How Do We Do This Church Search Thing?
The question we have been asked the most up until this point is how exactly we are going to undertake our Church Search. This is a very good question. As previously noted, since we are beginning our search with very broad parameters, we are expect to attend a variety of churches that will not really be in the running for where we end up. To help us seriously think about where we best fit, we have devised a three-step method for visiting and understanding these churches.
Phase One: First Exposure
Basic research during the week: This will involve visiting the church website, compiling as much information as possible on our topics for consideration, making contact with a local pastor, and perhaps investigating the denominational website for additional information.
Visit to local church on Sunday: This will involve attending worship, and when possible Sunday school (we’ve already noticed that a number of places in Winston-Salem suspend Sunday school for the summer). This will give us an opportunity to experience the worship, preaching, community, and ‘normal’ Sunday routine for the church we are visiting. We fully expect to visit most churches during this phase only one weekend.
After visiting all of the various churches/denominations on our broad list, we expect to have a general idea of several potential church denominations where we will fit best. At this point, we will undertake a second round of visits to these churches.
Extensive Research: This will involve delving into more extensive written works by theologians, pastors, and teachers within each respective denomination that we are considering, as well as seeking in-depth conversations with pastors and teachers in the local churches that we are visiting. Through this process we hope to further understand each church’s views on our topics for consideration.
Multiple Church Visits: Obviously all churches are different, even within a particular denomination. During this phase of our search we are planning to visit not only a specific church multiple times, but also to visit multiple churches within the denomination that we are considering. Depending on the number of denominations that we are seriously considering at this point, the length devoted to this stage may vary. As a general rule, we hope to visit at least three different churches in each denomination, one of which we will visit three or four times.
Phase Three: Final Steps
After devoting serious time, research, and experience to what we understand to be our potential church homes, we will then begin the process of becoming official members of the church at which we feel will be the best place for us in the family of God. At this point we will have to make a determination concerning local congregations. It may be that despite our agreement with a church’s doctrines and practices on paper that we do not match up well with a particular local congregation. At some level, we must cross such a bridge if and when we come to it. An important part of this process is the fact that we are fully expecting to move from Winston-Salem during this process. Our time at Wake Forest is limited, and we are fully expecting to move to a PhD program within the next year. As a result of this move, we expect to gain experiences with churches not only in the Piedmont area, but across a broader swath of America. Thus at another level, we believe that the overarching nature of our consideration criterion, as well as the process leading to this point, will point us towards the right church body, not just in a specific local church, but on a wider institutional level as well.
It is worth restating at this point that there is NO SUCH THING AS A PERFECT CHURCH. And we are not looking for such a church. This Church Search is intended to find a church that offers a Biblical and historically sound account of God, the world, and humanity that makes sense of and forms our worldview, our experiences, and our practices in light of the truth of Christ’s Gospel in a community where Jacob and Hayley Prahlow, with all of their contexts, beliefs, and experiences, may best fit within the People of God.
This is a process, a process that we are seeking to be intentional with and seriously think about. We fully realize that God may have other plans—He often does. Given what we know and believe, this is what we understand to be the wisest path for us at this point. We commit this whole process to God’s plan, asking that He lead us. Soli Deo gloria.
Originally posted 31st July 2013.
Blogging Our Church Search
The past few days we’ve laid out our “Great Church Search,” the topics that we will be considering as we seek a church home, the denominations that we are planning to visit, and the plan (always subject to change by God) that we are using to find our home within American Christianity. So why are we posting this on our blog?
As noted in our original post, there are several reasons. First, we hope that making our search public will bring about a certain amount of accountability. This is going to be a long process, full of ups and downs, full of questions. Undertaking “with” those of you who follow this blog will help us stay on task, and hopefully leading to questions that we need to hear.
Our second reason for posting this on our blog is that, in the spirit of intentionality and seriousness, it’s helpful for us to write these things down. It’s nice to be committed to a process, goal, or ideal. But if there’s no way to reflect upon that notion except in your own head, chances are it’s going to get distorted. Additionally, sharing our experiences here will hopefully help us remember and learn from them.
Third, we want to be open and honest with this change in our lives in a way that doesn’t hurt those people who we have attended church with in the past. We’ve heard (and experienced) too many stories of people who just up and left a church or denomination without so much as an explanation, leaving hurt and confused feelings in their wake. We want to avoid that as much as possible. We are not running away from any person or church. Instead, we are trying to run towards where God wants us to community with others.
Fourth, we offer a clarification: we are NOT ‘leaving’ the church (in the sense that many millennial are), nor are we trying to take a ‘Protestant evangelical mindset’ into a different (say Roman or Greek) context. We are looking for the church for us. As noted in our original post, we are more than willing to learn and conform ourselves to true teaching, provided that it makes sense within the long view of Christianity.
And finally, we hope that our journey encourages at least one other person to sit down, ask some hard questions, and change their life if necessary. We believe that the unexamined life is not only not worth living, but that it fails to fully glorify God. So we hope the public examination of our church lives helps you think about your own lives as well.
At this point we are planning three distinct phases of this search. During the first phase, we hope to post a synopsis of the church that we visited the previous week, detailing some basic doctrines and practices, as well as our experience at a local church (this may morph into two posts, but we’ll see about that). During our second phase, we hope to engage in more topically oriented posts, comparing respective views on a topic such as baptism or the relationship of faith and science. As we enter the third phase of our search, we hope to continue posting, though at this point we’re unsure what that will look like right now.
Thanks for following along with our Great Church Search. We hope that you learn something, are encouraged, and challenged by our journey. Soli Deo Gloria.
Originally posted 1st August 2013.