Fun of Church hunting
(names of churches not mentioned to protect the various parties - email me if you really want details)
I moved from my last long term church as I had failed, After two years of concerted effort , to make a friend I could count on for regular social contact. Not having people I had grown up in this city with, my pool of social contacts was smaller than most so put more weight on finding friends at Church than most others.
I checked out a couple of small Churches nearby to my house. Ones with a more lively and Pentecostal bent than my previous Church. Neither clicked with me as a place I could settle in. The thing which moved me from one was that they were about to embark on a six week mid week course on the vision of the church. If the vision was clear and simple it should take maybe an hour or so, but it spoke to me that the direction of the church was about to be steered into a new direction, one which required considerable convincing to get the church to follow it.
I then moved on to a larger church and made better social contacts. I knew people from this church from different contexts which eased my transition into it. After nearly five months I found the focus on prosperity theology to be crass and disturbing. Of all the things that Jesus said about money, he did not say, to my recollection, that we needed more of it, even if it allows us to do more good (as if 99% of people use the more money they get primarily for the good works rather than a more comfortable lifestyle).
I fully support the need for churches to get the necessary funds to do whatever they do. Churches should not need to put the hard word on the congregation on a weekly basis to give. More traditional churches rely on the integrity of their people and have a low pressure sermon once a year or so to remind them of this need.
Still looking for a pentocostal church I looked online to the websites of churches nearer to my girlfriend. Checked out one that seemed to be an interesting one. First Sunday there and nobody really chatted to us, and we managed to miss out getting greeted properly as the newcomers section was in a poorly marked room at the rear of the auditorium. It looked promising, and the sermon seemed ok enough so we went back the following week. That following week the sermon was on God's higher calling on your life. That in itself was ok, as we should seek to give God glory in all we do. The problem came in this chap saying literally "you need more money, so you can do more good", and that when Jesus told us to take up our crosses he didn't mean we would be suffering or anything uncomfortable. He also made no mention of why you needed salvation at the altar call other than to join in Jesus' purpose for your life. Nothing about sin, that Jesus is the only way. A soft option.
In the last two Sundays we went to two smaller churches in the evenings. The first looked interesting based on articles they had on their church website. The singing was thoughtful and considered and I liked it. The talk before communion wandered on for a long time (ten minutes or so), and lost me halfway through it. That should have been a warning. The sermon lasted for at least 80 minutes. It meandered and wandered, and lost focus, and didn't seem to go anywhere. Didn't bother heading back the next Sunday.
Yesterday we checked out another church in the evening. It looked interesting again based on its website. I like my music loud and lively. I am also wise enough to carry ear plugs with me at all times as hearing loss is no joke. The music was painfully loud, and I got deft at slipping my earplugs in during the singing. The focus of the service was a debrief by youngsters back from a conference. This was a good thing, but dragged on for a long time, without much being added by subsequent youngsters (heh - I sound old talking about "youngsters"). The congregation seemed to be people of school age, and their parents, with seemingly nobody in their 20s or 30s present. It was one large gap, which my girlfriend and I slotted into being mid twenties folk. Based on the volume and that the songs did not appear to have any spiritual depth, we probably wont be paying a return visit.
One thing I have learned from my surfing is that many churches have elaborate websites but do not seem to use them themselves, as they are painful to use (black text on dark blue background, anyone?). some basic interface thinking would not go astray.
Where to from here? I've become disillusioned that Pentecostal churches exist in Australia which are not empire building for the glory of their ministers, or have more financial scruples than a tele-evangelist within grabbing distance of a full wallet. I continue to really want to head that way, but may look further afield at the evangelical and charismatic ends of the more mainline churches. They must exist as I've been to some fairly wild Anglican services back in New Zealand.