"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Church Shopping

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Church Shopping

I'm church shopping again; I'm sure that you ex-Laestadians out there have been through this too. So this article from the Christian Century's Blog (great magazine and great blog, by the way) hit me when I read it yesterday:

Church shopping has been rightfully attacked as a consumerist, individualistic approach to faith --as a shopper, I do what "works for me" on a Sunday morning, and I can change churches as fast as my preferences change.

All the same, we've nearly all done it to some degree or another. The parish model of churchgoing rarely addresses the realities of our mobility and, though we might hesitate to admit it, few of us would last long in a church environment where at least some of our needs were not being met.
. . .
Is there a better way to conduct this kind of search, a way that is not consumerist at its core?




  1. Oooeee, Tomte, you've placed some great posts. I can just imagine some of the OALCers really having a go at "church shopping." Most of us just gave up on church entirely, as (in my experience) nothing seems to fit the bill when you jump ship. I could never be a conventional Christian again, having been forced to reevaluate everything and found most of it wanting. So I explored the "alternative" churches - Unity and Religious Science - and found their beliefs much more consistent, rational, and positive. But (whether "church dogmas" will acknowledge it or not), we all evolve as we plod thru life and I evolved past going to a church service at all. I just cannot sit there while we run thru a program of hymn, prayer, announcements, hymn, "guided" meditation, sermon etc.
    So I have recently joined the Quakers. I love the lack of hierarchy (democratic), the silent meditations, the taking action in the world, and the fact that whatever the spirit reveals to an individual is as valid as what is revealed to someone else. I made a commitment to myself and expect to stay here a long time, in gratitude, service, solidarity, and . . . how can I say it, as a way of "being spirit (a child of the God) in the world."
    Many blessings to you, Tomte. MTH
    PS Why do I have to post as "Anon?"

  2. Im not currently church shopping right now, but im not plugged into a single church. I just go wherever I want to. The other weekend I did Roman Catholic and listened to their sermon in Latin, but i usualy enjoy going to community or Non-denominational groups. There are advantages and disadvantages to doing it that way. It lacks the long-term freindships, oportunities to serve, and most importantly, lacks the Personal Acoutiblity you get from being plugged in to a single church. But you get to meet more people, get familier with differnt ideas and beliefs, and be exposed to different cultures.

    I find it amuzing when someone asks me what church I go to, becuase when the Bible uses the word "church", the deffinition is the followers of Jesus.
    I go to the Christian Church, and what the name on the building is or who the pastor is doesnt have any influence on whether or not im fellowshipping with other followers of Jesus.

  3. I chose NOT to attend any church for quite a long while after I left the Laestadian church. I had quite a bad taste in my mouth at the time. It's settled down since, not to the point where I'd want to go back, but enough that I don't hold major resentment towards the church.

    I think the whole idea of church shopping is quite a leap for a recovering Laestadian! We were brought up believing we had no choice at all about which church to go to. There was only one, as far as they were concerned. To realize we have choices takes some mind bending.

    I think that different churches will fit you at different points of your faith journey. Regardless of what you are seeking or what your needs are, different churches will appeal to you at each stage of your growth. I don't see it as such a consumerist thing. I think you are attracted to the type of "church" where your current needs are met.

    We went to a great church for four or five years, here, and now we're visiting other churches as the fancy strikes us. One church we like a lot is about an hour from our home, which presents its own difficulties. Similar to what Polycarp said, we're not really shopping right now, but we're not committed anywhere either. And I'm okay with that. My faith does not depend on being attached to a building or a specific group of people. My faith comes from and depends on God.

  4. You are so right, Daisyaday. Leaving was so tramatic for many of us. When we decided The One True Chruch wasn's for us, where could we go from THAT?

    I didn't set foot inside a church for many, many years, except for the occasional visit home. I still do it for my mother, but not for me. I now attend a liberal church in town once in awhile. It's not an every-Sunday thing for me.

    Susan Werner has a song on her CD, Gospel Truth, called Sunday Mornings. I love it.

