Why Is Looking For A Church So Difficult?

My family and I have recently begun to look for a new church home.  I won’t go into the reasons we left our previous church except to say that we just did not “fit” there.  So now we have to find a church where we do “fit”.  It is proving to be more difficult that you might expect.  There are a few reasons for this.

First, unless you have a change of life circumstance (such as moving for a new job) you are probably leaving as a result of some problem.  The problem may be with you or with the church.  As a result, there are probably some frustrations or hurt feelings to overcome.  If not dealt with these will hinder most of us, at least for a while, in the search for a new church home.

Second, many churches are structured and function very similarly to every other church in your area.  This similarity can be a strength but it can also be a weakness.  So when you visit a new church, especially within the same denomination, you are likely to be very familiar with what is going on there.  What are you to do if one of the reasons you are leaving is the “traditional” structure?  For example, lets assume that one of the reasons you are leaving your current church is the emphasis on a person’s decision (decisional regeneration) in the way the altar call is done.  If every other church you can choose to attend does it the same way then you really have no options.  This would contribute to the frustration you have.

Third, everybody has personal preferences in some things.  For example, some prefer a certain style of music in the worship service.  Some prefer a certain style of preaching or a particular Bible translation.  It is common to hear someone say something like “I won’t go to a church that does contemporary music” or “I won’t go to a church that does not use the King James version of the Bible”.  So, in the search for a new church you want to find one that fits most of your preferences.  These preferences are important but should not be the sole cause for rejecting a church.  Placing these types of limitations on the search for a suitable church may cause God’s will to be missed.

Fourth, sometimes there are other factors in the search for a new church.  For example, some have children so they are looking for a church with a biblically sound and vibrant youth and children’s program.   There are many good and healthy churches that may have a small number of kids.  They do a good job with the kids they have but there are just not many of them.  Bigger is not always better but bigger does usually mean more opportunities / activities.

All of these factors apply in my personal situation.  There may be other factors that would apply to you.  None of these should outweigh God’s will in our decision.  The problem comes when we look at these factors and try to filter God’s will through them.  This should never be the case.  I see nothing wrong with keeping these factors in mind while looking for where God wants you to end up but they must be put in their proper place.

Are you currently or have you been looking for a new church home?  If so, what factors are you considering that I have not mentioned here.  Leave a comment and let me know what they are…chances are other will have the same or similar ones.

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Considering What We Want When We Pray

I am currently reading A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller.  I plan to read several good books on prayer and this one seemed to be highly rated in all the places I was looking.   I am a little more than half way through the book and I have not yet formed an opinion on whether it is good or not.

In my reading, I recently came across this statement made by the author:

If you are going to take Jesus’ offer of “ask anything” seriously, what is the first thing you must do?  Any child will tell you.  You have to ask, and in order to ask, you have to reflect on what you want.”    (page 138)

Mr. Miller makes this statement in a discussion of what Jesus meant when He told His disciples to “ask anything” in His name and it would be granted to them (John 14:14).  As I read this, something did not seem right to me.  I was not sure what it was at first.  On the face of it, it makes perfect sense.  After all, if you are going to request something then it is only natural to request something you want.

At this point I want to make it clear that it is not wrong to pray for what we want.  God already knows before we ask Him.  He knows our heart.  We can’t hide our real desires from Him.  So, asking for our desires is not wrong.  Although, we are told in James 4:3 that if we “ask wrongly” we will not receive what we ask for.  So we see that prayer does not give us a blank check or a way to control God.

As a Christian, we are taught not to pray for what we want but to seek what God wants.  In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus Himself prayed that not His will be done but God’s will.  This is our model.  This is they way we are taught to pray.  If we want answers to our prayers then we need to pray for what God wants to do.  If we pray contrary to God’s will then He will not grant our requests.

So, when we pray, should we reflect on what we want?  I see nothing wrong with this.  I believe in salvation that Jesus will change what we want and bring it into conformity to what He wants.  As a result, when Christians pray, our prayers should be the same as His prayers.  Sadly, Christians are not yet perfected so we don’t always pray in they way we should.  I also believe that is actually brings us closer to God to be completely honest with Him while we pray.   As I said earlier, He already knows….so why should we be different when we pray.  As we are more honest with God, He is more glorified and our dependence on Him should grow. Examining what we want when we pray is a good thing but the main thing is to see Him glorified.  So, reflect on what you want and seek His will in your prayers.

What do you think about Mr. Miller’s qoute?

A Praying Life by Paul Miller

In my effort to improve my prayer life I have begun to read A Praying Life by Paul Miller.  So far I have read the forward, Introduction, and the first two chapters.  I was not really sure what to expect with this book but I have been pleasantly surprised so far.

What is interesting is that in the first two chapters, Miller sets the scene by very accurately describing the problems people have when they pray.  A couple times I actually felt like I was the one he was writing about.   At one point in Chapter 1 (page 14) he says:

The most common frustration is the activity of praying itself.  We last for about fifteen seconds, and then out of nowhere the day’s to-do list pops up and our minds are off on a tangent.  We catch ourselves and, by sheer force of the will, go back to praying.  Before we know it, it has happened again.

This happens to me all the time and it always makes me feel inadequate.  It is very frustrating.  I feel like I am spinning my wheels and I can’t understand why I have such a hard time concentrating.  Am I the only one this happens to?  As a result, my prayer time gets easier and easier to skip.  I know I need to pray I have a resistance to actually doing it.  On page 15, Miller says :

Praying exposes how self-preoccupied we are and uncovers our doubts.  It was easier on our faith not to pray.

This is shocking but exactly true.  I had not considered this but as soon as I read it I thought how much sense it makes.  This is a true description of what I have experienced.

I am looking forward to reading more of this book.  The next section of the book is entitled “Learning to Pray Like A Child”.  It appears to be a book that will be very helpful to me personally in my prayer life.  I bet it could be for you also.

If you have read this book, please leave a comment and share your thoughts.  I would be interested in reading what your impressions are and if the book helped you improve your prayer life.

Adoption Dilema – Prayers Requested

Yesterday before we left for church my wife and I were approached with an opportunity to adopt a distant relative of mine. He is 9 years old and his mother has passed away. He has two sisters, ages 13 and 11. Their father does not want them. I have never met any of these people. If someone in the family in not found soon to take them then they children will be placed into the government child care system. The boy lives in Florida…I live in East Tennessee. My wife and I have 3 daughters already…the youngest is only 5 months old.

I have a multitude of questions about how we have ended up as being the ones approached to take in the boy. I don’t understand why someone more closely related to him has not stepped forward, why are the people who are making the decisions trying to split up the kids, Is it God’s will for us to take in this child, how did the circumstances work out to get to us, does he have any mental, physical, or behavioral problems that we need to be aware of….just to name a few.

I can’t imagine what this young boy is going through….his mom died and his dad does not want him. On top of that, he may be separated from his sisters and moved to another state. I know that God is in control and that all things happen for a reason but sometimes it is hard not to question what God is doing.

Please pray for him (his name is Daniel) and his sisters. Also please pray for my wife and I as we try to gather all the necessary information and also to seek God’s will so that we can make the appropriate, informed decision. God’s will is the most important aspect. That will trump everything else, one way or the other.