BY MATT COKER
As all Christians believe in the back of their minds, if you aren’t going to church, you’re not being the best Christian you can be. Whether this is true or not, why put up with such inconvenient controversial distinctions?
Stop worshiping at the Church of the Holy Mattress and leave that false god, Sealy, behind! It’s time to find yourself a true gathering of Christian brothers and sisters!
But where to start? Well, the first question you must ask yourself is, which denomination do you prefer? You may have been born a certain denomination but are trapped in another denomination’s body – this is 2016, after all! We’re already assuming you are a Christian, but what kind? I mean, there are several different kinds, just like soda. Are you a Coke Christian? A Pepsi? Or, God-forbid, an RC Cola Christian?
You’ve got to make a decision. You’ve got quite a list to choose from. If you already have a denomination in your life, then search for churches in that denomination to start (you can always jump ship later). I mean, there is a large difference between Catholic calisthenics and numb-butt Baptists (frankly, if I visit a church and see those pull down kneeling cushions, I’m outta there).
If you have no idea what denomination you would like, you might want to start with a non-denominational one. Just make sure it’s not some kind of wacky “We’re the only church going to Heaven” cult first. If TV has taught me anything, you can spot these cults because they wear all beige and drink Kool-Aid.
You also don’t want a “Give us all your money and God will give you more money so you can give us that money too and we can buy the most expensive private jet in the world” scamy kind of non-denom. These are the churches where the pastor rolls up in a Bentley, steps out in a four-thousand-dollar suit, and preaches from a golden/crystal alter where the only person there for you to worship is him.
Anyhoo, once you know what denom you are in search of, the hunt begins. But where to look?!
Chances are, you won’t find a church next door (Oh, if only one could be so lucky…). So, you might have to actually leave your block. Look at the skyline all around you. Do you see any tall pointy buildings with crosses? Those are probably churches. You might want to hit those up, because “closer” might not always be “better,” but it is a lot harder to use the “I don’t want to drive all the way across town today” excuse if the church is only a couple blocks away.
Many churches are sneaky and do not meet in normal church-like buildings, but in gyms, homes, or other make-shift buildings. So, on Sunday mornings, keep an eye out for large groups of well-dressed, alert people, carrying Bibles and all hyped up on coffee (the Christian drug of choice) congregating in one spot.
You can also search online or grab a phone book. Call up every church secretary and ask them to explain the complex infrastructure of the basic beliefs of the church as a whole. They love stopping their busy day of copying and folding to answer involved and annoying lines of questions from complete strangers. Trust me. Also, ask if any local celebrities attend there. I mean, if you are going to visit, it would be cool to meet the guy from Car Chat on KQXY.
Ask some of your Christian friends. Assuming you have any. You might need a church for that. It’s the system: You need Christian friends to find a church, you need a church to get Christian friends. THE SYSTEM WON’T LET US IN!
During your search, don’t just pick one church and stick with it without trying out some other options (well, you know, unless you feel God telling you to stick with your first choice… He’s smarter than me). Churches are run many different ways: there are “Sunday best” churches and “blue jeans” churches, “Pass the plate” and “give at the door” churches, “traditional hymn” and “contemporary praise” churches, plus mixtures of any and all of those, so give them all a shot.
There are also many different types of Pastors, such as the “Hellfire and Brimstone” Pastor shouting from the pulpit. There’s the “Stonehenge” Pastor who doesn’t move from the pulpit, doesn’t change the volume of his voice, and is probably as old as the Henge of Stone itself. There’s the “Wacky Pack” Pastor, always making (terrible) jokes and flailing his arms about. There’s the “Absentee” Pastor who seems to be missing each week, so there is a guest Pastor each time you visit. There are others, but these are the ones you are likely to run into.
When you visit a church, determine how welcome you felt. Were you told that you were sitting in someone else’s pew before service began and were forced to move? Did someone come greet you and shake your hand? Did the color of the carpet feel off-putting? Did someone actually make eye contact and exchange names and pleasantries? Did they offer nice pens to write with or those annoying golf pencils? Were you able to have coffee afterward or beforehand? Were visitors forced to sit in a special section of the church, like lepers? All of these might have a direct impact on whether or not this church is for you.
Remember, no church is perfect, so once you feel comfy enough, I’d say start trying that church out on a temporary basis until the Spirit gives you the thumbs up or thumbs down.
In all seriousness, don’t go to a church that doesn’t challenge you or help you grow in your faith. I mean, if you are simply going to church because it’s the “rule,” and not to grow closer to Christ and a church family, then you’re doing it wrong.
Church was always meant to be a fellowship. It’s the Body of Christ coming together each week to celebrate their faith and the blessings God has given, to pray for those who are hurting, to set an example for the younger generation, to welcome anyone who walks through the door to visit, and to learn new things from God’s Word.
These are the things that really matter. Find a church like this and you’ll be set.
Matt Coker is the Ministry Director of The Back Row. He is married to a beautiful woman he met when they were both in youth group and they have one mischievous son together. Matt collects Funko Pop figures, loves time travel movies, and enjoys jerky meats. You can contact Matt via the contact page or on Twitter at @MatthewSCoker & @BackRowBaptist.