    I remember comments made when I was growing up in the OALC about people Church Shopping, like it was a dirty thing and they just wanted to be Grace Thieves and Have More Allowance for Sin. I also remember something about people not wanting to be rebuked as if that was necessary for salvation. Now I think it just gave church members license to be abusive instead of loving. SISU

  5. Many Trails Home12/06/2007 12:37:00 PM

    "Grace Thieves!" I love it! MTH

  6. A church is just there to support you on your walk in faith, and if they don't, then time to move on. You should be free to ask questions, utilize your spiritual gifts God has given you, be fed spiritually, and have good relationships with people.

    I churched shopped for awhile before I found a church I committed to and I love it there! I know now what I will not accept in a church:
    1. If they say you have to belong to their church in order to be saved
    2. Any man made rules forced on you, such as dress, appearance, music tastes, etc. Those are personal issues, not spiritual.

    It is important to look at what they are teaching before you commit. And who knows, just because I love the church I am in now, maybe someday God wants me to move on and attend another one. I guess I rely on him where he wants me to be.

  7. I think its also important that the church preaches from the bible, not just their own made up stuff.

  8. Many Trails Home12/06/2007 04:45:00 PM

    Actually, I think it's much more important that they preach from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (God), not the Bible, as I have a lot of "issues" with the Bible (sorry if I stomped on your toes). Then it is up to each listener to decide, with guidance from the Holy Spirit, whether what is preached is the preachers own "made up stuff." Frankly, I like some made up stuff and I can't abide a lot of traditional stuff. Besides, what makes us think God stopped "talking" 2000 years ago? How ridiculous is that? MTH

  9. After I wrote the comment about Grace Thieves, I started thinking about the contradiction of that term. Could someone please explain to me how the OALC defines this to make sense of it.

    To me, Grace is something that is given freely, without asking or earning it. So how can one be a Thief? SISU

  10. I remember being told the story of a crowd around Jesus and there was a women in the crowd who didnt ask Jesus to touch her for healing, she simply snuck in and quietly touched his robe, so as to be unnoticed. Supposedly Jesus stopped and rebuked her for stealing grace, when it would have been given freely to her had she asked.

    Im not exactly sure how that would relate to our lives today though, or how exactly we could "steal" grace today. I would have to put some more thought into it than right now...

    It seems awhile back there was the question asked about why some of us dont speak up more often, or voice our opinions... I think for me its still the process of knowing what I dont believe in, but still being confused and searching for what I do believe in. So I cannot take a "hard" stand on an issue, and have a hard time stating or defining how/why I think or feel because I am still in the process of figuring it all out.

    And I hate feeling defensive or trying to disect an issue when I really dont know. Although I guess that feeling relates specifically to "discussions" between current and ex OALC members.

    We are currently "church shopping" and I absolutely hate it. (I really dislike the strong word "hate" and tend to avoid it, but it seems to fit both uses here) We have decided to try to find a church that is 1 biblically based, 2 open to guidance of the Holy Spirit and 3 dedicated to growing and learning. I think that gets away from a "consumerist" approach, but I think everyone I know in the oalc would disagree with me. I have also heard the same oalc given points as Sisu, but I dont personally believe them.

  11. Hello, hp3,
    I now attend a WELS Lutheran Church, and am very satisfied with it. I recommend their Bible Study class. Like you, I could not articulate what I believed in after leaving the oalc. The bible class introduced me to the Scriptures and a whole new world opened up to me.
    I don't think I ever knew the Holy Spirit in the oalc.

    God's blessings to you in your search, hp3, and to all others who are searching. 4eyes

  12. If you read the story of the woman who "stole grace" and touched the hem of Jesus' cloak, you will notice that he did not scream at her for stealing grace, but instead commended her for her faith.
    Also church shopping, sort of.

  13. Earlier I mentioned Susan Werner's CD The Gospel Truth. I want to share one of the verses from Sunday Mornings.

    And I went back the other day
    Closed my eyes and tried to pray
    But a voice spoke loud and clear
    "You ask too many questions, dear"
    And I said, "you ask too few"
    That's why I still don't know quite what to do
    On Sunday mornings.

