Last week in my post “New” I told you hat we were in the process of changing churches. Spending 19.5 years in one church makes it difficult to leave, even when God releases you. We began our search for a new church by making a list of churches that we knew of in our community and wanted to visit. There were 6 churches on that list. We have visited them all once and two of them twice so far. Two were immediately removed from the list after our first visit for different reasons. Then in what I can only call a divine appointment, I had the opportunity to review the book Changing Churches: A View From the Pew by Dottie Parish.
I sat down with the intentions of starting the book and let’s just say I didn’t get up for a while because I read the whole book in one sitting! Dottie breaks the book down into three sections: 1. A Journey in Three Churches 2. Interlude:Guide for Leaders and Leavers 3. Lessons for Changing Churches. Section 1 is where Dottie tells her story about her spiritual journey and changing churches multiple times over about 20 years. Section 2 is a nuts and bolts guide which discusses the grieving process leavers go through, valid reasons for leaving, steps toward leaving, and searching for your new church home. Section 3 includes Ideas for the Sheep where we are reminded how to be good followers, Ideas for the Shepherds where she reminds church leaders how a shepherd leads his sheep. Next Dottie covers what is and isn’t important in choosing a church and then she gives us a brief overview of world religions and new religious movements so that we know what to watch out for and who to witness to in our day-to-day relationships.
The Mom Maven’s Thoughts
This book came to me at the perfect time. We had completed our initial visits of the 6 churches and my husband and I agreed on some and not on others. I enjoyed Dottie’s stories of her personal experiences in the beginning of the book but the last 2 sections really spoke to me. They touched me so much I took notes and discussed them with our friends who are preparing for a potential job relocation and will again be searching for a new church home in their new city.
Reading through the 7 valid reasons for leaving your church my husband and I felt our situation met 2 of these reasons, plus the fact that God had told us both we were released. This validated a nagging in the back of my mind that we were being selfish in leaving. In the last section of the book Dottie speaks about what I have been calling the big 4 important things to look for in a church. These are Music, Prayer, Communion and The Message.
While I don’t agree 100% with the book’s thoughts on music, I am a contemporary Christian musician and I have been a worship leader and a choir director, I believe there is definitely a need and a place in the church for music other than traditional hymns. I do agree that music should be theologically sound and performed with excellence.
Prayer should take place during the service, and not just concerning the offering.
Communion should be reverent and personal and include Scripture, prayer and explanations. This is where there were red flashing lights going off in my head as I read the book. Church #1 that we visited served communion in the aisles as people were leaving the service. It was like drive-thru communion. It was not sacred, personal or reverent. Those who choose to receive communion on any given week clog up the aisle for those trying to leave the sanctuary and I didn’t like it at all. My husband visited this church a 2nd time, without me-he love the music and the preaching, when he arrived home, I asked him if communion was served the same way again and he admitted it was. When I shared this book with him I explained to him why that church had to come off our list and he agreed.
During The Message we should be confronted with biblical ideals and we should leave challenged.
The three churches still on our list meet all of the big 4 important things so now we are focusing on things like opportunities for spiritual growth through classes and Bible studies, opportunities to use our gifts to serve the church and the ability to create friendships and feel a part of a church family again. Please pray for us as we continue this journey and if you are on a similar journey I hop you will check out Changing Churches: A View From the Pew.