Thursday, March 27, 2008

How to find out about a church body

Most people who read blogs (as opposed to those who use them to watch Youtube or find funny pictures or cartoons or whatever) like words. We (yep, I'm among those nerds) like to read, we like to talk, we enjoy hearing people argue about ideas, and we like to discuss fine points of theology.

So we hear about a church body that we think sounds good and we want to know more. And what do we do to get more information? We read. Go to websites. Buy books from Amazon. We imagine we're getting a well-rounded picture of a group. But the way you find out about a church group is by visiting a service.

I learned this the hard way. In the 1990s, I was interested in a Lutheran church group. Very interested. They sounded great. I had read tons of their materials, subscribed to their magazine, and got their theology journal. I couldn't have been expected to have visited one of their churches: the nearest one was 600 miles away.

Then they had a convention at that church. And given that it was the closest one, I decided I'd take a peek, go visit, get to know them in the flesh.

And it was a disaster. Oh, they were wonderful people, kind, pleasant, and welcoming. But I had projected what I believed on to them. I thought they were evangelical catholics. And what they were was mega-low church Protestants. And I realized that the guys I'd been corresponding with knew it, too, that this wasn't a match, and one of them kindly and softly suggested I might be more at home elsewhere.

The bottom line? The way to learn about a church body is by visiting their worship. We're not a discussion group, an academy, a study circle. We are the church. What we believe is expressed in our worship. How we worship expresses what we believe. And if what we're teaching isn't there in the service, it isn't there. And what's there in the service is what we believe, even if there are those claiming it isn't "really" what we believe.

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