So it’s been a time, times, and half a time since my lost blog. Over three years ago my wife and I move from the state I was raised in and the city I lived in for over ten years to Philadelphia. It was filled with excitement and unknowns and a hope for spiritual renewal of sorts…
I’m still looking for said renewal. I was met with an arid spiritual climate. Let me first preface that I believe I am the number one person responsible, if you want to use that term, for my spiritual walk and well-being. That being said I had this notion that God was going to help me get plugged into a fellowship, church, or whatever and it hasn’t happened yet. I’m a Teacher redemptive gift and moved to a Teacher state and a Teacher city. I’ve visited several churches and been a part of two so far. It seems to me that there are either historic, denominational churches (think Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal) or new “wanna-be” megachurches. I’m not a denominational church guy so those weren’t really an option per se. If God really spoke to me about going I would but it wouldn’t be a choice I would make on my own.
So the first church was a Elevationesque church. Hipsterish. Think Metreosexual if that term is even used today. There were great people there, honest and genuine. But it was young…like very young. Which is fine but being the seemingly the oldest person there felt weird. I don’t wear skinny jeans and don’t have a hard part haircut. I also don’t find value in a lot of what some Millennials hold value in. I’m what can be called an Xennial. I grew up playing outside and occasionally playing Nintendo. I had a computer when I was in middle school but dial up wasn’t worth the wait. I played outside. I didn’t have a phone until I was 16ish. Landlines where the communication of necessity. I didn’t even start driving until 19. I didn’t have Google. I had Jeeves which one would “Ask”. I also had a full Encyclopedia Britannica. (I don’t want to come off as hateful or a virtue signaler but just speaking from the heart and head.)
I like to believe I’m much more relational as well. In reading Brain Rules for Babies (yes my wife is expecting and read this) there was a story where a child was having a slumber party and a bunch of friends came over. Long story short they all mostly had their phones out and were locked into the internet instead of each other. I’m not one for gadgets (even though I fixed computer issues for a living) so the next latest and greatest iPhone isn’t in my radar. 5G can kiss my… Back to the subject in hand, I didn’t feel I fit in. The pastor was younger than me which was also different. He had some good messages but I needed more. That and the worship was the loudest, concert like worship I’ve ever seen. I could hear myself talk. I was on the prayer team and I had to pray for people and attempt to pray loud enough for them to hear me. I stopped because it didn’t seem genuine and only a side note in service (to me prayer lines are very important). There were literally visitors hiding in the bathroom during worship because it was so ungodly loud. Another church we visited actually had ear plugs provided which makes me think…umm maybe the music is too freaking loud.
The other fellowship, of which I’m still a part of, is much different. It’s small and very home fellowship focused. I’m an introvert so much more my jam. The pastor is older than me and also a hipster. I would say they are “progressive”. Not a term I care for in today’s political landscape. Don’t really hear much about holiness and morality unless it’s directed at people who voted for Trump. Sin isn’t talked about much, which can be good because we are dead to it, but Truth sets us free and doesn’t let us hold onto things we shouldn’t. I would venture to say if they knew my political beliefs I might be disbarred. But I suppose that goes for both sides. God’s kingdom is above and supersedes any political party or stance. I like how a pastor once said, “I can’t wait until we all are in heaven and Jesus sets us both straight.” Now I’m thinking I probably shouldn’t post this…we’ll see.
So I’ve been involved with a total of six churches in the past 15 years. All non-denominational, charismatic. Most are matured, established churches. The two last ones are not. If I may, I’m going to talk a little bit about the differences I’ve seen with established churches and church plants. Now these are differences I’ve seen so they are specific to my experience so they aren’t necessarily meant to be general statements.
New Church Plants
They tend to be very specific and tunnel visioned. Which is not bad in their own right but for one must be able to follow, because that’s what they want is followers, what they are doing. Again this isn’t a bad thing. The caveat is that God may be calling you to something specific that either they don’t believe, have room for, or don’t care about. For me it’s prayer ministry which includes inner healing and deliverance. These churches usually want a lot of volunteers, because which laborers are worthy of their wagers except pastors (I know it may seem controversial but there are tons of churchgoers who get burnt out from volunteering with no seeming wages, and yes I know our rewards are in heaven I get it). They want others to come alongside to help them. In my experience they may seem to want to help you get to where you feel God wants you but it seldom gets put into action. This first church plant gave off a huge vibe to accept and welcome new members but after say six months it’s like you’ve fallen off the face of the earth and God forbid you don’t want to volunteer anymore or take a break. The one church had their campus pastor get together with me over coffee. I thought it was to hang out but no, it was to get me back into a group. One girl used to hang out at the pastor’s house all the time then all of a sudden the pastor became unreachable except by appointment through his secretary who live five states away.
That combined with extremely loud music, which was always joked about but never addressed, we ended up parting ways and joined a closer church plant. Another church that has their special flavor and want others to join and promote. Again, nothing wrong with that. It comes with church plants especially plants that aren’t from a more mature parent church. This current fellowship has a lot of keywords that float around. And the pastor likes the word “Coaching”. Likes it’s a sport or something. They are very anti-religious but at the same time have their own Christianese. A preacher name Kent Maddox once said, “You can make a religion out of being non-religious.”
…it’s now been three years since I saved this post in my drafts. Man how things have change these past three years. Apart from the pandemic and such my faith has surely been, I guess, challenged. After leaving the “mega” church wanna be we got involved with a very small somewhat of a house church in South Philly. The pastor was cool, at first. He grew up in California so lets just say I found out his version of Christianity was very liberal for lack of a better term. His heart was definitely in the right place with being involved in the local community and had what was called Dinner Church or Brunch Church. Every meeting there was a meal provided and then a short message and discussion. It was nice in the beginning. Then when my wife was pregnant we couldn’t go to their meetings as much and then after my kid was born we didn’t really go that much either. Some bitterness ensued with that Pastor and he felt that we didn’t hold out end of the relationship so he cut ties with us…even though he was the Pastor and we were just part of his small congregation. So we haven’t been to church in three years…
I feel as one in the desert, rather parched and if I were to have a label on my head it would declare, “I believe, Lord help my unbelief.” I really need to get “plugged in” with another community but I fear that it’ll be another masquerade ball. I literally just looked up the purpose of a masquerade ball and it is as follows: “They are used for entertainment purposes, as well as for celebrating rituals, rites of passage, and speaking to the dead…” How apt. I don’t like any of those. I don’t have much of a conclusion from my rambles.
I believe, Lord help my unbelief.