    There are so many songs on this CD that speak to me. I love it. SISU

  14. I agree that inspiration comes from the Holy Spirit, but I also think that people can be misled that way also. Anyone can teach anything and claim it comes from the Holy Spirit. I think that bible is a guide and for me its important that a church preach from that and base their inspirations off of scripture. Just as long as people don't go ranting off about how their interpretation of scripture is the only correct interpretation. But I realize their are alot of beliefs out there, so everyone just has to believe what they feel is right. I just think there are so many great teachings from the bible.

  15. Many Trails Home12/10/2007 12:39:00 PM

    Anon, when I think of inspiration coming from the Holy Spirit, I think of the inspiration coming TO ME. I would never believe what someone else taught, just because he claimed that it came from the Holy Spirit ("his" Holy Spirit). I'd check it out first within, by asking God/Holy Spirit for guidance with an intention that I only receive a go-ahead on what is true, right, and serves the highest good of all concerned. Can't go wrong there.
    For those who don't feel secure about asking within, I offer this: It takes practice, faith, a belief in God's love and our own worthiness to receive. That's all. It's really very simple.
    Many blessings and joyous holidays to all. MTH

  16. I absolutely hate church shopping. There is a part of me that thinks "it shouldn't be this hard" and "can't we just skip ahead to the good part before the inevitable disillusionment sets in?" :-)

    Part of why I posted the article was because I was somewhat taken aback by the author's critique of the consumerist approach. My thinking was, "Of course we should shop around for the best church fit. Obviously this author is a pastor or something and can't handle a little bit of free-market competition. :-) Obviously people can and will look around in this age where church is no longer FORCED down our THROATS and church people better DEAL WITH IT."

    I think I might have gotten a bit of a taste of what she meant though, when I was trying out a Wednesday evening worship service at the church I'm currently scoping out. My first impressions were:

    St. A's plays more beautifully
    Over at the college they have a lot more zest in their services
    St. B's has a string quartet and incense, and these folks don't.
    St. C's is much more high church and to my liking
    St. D's is so much more contemplative

    I think this kind of critical narrative is the primary danger of the consumerist approach.

    Another approach to the same worship experience:

    "There are all these folks here. Those musicians have taken time out of their busy lives to share their gifts with all the people here, and with me."

    Both ways of seeing have truth to them, but which approach will help me find what I am looking for?

  17. MTH, I could totally be a Quaker if I didn't like liturgy so much! :-)

  18. Many Trails Home12/11/2007 04:52:00 PM

    Actually, tomte, I do like a good hit of liturgy once in a while, and the Catholics have got the corner on that market, as far as I'm concerned. I love a Catholic service, at Easter especially, and I actually prefer it in Spanish or even Latin as I really don't care a fig about the words, in fact, prefer not to know what they are! I just love the beauty of it, the feeling of reverence. I can fill in the words myself.
    Thanks for your inspirations. MTH

  19. MTH, I agree with alot you've said, however I don't agree with churches not using the bible as their source of teaching. I have questioned whether the bible was reliable or not. A good book to read is More Than A Carpenter, by Josh McDowell. Chapter 5 is called Are the Bible Records Reliable? He talks about the different tests that have been done to test that theory such as the Bibliographical Test, Internal Evidence Test, External Evidence Test. It was very interesting to read. Many people do not question other history writings such as Napoleon, Caesar, Aristotle, Thucydides, etc., but so often question the writings of the bible. I agree the Holy Spirit speaks to us today, but I also can see that sometimes something feels good, seems right, but in actuality it can be wrong. Thats where I feel the bible is important. The writings from the bible have been written within a generation of Jesus time. But anyhow, just my thoughts.

  20. Anon, that may be. However, they were copied and recopied over centuries. There were many, many versions of the Bible at the time of Guttenberg.

