Can We Find a Church that Pierces Ears? (Jan-Feb 2002)

By Matt Dabbs

by Greg Taylor
January – February, 2002

In the wake of our world crisis, church attendance sharply increased while mall shopping waned. I contributed to both statistics: first, I’d take the dentist’s drill to one of my good molars over shopping even in a flimsy Christmas rush, and second, my family just moved and we’re visiting churches.

Don’t call me a scrooge; it’s not Christmas but the shopping I dread. Maybe that’s why my family’s search for a place to worship God makes my knees wobbly: I feel like we’re shopping. As quasi-macho as I am about shopping, I do tolerate the activity if it achieves a higher goal: such as ice cream at the end of the mall walk, finding a great book, or seeing a sparkle in my children’s eyes on Christmas morning. Surely I can tolerate “shopping” for a church because of the end: we need a worshipping, God-honoring fellowship; we need friendships and accountability; we need the oversight and wisdom of an eldership. What more worthy to “shop” for?

Could we shop for this church online? As you’ve read in this issue, churches today reach out with the Internet just as surely as hundreds of virtual adult bookstores sprout daily. Can we simply search the Internet for a church that lifts Christ higher than traditions? We want a church that is inviting people—even those different from themselves religiously, ethnically, socially, politically, and emotionally—to the banquet of the kingdom of God. We want a church where the elders support church planting and not club housing. We might start online, but we can’t land this deal fully online.

As our Internet specialists in this issue point out, organizations and individuals can put on a good face online, but I’m afraid the Internet knows little about eyeball to eyeball fellowship. Only live visits, not virtual tours, can fully deliver on the hefty concerns of seekers. The search or initiation of Christian community is the sacred and essential duty of Christians who transfer addresses. We can surf churches, shop churches, but never hop churches as mere consumers. In the eyes of God and the Christian church, we are not consumers but instead humans who need God and one another, and we must resist acting like consumers when it comes to church searching. Joining one church and sticking with this body through differences in opinion is a pledge to God and the community of faith to seek God and serve faithfully in accountability and not in anonymity.

On the other hand, we can easily get sucked into worrying about church parking, child drop off, and other logistics to the point that we start shopping as consumers for a church of ease. Having prepped three children on Sunday mornings, my wife and I often enter the congregation like two dogs after a fight: hair raised and bug-eyed, we enter wagging our tails, playing it cool, and acting like we’re not wounded human beings. While we’re tempted to look for a church that doesn’t complicate our lives further, we’d rather not fall into this consumer mode. Instead we want to seek a church where we can admit we are sinful and need the presence of fellow Christians in our lives, admit we need to be pointed daily by one another to God. We need fellow Christians because we exposit scripture for one another and share burdens—when real life meets these ideals, it gets complicated in a way that surfing and hopping churches can never complicate nor enrich life.

One Sunday night we arrived at church and all three of our children were snoozing in the backseat. As we woke the kids and carried them crying into worship, I wondered “What’s the point?” Is one of the most important things in life, as Keanu Reeves says in the movie Hardball, “just showing up,” even when it stretches our collective family nerves like taffy? Is God “blown away by our ability to show up” to church?

When my little league baseball coaches weren’t yanking me from the game, my parents were pulling me in the middle of those pesky Wednesday night games. In place of Wednesday on the schedule they may as well have typed “Greg leaves game early” and “wears uniform to church” and other heart-in-the-meat-grinder items for a junior high kid. Yes, you could say that I made a commitment to my team and should have kept that instead of leaving early, but the important lesson for me at the time was this: to learn where my family’s loyalty stood.

What is the point of shopping for a church and becoming a faithfully attending, worshipping, and serving member? My generation often seeks to be blown away by God’s presence in worship, but are we failing to blow God away with our commitment to our church? A young man I spoke with in the lobby of one church told me that he had been attending this particular church for more than a year, yet he had not “done the paperwork” to be a member. Maybe if “paperwork” seems too staid for my generation, a tattoo and an ear-piercing to show membership might drive home that our search—our shopping for a church—means more than a consumer’s choice, more than finding nice worship or preaching or classes. Mere church surfing and hopping restricts us from going deeper into real-time worship, fellowship, accountability, scripture.

So pierce my ear, tattoo me, and if the elders ask me to labor in the benevolence ministry and go buy canned hams, I’ll even shop during the Christmas rush.New Wineskins

Greg TaylorGreg Taylor is managing editor of New Wineskins, a former missionary in Uganda, and now an associate minister for spiritual formation, outreach and small groups at Garnett Road Church of Christ in Tulsa. He is married to Jill and they have three children. [Journey With Greg Taylor Blog]. E-mail him at gtaylor@zoegroup.org.

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This author published 1598 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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