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Old 07-19-2005, 08:03 AM   #1
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What would you look for in a church?

As I've said here before, I'm one of the pastors at a church here in the Detroit area. We've been growing in the last few years and are relocating to a larger building within a few months.

But instead of just a relocation of the church, we're looking for more of a "re-launch." We want to treat this as a new church entirely, with a fresh philosophy and method for meeting needs.

So my question to all of you is, What would you look for in a church? No matter what your history with church or religion has been, what kinds of things would you want to see in a church? What would make you come to a church for the first time?

Answer as honestly as you like. Answer with specifics or philosophies. I think we've got a pretty diverse group here, so I'd love to know what the people of Intereference would want to see in a church. Thanks for your help!
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Old 07-19-2005, 08:24 AM   #2
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church has become synonomous with a social club - a place where u have to compete with other churchies and try to convince them that you are a good person. it is an act of piety and self righteousness and unless u are part of the core circle of members it usually makes people worse about themselves and other attenders. so i have made my church home with pastor pillows and deacon sheetz.
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Old 07-19-2005, 08:24 AM   #3
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I'd really like to see more churches use the Scriptures to teach us tolerance of each other & our faults. Not just to point out how "we" are better than "them" because of this, that, or the other. Because we've ALL fallen short of the grace of God. I seem to recall there being something about "Judge not, lest ye be judged" mentioned.....

I'd like to see a pastor who doesn't gloss over our faults - humans are terribly flawed creatures & we've all done things we're ashamed of - but one that didn't constantly browbeat parishoners either. Those who accept Christ do so based on the fact that we ARE flawed, but He still accepts us. We HAVE sinned and will do so again, but through our repentence and Jesus' sacrifice, we can be forgiven. I just don't think we should have to constantly feel like trash in the sight of God because of our shortcomings.... isn't the whole point of coming into God's fold not only eternal life, but to be a "new creature", fresh & clean???

I don't mean to suggest that church should always be a warm & fuzzy experience - we need to address the uglier, darker side of ourselves. I just think if you're going to try & convince people that the Bible is "Good News", shouldn't it be just that, instead of a weapon to beat people over the head with?
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Old 07-19-2005, 09:03 AM   #4
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I was a church hopper for years. I never could find the "right" one, something would always bother me about the church.

Then I realized, that I was looking at it the wrong way. I was looking for what the church could do for me instead of what I could bring to the church. Once, I realized that I was able to find a church that not only fit my philosophy, but one that I could contribute to as well.

You can't be all things to all people, but there are certain things that I find most important.

1)A welcoming and loving pastor
2) A pastor who sets the example as to how he expects his congregation to treat guests and new members
3) A welcoming committee that doesn't overwhelm, but helps guests and new members navigate the different programs, classes, etc. that the church offers

Good luck!
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Old 07-19-2005, 09:08 AM   #5
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active community service that is anti-evangelical in nature

receptive to people from all walks of life

apolitical
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Old 07-19-2005, 10:02 AM   #6
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First and foremost, the Statement of Faith.

I'd then notice the following things:

Is the worship God-focused?
Are Bibles made available (in the pews)?
Does the pastor cite Scripture?
Is a hymnal used?
Are all clergy and congregants on the same level (not physically - we are all sinners and all need to be there)?
Does the Pastor preach, teach, pastor?
Does Scripture get lost in pop psychology or modern marketing?
Does the children's program feed meat or milk?
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Old 07-19-2005, 10:06 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by nbcrusader
First and foremost, the Statement of Faith.
It's interesting you mention that, because we've been debating on whether or not to include that in our mailing advertisements. I'm on the side that says we shouldn't include it, because for the majority, it will only give them reasons NOT to visit the church. My attitude is that we'd rather have them come and see what the church is like before we get into specifics of doctrine, because if you can make personal connections and enjoy the service, you might be more open minded about some specific beliefs.
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Old 07-19-2005, 10:10 AM   #8
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This is what I always wanted, even though I doubt it will ever exist:

1) A church that does not use "unpopular groups" as scapegoats for all the world's ills, and welcomes everyone without judgment. Everyone is responsible for what's wrong or right with the world, and since macro-level help is not always possible, an emphasis on micro-level help (like volunteering at soup kitchens, etc.) would be a good idea. Good works as an expression of faith.

