By Randy Limbird
Of all the subjects related to Christian spiritual growth, the topic I believe is one of the most important and most neglected is our choice of church.
In fact, many people never think of church as a choice. In past generations, people were born into a certain denomination and stayed there. In some small towns, “intermarriage” was more likely to refer to a Baptist marrying a Methodist. Which was the case of my mom and dad. When they got married they split the difference and become Presbyterian. The only other time they made a decision about church was when we moved to a large city and there were about three or four Presbyterian churches in the vicinity to choose from.
Nowadays it’s not uncommon for people to change churches many times during their lives. Among Protestants, denominational ties don’t mean as much for younger churchgoers. Catholics tend to stay Catholics, but even that connection is probably not as strong today as it was years ago.
Tradition is still a factor in how people choose churches — people might switch denominations, for example, but still stick with a certain style of worship. People who aren’t sure of what kind of church they’re looking for will often pick one where they already know someone. And a lot of people like to stick with a nearby church, since they’re likely to meet people from their neighborhood and whose kids go to the same school.
But what if you’re looking for a church that will actually be a catalyst for change in your life? What if you’re looking for people who will spur us “on toward love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:25)? It’s possible that God might steer you in a different direction than you’ve been before.
That was my experience when I moved to El Paso 32 years ago. I knew I needed to be around people who could help rebuild my faith. After trying a variety of churches that were like ones I had attended elsewhere, I felt God pushing me to a church I really did not want to go to. But I went there anyway, and met a bunch of people who became my friends and helped turn my life around.
In some ways, looking for a church is like trying to date people when you come from a culture of arranged marriages. You’re traveling without a map.
I’d like to hear a sermon someday about how we should go about choosing churches — but I probably won’t because most pastors don’t want people to think about making a choice. Yet it’s one of the most spiritually signficant choices people can make.
Randy Limbird is editor of
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