This post is what I’d say to those showing up at our church from another church:
Do your best to leave your expectations at home. i.e. Don’t expect our church to be like your last church. Trust me, it won’t be! We’re different. Not better…but most definitely different. Approach your visit to a new church with an open heart and mind. If God is calling you to be a part of a new church, then chances are….He’s wanting to do something NEW in you.
Don’t have a “shopping” mentality. Don’t “shop” for a church like you would a new car or home. The problem with that approach is that it looks first at what’s best for ME. A church is not a health club. In fact, ultimately the “church” is not the building or the pastor – it’s the PEOPLE. It’s YOU. So ultimately, church should be seen as something we “are” much more than as a place we go to simply consume and have our needs met. So rather than first asking “What’s in it for ME?“ Instead, ask a different set of questions. Questions like:
What are some ways I could imagine God using me to serve and contribute in and through this church?
Does my heart resonate with the DNA and culture of this church?
“Does this place value children?” “Are there potential opportunities for my family to get to know other families who are at our same stage of life?” “Are there other singles people here?” (Depending on your stage of life.)
Is this the type of place I can invite my friends, neighbors, and loved ones without hesitation?
Is this place and are these people empowered to be real and authentic?
Stop looking for the perfect church. Churches are led and filled by men and women. Humans. This means that churches will always be a bit messy. People tend to think that the grass is always greener on the other side. Trust me, it’s not. There will be challenges and opportunities for offense everywhere you go! But listen… that’s one of the greatest values of community – learning to work through the tough challenges of human relationships.
Look beyond methods. If all you do is buy into methods, then what happens when those methods change? Go beyond the methods! Look at things like the church’s mission, DNA, culture, core beliefs, values, etc… Look beyond the preaching and “style” of music. Are those things important? Yes. But “style” and “methods” change! Or I should say…SHOULD change. Remember….the only thing that’s sacred is God’s mission. A healthy church will constantly be changing and tweaking the externals. Look beyond those.
Bottom line folks: I believe that starting well is heavily dependent upon ending well. And yes, sometimes it’s difficult to leave well. And I know there are even some pastors who really make it tough to leave well. But just remember…..you are only responsible for yourself. So at least do your part. And do it with a ton of integrity and Spirit leading. If you do that, I believe God can and will honor that.