2) A church that allows for full compatibility between faith and science/reason. That is, when it comes to the "evolution" debate, a church that takes on the side of "evolutionary creationism" (a.k.a., "theistic evolution"), and teaches that, even if the universe is 13 billion years old that was created from a single point, science can never explain where that "single point" came from and that God sparked that "Big Bang." This is different from "intelligent design" in that "ID" actively engages in pseudoscience to "prove" the existence of God in creation, whereas "evolutionary creationism" looks at the secular science, accepts it for what it is, and attributes it to God. Major difference.

3) Emphasizes "love" as "the law," and rather than burdening people with the Ten Commandments, which doesn't cover everything, burden them with "love," which covers all of the Ten Commandments and everything else:

"Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,' and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, (namely) 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law." -- Romans 13:8-10

Challenge your congregation to ponder the meaning of "love" on a regular basis, and try to make them "love" in increasingly challenging methods. Even Jesus said to "Love your enemies and do good to those who hurt you."

4) Make it apolitical and non-fearmongering. American culture has been based too much on "fear" instead of "love," and such incessant "fear" has not always had the most positive cultural results over the last 400 years.

5) Insist on engaging the congregation and try to actively have them contribute to the services here and there using their God-given talents. Seek out and encourage interesting speakers to make occasional guest sermons.

6) And, adding to that, make it entertaining, embracing different kinds of music (you are in a U2 forum after all; you'd have to expect this answer. )

Well, that's what I'd do, if I were starting my own church.

Melon
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Old 07-19-2005, 10:12 AM   #9
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friendly, accepting of all people, loving supportive environment, approachable ministry, truly involved in charity and charitable works

equality for women is important to me

I love good music in church too, as trivial as that may seem. I think it's an important part of worship.
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Old 07-19-2005, 10:17 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by stammer476
It's interesting you mention that, because we've been debating on whether or not to include that in our mailing advertisements. I'm on the side that says we shouldn't include it, because for the majority, it will only give them reasons NOT to visit the church. My attitude is that we'd rather have them come and see what the church is like before we get into specifics of doctrine, because if you can make personal connections and enjoy the service, you might be more open minded about some specific beliefs.
I wouldn't include a Statement of Faith in advertising for the reasons you state. People with a misconception could read a certain point and use it as a reason not to go.

I'd want to see a Statement of Faith to make sure the "indisputables" are there. Disputable issues, such as style of baptism, escatology, etc. need not be part of the Statement.
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Old 07-19-2005, 10:43 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by nbcrusader


I wouldn't include a Statement of Faith in advertising for the reasons you state. People with a misconception could read a certain point and use it as a reason not to go.

I'd want to see a Statement of Faith to make sure the "indisputables" are there. Disputable issues, such as style of baptism, escatology, etc. need not be part of the Statement.
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Old 07-19-2005, 11:25 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by melon
This is what I always wanted, even though I doubt it will ever exist:

1) A church that does not use "unpopular groups" as scapegoats for all the world's ills, and welcomes everyone without judgment. Everyone is responsible for what's wrong or right with the world, and since macro-level help is not always possible, an emphasis on micro-level help (like volunteering at soup kitchens, etc.) would be a good idea. Good works as an expression of faith.

2) A church that allows for full compatibility between faith and science/reason. That is, when it comes to the "evolution" debate, a church that takes on the side of "evolutionary creationism" (a.k.a., "theistic evolution"), and teaches that, even if the universe is 13 billion years old that was created from a single point, science can never explain where that "single point" came from and that God sparked that "Big Bang." This is different from "intelligent design" in that "ID" actively engages in pseudoscience to "prove" the existence of God in creation, whereas "evolutionary creationism" looks at the secular science, accepts it for what it is, and attributes it to God. Major difference.

3) Emphasizes "love" as "the law," and rather than burdening people with the Ten Commandments, which doesn't cover everything, burden them with "love," which covers all of the Ten Commandments and everything else:

"Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,' and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, (namely) 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law." -- Romans 13:8-10

Challenge your congregation to ponder the meaning of "love" on a regular basis, and try to make them "love" in increasingly challenging methods. Even Jesus said to "Love your enemies and do good to those who hurt you."