    When you read other sources and see how the Council of Nicea was political in its selection of people involved, how power struggles ensued to see whose version would win out, and how, over time, certain people of the church greatly influenced the way we interpret passages, you will begin to feel that there just may be room for OUR questioning. SISU

  21. Unforgivable Sin

    I would like to start a new thread on this issue. I grew up OALC. I am now married with children and belong to a healthy church. In the OALC I was taught there is one unforgivable sin, they call it "selling your birthright" and explained that it meant either saying bad things about the OALC, or if you were born/baptized into the church and then left. I have assumed that this is the theoretical origin of the shaming and shunning of members who "stray away" (myself, for example). Can anyone please explain the theological thinking behind this, and if you encountered this teaching in your experience with OALC.

  22. Many Trails Home12/13/2007 11:53:00 AM

    Bunless (love your moniker), when I tried to absolve my mom of responsibility for my immortal soul by telling her that I didn't want her to worry about me, that I had a relationship with God (she said it was the devil), and that I was responsible for myself, she started crying and said "you sold your soul for a mess of pottage." It took me forever - and I mean decades - to accept the fact that no amount of reasoning or discussion would ever shrink the gulf between her and me. I had to finally accept her for the way she is, including what she believes (staunch OALC) and what she thinks of me.
    Actually, I don't think there is any theological basis to the "selling your birthright" threat. I think it's only meant to scare the crap out of people so they don't leave, and it's pretty effective for most.
    Many blessings to you. Wishing you peace of mind and happy holidays. MTH

  23. I will not argue in favor of the stance that the Bible we have today is the Infallible, inspired word of God. Although I will Argue that the Bible we have today is very accurate to what the original authors wrote down in the first Century. I will Also Argue that all the writers of the Bible are eyewitness to the events that they wrote about, or they spent a a lot of time interviewing a direct eyewitness, which gives them a lot of credibility.

    We don't have the original manuscripts of the Bible, we have copies of copies. But those copies that we have are dated really close to the time of Jesus. According to wikipedia, the oldest fragment of a new testament manuscript that we have is dated less then 100 years after Jesus's Death. The oldest manuscripts of entire new testament books are dated to about the year 200. The oldest complete new testament that we have is dated between 325-350. We also have over 5,000 handwritten manuscripts in the original greek that have been found over many geographical areas. The New Testiment that we have today did not come from thousands of years of copy after copy, changing the meaning like a kindergarten game of telephone, but it is instead translated into English using these ancient Greek Manuscripts.

    I would also like to point out that before 325AD, becoming a Christian, especially a church leader, was a very dangerous thing to do. Christians where tortured and killed by the Romans. There where not many opportunities to take advantage of people's faith as a means to gain power or wealth. Even members present at the council of Nicea had scars on their bodies from when previous Emperors had them tortured. For the most part, I give Christians that where alive during this time the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their motives.

    Love God, Love People
    This is the Greatest Commandment

  24. Ugh, Josh McDowell is really bad apologetics, in my opinion. "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" is full of unsubstantiated assertions, circular reasoning, and ad hominem attacks on skeptics. It would be more aptly named "Reassurances to Avoid Critical Thinking."

    For a chapter by chapter critique of "Evidence," see The Jury Is In: The Ruling on McDowell's Evidence

    Regarding the Bible, I think the Bible is inspired by God in the same sense that the love poetry I wrote my wife while we were dating is inspired by her. Both are based on a sublime experience, but that experience doesn't guarantee the claims therein with any kind of objective certainty.

    The Bible is far more than a love poem for Christians, however. While its an indispensable part of the Christian tradition, I'm very open to a broad range of ways in which it can be engaged --especially mystical, literary, critical, linguistic, feminist, liberation, and other types of engagment.

  25. Tomte, I like you!


  26. Many Trails Home12/15/2007 02:02:00 PM

    Tomte, I guess if there is a "side" to be on, I'm on your side. However, I like the Native American goal of going for consensus rather than taking sides. SO what would I wish our concensus could be? I wish we could agree that God can speak to each of us, in our own hearts and souls, and that we each can simply ask him this question: Is the Bible infallible? (or whatever) Then we would also have to accept that God might give us different answers. I wonder where we'd go with that. MTH