You have probably heard someone say, “You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince,” usually regarding dating and finding a mate. In my experience, this also applies to my attempts to find a church.  Please look at the breakup letters to a few frogs and one almost-prince.

Dear Church,
Though you came highly recommended from an acquaintance, I don’t think we would get along. You prefer your women to have no leadership in the congregation — unless, of course, it is women’s ministries. Please know that I don’t think you’re a bad person, but we are just not compatible.

Dear Church,
I can take a hint. Although you claim you want to get to know me in a small group setting, the application process rivals a country club in its complexity.  You say you want to get to know me first before making a commitment, but the only times you want to meet are also the times I am unable to see you (weekday mornings do not work well for people with full-time jobs). Sometimes, you just don’t return my calls at all. I guess you’re just not that into me.

Dear Church,
Your worship segment, complete with lights, cameras, and close-ups of the guitar player, is fantastic. Really. It’s like being at a concert. And your leader is a dynamic person with a good message. But week after week, it’s like being at a different concert, because I don’t see one familiar face. Perhaps you’re too popular for me?

Dear Church,
You’re nice and all, decent and respectable, and I wish I could be attracted to you. But there is simply no chemistry. I tried to make it work, I really did. But when I have to bribe myself to go see you every week, and I make all sorts of excuses not to see you, it might be a sign that we should break up. We have common interests and goals, but there isn’t any spark.

Dear Church,
Talk about May/December romances! You were beautiful, and moving and inspiring. And if I were 40 years older (or you were 40 years younger), we would have a promising relationship. I truly wish it could be otherwise, but I’m afraid the age difference is just too great a hurdle. I will remember you fondly.

Dear Church,
You looked so good on paper. All the things I wanted, all in one place! That’s a rare find. You’re the total package. Except one small, teensy, minor thing:  you do not know I exist. How can this be, when I have spent so much time with you? Maybe the timing wasn’t right. Maybe I should try again. But if, after a reasonable period of time, you don’t acknowledge my presence, I may have to end this pseudo-relationship. It takes two to tango, and I seem to be tangoing alone.

It’s not you, really, it’s me…mostly.  I know how trite that sounds, but it’s true. Perhaps I am too picky, perhaps my standards are too high, and it is likely that someone might call this a classic example of consumerist mindsets in choosing a church (and choosing a mate!). Regardless, these are some of my experiences. Should I choose amongst these frogs and onetime prince, or keep looking?

 

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  1. I like the imagination, but the question is who is the addressee? Who is the church? Is it the pastor, a small group of leaders, or everyone that attends? I think about this a lot as a pastor. I can only be so many places and can connect with a limited number of people. It takes a bunch of us to make sure that everyone feels welcomed and “known” in our faith community. It takes people who somehow get past that consumer mindset long enough to become the church.

  2. Hi Chip,

    I apologize for my late response.

    Good question! I am generally speaking to the ethos of the congregation as a whole — the mood, if you will. For the most part, I have seen great pastors in all these churches. Recognizing that a pastor cannot be everywhere at once, I think church leadership can be instrumental in helping shape a particular ethos, and encouraging church “members” to participate in the process of welcoming newcomers. I once had a friend tell me he chose a particular church over other similar churches because it was the only church that followed his first visit with a personal e-mail. Small things can make a big difference.

    I understand that no church will be perfect, and I often struggle with the idea of how big a role my own consumer mindset plays when choosing a church in which I will participate and serve. However, I do think first (and third, and fourth) impressions still make a great deal of difference to someone visiting, and there are things churches do really well in this area. But there are also areas of opportunity to improve.

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