4) Make it apolitical and non-fearmongering. American culture has been based too much on "fear" instead of "love," and such incessant "fear" has not always had the most positive cultural results over the last 400 years.

5) Insist on engaging the congregation and try to actively have them contribute to the services here and there using their God-given talents. Seek out and encourage interesting speakers to make occasional guest sermons.

6) And, adding to that, make it entertaining, embracing different kinds of music (you are in a U2 forum after all; you'd have to expect this answer. )

Well, that's what I'd do, if I were starting my own church.

Melon
Wow.

Great comments, Melon. I wholeheartedly agree with almost everything you've written (with some exceptions about #2).

Concerning that one, I've always been a little hesitant to get specific on issues like this. I don't really consider it a salvation issue, and therefore I'm not very comfortable stating "this is what this church believes." I've ignored the evolution - creation debate for the most part in my teaching. The only areas I'm concerned with addressing are the extreme positions of "science is anti-God" and "the church is anti-science."

Unfortunatley, I think this issue has become more political than scientific. And I don't want to divide people within the church over something political.

I've not always held this opinion, but rather something I've come to with experience. The church should be about fighting the bigger issues, and for right now I don't see the nuances of scientific theory as one of them.

It sounds like we agree on how to run a church more than I thought we would. Say, you're not too far from the south side, are you?
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Old 07-19-2005, 11:54 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by stammer476
Concerning that one, I've always been a little hesitant to get specific on issues like this. I don't really consider it a salvation issue, and therefore I'm not very comfortable stating "this is what this church believes." I've ignored the evolution - creation debate for the most part in my teaching. The only areas I'm concerned with addressing are the extreme positions of "science is anti-God" and "the church is anti-science."

Unfortunatley, I think this issue has become more political than scientific. And I don't want to divide people within the church over something political.

I've not always held this opinion, but rather something I've come to with experience. The church should be about fighting the bigger issues, and for right now I don't see the nuances of scientific theory as one of them.
I'd actually agree with you here. It's completely irrelevant to matters of faith, so to completely not bring it up at all is not a bad idea.

I guess, in this instance, if someone asked for pastoral advice regarding science, I would say that, in that eventual case, I would advise that science and faith are not mutually exclusive, and tell the hypothetical person that even if science could trace the creation of the universe all the way back to the beginning, that science will never explain where that singular "beginning" came from. That is, if the Big Bang started 13 billion years ago from a singular point, science can never explain where that "singular point" came from, and that everything is an expression of God's creation.

As such, my overall point is to make more scientifically and higher-educated Christians feel welcome, in addition to the rest of society. A lot of scientists admit to believing in God, but would never even consider abandoning their knowledge and belief in science. They have no problem reconciling the two, so I don't see why religion has to make a big deal about it.

But you're right. It's not important for faith, so there's no need to preach to the masses scientific theory. I do think that individual pastoral cases, however, are inevitable.

Melon
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Old 07-19-2005, 12:28 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by melon
Challenge your congregation to ponder the meaning of "love" on a regular basis, and try to make them "love" in increasingly challenging methods. Even Jesus said to "Love your enemies and do good to those who hurt you."
You're definitely onto something. Trying to make Christ-like love the cool thing to do is very hard. I believe it could be done though.

"Give me a love that's hard, as hard as hate" - Bono in "Levitate"
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Old 07-19-2005, 03:47 PM   #15
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More Jesus's teachings, less Paul's. I find in most of the churches I've seen, the emphasis is often on Paul. Perhaps as Melon implies, Christ's commandments seem to make people a little uncomfortable, because you are forced to find fault with yourself more than with other people.

Discussion groups where you can can get more than the pat answers given in a lot of churches, including what the responsibilities are for a Christian in this day and age. Acknowledgment that doubt and anger at God are often understandable, that faith is a journey, not a destination. Understanding that people will interpret the scriptures differently and those voices should be heard too.

More of an emphasis on the day to day evils people commit--bigotry, unfairness, lack of compassion, hypocrisy. Some churches are big on vices, not so much on the other things that drive people from the church.

Revolving leaderships so no one group takes over the running of the church. Of course, that will be moot since most people won't want to do anything.

Less of an us against them mentality.
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