not sure why we felt like we had to 'sneak' especially since we had never been there. But it's funny to look back on.

The Dungeon Church

This church met in an old movie theatre in downtown Plano. For worship they turned out all the lights and there was one girl and one dude signing some eerie sounding songs on a stage covered with a hundred lit candles. There was just something freaky about it. It was like Phantom of the Opera goes to church. We didn't go back.

Elementary School Church #1

Yes, we had made a cardinal rule against the popular elementary school church, but at the suggestion of a friend we tried out this place. We actually went back here for a couple of months. It was small and starting out. The childcare was this hallway in front of the school library that they had used dumpsters to barricade the children in. I had just had Michael, Jr and the thought of dropping off my firstborn behind a the dumpster barricade was more than I could fathom at that point in life. The pastor had great teaching, but I think in the 2 months we were there, I don't think anyone ever talked to us beyond the basic door greeting and mid-worship turn to your neighbor hi-five. Oh and the irony of it, it met in the exact elementary school where I had my first teaching job-- the teaching job where I had also been 'non-renewed' (another blog for another day).

Elementary School Church #2

After no luck with Elementary school church #1 we thought we'd give another one a shot. This one was at the next school over from the first. The moment we walked in we were greeted by eager friendly folks. It was a nice change to the previous school church. We enjoyed the service and they even invited us out to lunch right after that first service. To Bennigans! Nothing like a 20 top of church folks at Bennigans, right? Can I get an Amen? They were all just so friendly. They sat Michael and I right in the middle of the group and then proceeded to ask us lots of questions about ourselves, and our church history. My fave church shopping question, by the way, is "So... did y'all just move here?" In church code that means, "Where did you go to church before and I why did you leave?"
They were so friendly we decided to go back the next week. We were greeted by the same friendly folks. As we chatted, one of the ladies just blatantly said "So, have you all decided about membership yet?"
 Totally taken aback and I mumbled something like, "Um we are still thinking about it." Talk about pressure! Was she aware that we had only been here once before? I think we scooted out just a little quicker that day and we did not stick around for the Bennigans lunch.
Three days later, it was a Wednesday around lunchtime. Having only 1 kid (who was just 7 months) at the time, I often had time to catch up on TV during nap time or while I was feeding him meals. I was in the middle of feeding him some lunch and watching one of my former guilty pleasures The Girls Next Door. Don't judge. I don't watch anymore and shouldn't have been watching then, but I always got a kick out of Heff's ladies.  The doorbell rang unexpectedly. I opened the door to find "Have You Decidded About Membership" lady standing there holding a big chocolate bar. She somehow let herself past me and flat out  said "Hi, I came by to talk to you about membership and see if you made decision yet."Easy lady, this is not sorority rush.  Just then, she looked over at the TV screen and noticed Heff's three ladies dancing in bikinis. She looked back at me, fumbled around and then made up an excuse to leave. I ate the chocolate immediately and we still drink out of the coffee mug.
We never heard from that church again!
Totally fine with us.

The Oversaved Church/ We Welcome You Church

We welcome you, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
We welcome you, for who you are
You are good all the time, All the time you are good. 

We went here off and on for about 3 years. Never really consistent, just here and there when we thought we needed a little JC. I call it the Welcome You Church because, it never failed, they sang this song every Sunday we went. It's not a bad song, I'm not saying that. There was just something really hokey and surface level about the whole thing. We even gave this place the good ole college try. I volunteered for their VBS. We tried to join a small group. It seemed like every couple we met though, was a home school parent and they looked at us like we had 4 heads when we told them we were not planning to home school. That's where the Oversaved part comes in. They had the Christian-ese language down to an art. Not to say homeschooling is bad by any means, they just thought we were nuts and not saved enough because we weren't fans of it. The church later opened up a building and service for primarily young adults. Awesome, we thought. We still only had one kid so we liked to consider ourselves young adults. But oh Snap! A girl Michael used to date happened to be the worship leader. In fairness, she and I have now become friends and she will probably read this. I love and adore her! But at that point in my life and marriage I was just not secure enough to go to place with the distraction of my husband's ex between me and Jesus.

The 'Jesus Light Version' Church

There are actually a handful of Jesus Light Version churches in the metroplex. And most of them have several campuses, sort of like a monopoly. We visited twice I believe. Us and 10,000 others. Jesus Light churches are great for the casual church goer. Jesus Light churches though, do not teach the gospel of Christ and the Cross. Jesus Light churches usually preach the gospel of man. They are really good at motivating and teaching life lessons and teaching better christian life principals. Jesus Light churches appeal to the senses of the masses and make church 'comfortable'. Jesus Light churches woo you in by singing Journey songs during worship and making cool artsy videos. The beauty of the Jesus Light church is that you leave feeling really good about you, not necessarily really good about the Savior who died for you.

That brings us up to our old church. I will not at this time type any caricature or humorous stereotype of it. We are both sure that it's not the place we are called to, but it is still so very dear to my heart.

So church is like love. I have said before that I knew the minute I saw Michael I was just smitten with him. I knew that there was nothing that would stand in the way of me being with him. Church is the same way. When you know, you know. The body we recently left- on that first visit, we knew it was home. But in being like love, you also have to set some boundaries and some guidelines in your heart. There has to be some deal breakers. In the same way you are not going to marry someone you don't fully love, there is no need to invest your time sweat and tears into a body where you do not, in your core, belong.

We reevaluated our priorities and what we desired in a body. I have recently fallen in love with Jen Hatmaker, a christian mom, pastor's wife, and blogger. I love the way she puts it... "we had been doing a lovely job of serving the saved and ignoring everyone else." 

Michael and I had just gotten to a point where we desire to not be better Christians, but to be more like Jesus. To reach the sinners where they are, not by inviting them to our big pretty church. Jesus went to them, he didn't just stand there and expect that they come to him.  We don't want to live this 'perfect life'  but more to be real and through our transparency, show others that you don't have to be clean and perfect for Jesus, but that He will come to you just as you are. Most of the non-churched hates the church folks. Why? Because we get together and act like good Christians and not like Christ. Christian means Christ follower It does not mean perfect. Church folks go to Bennigans with 20 other people and act snooty with the waitress when she forgot our straw. Church folks call each other and gossip about other people in the church but they make it okay by putting the "we need to pray for _____" disclaimer on it. Church folks put a big cross sticker on the back of their car and then yell at their kids in the car  and flip somebody off on the way to church. Church folks sing a Journey song to try to sound cool and somehow relate it to Christ. Church folks teach the already saved and over-program every little thing. 

  • So how is your church?
  • Is your church challenging you to go to the lost? 
  • Is your church giving you a feel good message that makes you feel like you can overcome or  rather one that teaches you that without Jesus, nothing is possible?
  • Is your church keeping a list of the good deeds or 'works' that you do or it does? 
  • Is your church keeping the gospel too light so as not to offend potential members?
  • Are you in a position where you are being used by Christ to share the gospel or rather are you in a position that fulfills your needs and personal desires for glory?

Is your church ultimately glorifying Jesus or themselves?
That is the most important question folks-- if it doesn't point to Jesus, it points in the complete opposite direction. For without his unconditional love and his unswerving grace, we are nothing.