Why is it so hard to find a church

Recently I’ve been asked, time and again, “I’m having a hard time finding a church.” I find the question surprising. Look at this map below of Irvine, California, where every red dot represents a church. (granted, not every Google search of the word church is a church, but most of them are churches.. and not every church has the word church in its name.. so let’s call it even.)
irvine-churches

With so many red dots, churches are obviously much easier to find than a wifi hotspot! And a while back, I put together a shorter list of churches in Irvine, California, to help with people’s elusive search. Why am I still hearing the question? Now, I am sympathetic to the question, knowing how it can be hard to find a place of acceptance and understanding. Yet I wonder what is the really going on behind the question.

These questions come from Christians, even mature ones at that. On the one hand, there are many well-meaning books and articles exhorting the church searcher to not be church hopping and church shopping, to resist the cultural forces of consumerism. And, it’s true that you can worship God and connect with God anywhere. And Jesus did say something about the question not being to worship at this mountain or that mountain [being translated: at this church or that church], but worship in spirit and truth.

And when those theological truths and aspirational beliefs hit the ground, even mature Christians seem to find it hard to arbitrarily choose any church and make it their church home. Even when one sifts through a big list of churches to the ones that match a person’s theological convictions, and rightly so, there are still dozens to choose from. Preferences span the range of: teaching style, worship music, philosophy of ministry, church size, sizeable number of people of the same age, particular kinds of ministry, etc. And it’s not just preferences for a church that’d feed their soul [or, where they’re best challenged to grow] or where they can connect with people like themselves. It’s also particulars of a church where they can best serve and offer their gifts, talents, and treasures.

Is being picky with churches too selfish? Sure it could be self-serving. Or it can be a part of the discernment process. And decision-making is not easy. The perennial favorite topic of “finding God’s will” stays at the top of the charts. In this case, finding the right church.

My thought for now: I think while we can worship God anywhere, or try to, the marvel is that God will meet us where we are. Preferences and all.

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11 Responses

  1. What a far cry from the days when people just went to the one church in their town.

  2. qbqjohn says:

    Hello. If you don't mind, would you please remove the phrase “the question behind the question” from your writing? It is a group of words that I have trademarked. Thanks! John G. Miller, http://www.QBQ.com

  3. tangentrider says:

    I think the difference between selfishness and discernment might be in the criteria. For example, if I were church hunting, I would look for one that needed the skill set God has given me to help build his church. I don't think that's a selfishness-generating criterion.

    On the other hand, too many are looking for a perfect church that tickles their ears, entertains their minds, and has sufficient programming (and maybe a coffee house). They may need to plant somewhere.

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