Sunday, June 10, 2012

Looking for a Church

We are almost at our 7-month anniversary of living in D.C. and have still not decided on a home church. We have tried many, and even attended a few for 4-7 weeks in a row. But it's been a difficult search. The one we felt most sure about turns out to have an attendance of 4,000 and that's way too big for us! We're realizing that there are so many different aspects of church that matter to us -- it's really challenging to know how to hold those in balance, and how to prioritize them.

Some of the issues that are most important to us (besides the basics of Bible-teaching and Jesus-following) are:
1) Community -- we strongly feel that Church is meant to be family, deeply connected and caring for each other. Because of this we're looking for friendliness, small groups, times of fellowship, the ability to participate actively in the worship service, and a vibrant children's ministry. We want our church to be a place where our children feel loved and see Christ-following lived out in a very real way. This also means that size is a big deal to us. We feel the ideal size would be 100-250 people.

2) Worship -- we've experienced a wide variety of styles and media in previous home churches, and find that we strongly value such diversity. We appreciate both the latest songs and hymns, and the lyrics of time-tested classic hymns (though they're more fun with modern upbeat renditions!); quiet contemplation as well as exuberant praise; a bit of liturgy and a bit of freedom; choirs, praise teams, dramas and dance.

3) Teaching -- both through our undergrad years at Wheaton College, and our recent years at Magdalen Road Church (in Oxford, England) and Oasis Church (in Amman, Jordan), we've been greatly blessed with powerful, challenging teaching. We are used to sermons that have been well-prepared, well-prayed-over, and that you can't walk away from without being a changed person! We would love to find similar teaching.

4) Ministry -- we know that our lives in Christ are not just about *us* but about reaching out to the world around us. Steve has spent years learning about Islam, and God has given both of us a passion to befriend Muslims and help other Christians know how better to interact with the Muslims in their own lives. We need a church who has vision for sharing Christ, both in words and in deeds.

I think it's safe to say that at this point we have 3 churches uppermost in our consideration, though we'd like to continue visiting other new ones as well. We say the above 4 aspects are most important to us, but then we find that there are other considerations affecting our decision as well, including demographics and aesthetics. I often wish that I could take all the churches we've visited so far and just combine my favorite aspect of each into a custom-made church. Impossible, I know. So how long do we keep looking? Please pray for us.

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