Finding a New Church Home
Have you just moved? Are you in a strange new neighborhood and don't know
You may want to look at your neighborhood churches to see if any of these fit your needs. The reason? It's a lot easier to drive five or six blocks than five or six miles.
At Amazing Grace we have people attend from as far away as 22 miles but most live within a few miles of our place of worship. We are a new church start but even so I think this is a common trend.
Some website search engines (like Yahoo Local) allow you to search outwards from a specific address. Just enter "your address" in the Search For box and "Tacoma" in the Location box . . and off you go! Google Local and Mapquest are very similar to this.
Don't be afraid to ask the pastor right at the outset what programs are available.
For families with young children this is often the case, nursery facilities may be needed and all volunteers in the children's area should have had background checks for safety. Don't hesitate to ask!
Here are some common programs that a church may have available:
One I like, which I ran into some years ago was the Over 50 Pinochle Club. And I wasn't old enough! They wouldn't let me play pinochle with them!
Others are less attached to a particular denomination. If this is important, then you might try looking in your denomination's website for information about a local church.
Amazing Grace is an independent Christian Church that traces its roots to the Stone-Campbell movement, sometimes it is called the Restoration Movement. We once belonged to the Christian Church(Disciples of Christ). We are now affiliated with Disciples Heritage Fellowship, not a denomination, and much more theologically conservative.
You can read more about DHF by clicking on this link: Disciples Heritage Fellowship
most intensive study when choosing a new church.
Your new church may use the term Doctrinal Statement or Creedal Statement. Amazing Grace refers to these as Core Values.
Someone asked one time, "What are core values at Amazing Grace?" The reply has to be, "Core values are what define our faith as Christian. There can be no differences of opinion." An example may clarify this.
Amazing Grace believes in the trinitarian nature of God. In other words, God has three aspects; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is non-negotiable and hence a Core Value. There are many at Amazing Grace, however, that believe the rapture will occur before the tribulation period, there are some that believe it will occur afterwards. This makes for some spirited discussion but in the end we agree to disagree on the subject. Hence it is not a Core Value.
Why is this important? You want to choose a church that most closely fits your spiritual beliefs. So it makes sense to ask a few extra questions in the beginning and avoid the trauma of a big surprise later when you discover the real truth about a church. This may seem a bit melodramatic. And it is. Churches don't really hide what they believe from their congregations. But if you forget to ask about their beliefs they may not tell you, they may assume that you already know. We have an "All About Amazing Grace" pamphlet which contains this information.
Taking this thought a bit further, churches that have a firm grasp on their core values and regularly proclaim them are preferable to those that don't. You will find evidence of this in the pastor's messages, in their various classes or in their pamphlets and fliers. What this means is that if they have a Core Value that Jesus Christ is fully man and fully God then you should see and hear this.
Do you have questions or concerns about what a certain doctrine really means? Then do not hesitate to email me with your question! I may ask a couple questions about your religious background first so that I can answer using terms that you are familiar with.
There might be the decor on the inside of the sanctuary, or what the outside of the building looks like. It may be the neighborhood in which the church is located. Some churches have a particular smell (you could lead me into some churches blindfolded and I would identify them by their smell). All of these will affect your decision when choosing a church home.
I want to draw on some personal experience here, Tresa and I had occasion to go "church shopping" a few years ago . . .
Warm & Cold
Have you walked into a new church and no one would look you in the eye? Or, no one would talk to you or greet you? Their doctrine may be rock solid, the pastor can preach up a storm, the music is excellent but it takes forever to get to know anyone. Or maybe the church is large and impersonal? I would call this a cold church.
The thing you have to decide here is how much you are comfortable with an impersonal church. Every church of any size needs to deal with this issue so your feelings of warmth or cold are an indication of how successful they have been. Read on . . .
Have you walked into a church and everyone greets you? Everyone wants to talk to you and maybe all you want to do is hide in a corner? Smaller churches are good at this, they know the new person because . . well, because they are small and recognize everyone. I would call this a warm church.
Of the two I personally prefer the warm church. Yeah it's a hassle the first Sunday or two but these people want to become your friends, your brothers & sisters in Christ. I like that.
As I mentioned above, Tresa and I had occasion to go "church shopping". And we spent months on the task. Sometimes we would return to one church a few times to listen to the pastor again. I have some favorites there.
But eventually we got sort of numb. A new church each week, a new set of faces and a new pastor and church service to get used to. It was tough trying to decide where to go week after week. Get the picture?
This was cause for much concern and prayer for us.
Then one Sunday we were sitting in this first ever service of a new church start. We were not even fifteen minutes into the service when I turned to Tresa and said, "This is home."
How did I know? I had no idea except that God wanted us there in that church for some reason (we found out the reason later). But I had immediately become convinced that this little church was home. It took Tresa a while to become as convinced as I. We waited patiently until all of the family was comfortable with the decision before taking the plunge.
But remember this; there is a church home in the Tacoma area for you. Keep praying, keep looking, keep asking questions. You will find it.
This has become a topic that is close to my heart. It's easy to 'take a shot' at other pastors, but now that I am one . . .
Sermons should be interesting. Wow, that's really deep. But there's more . . .
Sermons should touch people where they live.
Sermons should be challenging, they should cause you to think.
Sometimes sermons should make people laugh, sometimes cry.
But most important, sermons should feed you. They should feed you the Word of God in a way that causes you to be interested, that will touch you somewhere inside, that will force you to consider where you are with God and will challenge you to change. Sometimes you will laugh, sometimes cry but you should always come away feeling fed and refreshed.
Have you found a pastor like that? Stick with him.
A friend of mine, a pastor, would preach week after week and each and every week I felt that he was preaching to me. So I finally asked him, "How can you be preaching only to me every week? I don't get it." And he smiled and said, "That's just the Holy Spirit leading me in what to say and affecting you with what was said." I always came away feeling fed when he preached.
In today's world worship style usually means music style. So you see church signs that say;
There is another aspect to worship style, though, which is more important. Is the worship service liturgical? Does the church place a high value on the order of worship and on the ceremony of worship? Some refer to this as "high church". We won't consider how the church views its sacraments but usually this is a factor in "high church".
Opposite this is a more relaxed (often contemporary) church service that emphasizes people worshipping God. There is less ceremony and more interaction between pastor, worship leaders and congregation. The pastor may be more willing to change the service around a bit to emphasize certain aspects or to make room for something new.
Amazing Grace has adopted a more relaxed style of worship. We emphasize people worshipping God in a manner that helps each believer meet God in a close and personal way. We understand that every believer is at a different point in their walk of faith, hence it takes many different styles of worship to meet the needs of the body of Christ.
A lot of churches (my experience is the Pacific Northwest) are adopting a more relaxed dress style. The reasoning is that it is more important to focus on an honest worship experience than worry about the style and quality of one's apparel.
If you have any questions or concerns about finding a new church home we will be happy to help you out!