What do you do when you don’t like your church? Find another, some people say. But is it really that simple? I hate church shopping, and the idealist within tells me I should be able to get along in whatever church I’m at. But that can’t be completely true–there’s theological differences that you just can’t agree on, right? Or should we all be able to come together in Christ, no matter our differences?
The idealist within tells me church should be a place where all are welcome, regardless of race, class, and belief. If the church couldn’t handle differences, even theological ones, how would it have lasted so long? The idealist within tells me if I’m not liking my church the problem is me. I’m not involved, I’m not paying attention, I’m too hung up minor details, I’m too selfish.
But the pragmatic within tells me church needs to be a place that functions. If I can’t get involved, what’s the point? If I fall asleep in the pew, that’s a problem. If I can’t worship because the worship leader with the poodle hair is driving me nuts, I need to find another way to worship. It’s not my problem, it’s their problem. Perhaps that’s taking it a bit far, but there is a practical side to it. If your church acts out its free will ideas in a way that contradicts my predestination, we’re going to have some problems. Even Paul and Barnabas disagreed and split.
Then the idealist within rises up again and tells me things never get better when people leave. What does that accomplish? If you have a problem with the church, and it’s a genuine problem (not the annoying poodle-haired woman), the answer is change. Start moving to bring about change yourself. The church will never become a friendly church if people leave because the church is unfriendly. You have to do your part to make the church friendly.
But I’ve been coming for a year, says that pragmatic. But you can’t shop for a church like you shop for a sweater, says the idealist. And back and forth they go.
I think church should be a place where you feel accepted, whether it’s your first time, or your seven-hundredth. I think church should be a place of community–not just a Sunday morning affair. I want to see church happening outside the four walls we deem church. I think church should be local–I don’t think church can work when you have to hop on the freeway to get there.
And so all the ideas pop around in my head and I wonder which one is right. Is the problem with me? Is the problem with the church? Is it a little bit of both? I don’t know. And all the while I realize I’ve ignored my youth pastor’s one piece of advice: become a part of a church. I’ve been going to one church for over a year, I help teach a Sunday School class, and I warm the same section of pew every week. But would anybody notice if I wasn’t there? Or would it just seem like there’s a little more room up near the front?