You’re a Christian and you’re in a new place, whether that be because you moved because of work, you’ve started university or simply moved far enough across town its impractical to go to your old church. How do you decide where to go?
Okay so when I say those others don’t matter, I don’t mean you need to go to the first church that loves Jesus and stay there without taking any personal preference into account, especially if the specific doctrine is important to you. But what I mean is all those questions really are just personal preference and I think it’s really easy to get caught up in it. You can so easily slip into thinking how a church isn’t like your old church in this way or the other. And of course if this is doctrinal or a serious style clash then it probably isn’t the church for you. What I ask is; please don’t go around trying to find a copy of your old church just because it’s safe, and then go on to complain (however silently or inwardly) about how it isn’t quite there.
Long before I arrived in my university city I decided I needed to find church that I could serve God in. After my experience at Soul Survivor (details second half of this post), I also decided that if I could find a church that was dedicated to reaching out to the community it would be a lot easier for me to serve God in the way he had called me to. I had made no decisions about the style or denomination of church. I come from a Baptist church back home but have never considered myself a Baptist; only a Christian and, if pressed, one with mainly Baptist leanings in terms of doctrine. I made no decisions about the size or the amount of students.
I’ll be honest that when I got here and had to make decisions about where to try I took a couple of those decisions simply to cut the options a little. I realised a church with an especially large student presence with a lot of specific provision for them would probably lead to little to no opportunity to get involved in the church itself or mission so they got “crossed off”.
Just to add in a note here from hindsight: sorry about all the numbers from here on in but it’s the easiest way to identify different churches without telling you their names.
The CU at my university (and many others) do a “Church Search” for the first four weeks of term where student reps from each church talk about their church and then freshers follow who they want. I decided that after those four weeks I wanted to have finished trying out churches so that’s… four churches right? Well, yes, any sane person would just do four, but I was especially keen to try out lots of different churches so I did three out of four evenings too so have visited seven different churches in this fine city. They ranged from those of a congregation of less than 100 to over 300, traditional and conservative to contemporary, artsy and charismatic, a large student presence to a small one. After two weeks I had visited three and felt that even though one did suit me well it wasn’t the place for me. I thought I was being too picky and just not being happy with any of them because I was being awkward. I prayed and considered and visited two more the following sunday #4 and #5. #4 was a lovely little Baptist church in the centre of the city that reminded me of my home church in terms of style and direction. I liked it and was top so far.
But #5 changed everything. #5 is a New Wine C of E church on the other side of the city, where there are no current students. I was invited by email via Fusion (www.fusion.org.uk), inviting me to a steak dinner and evening service. Throwing a few emails back and forth it sounded like a church I could really get involved in and they are really short of sound technicians (the best way I can serve in the church after 4/5 years experience at my home church), so I went along. The steak dinner was extremely tasty and the people I met were lovely. At the service there was a 7 piece youth band who really won my over with a great rendition of Rend Collective’s You are my vision and a couple of other Soul Survivor favourites which actually sounded right! (The recreation of a festival-style worship song is usually very difficult in a normal church.) And during the service I just felt the people were there to encounter God and He was who their hearts were seeking. It struck me as a place where faith grows and is nurtured.
I went back home not sure what to think. This church is on the other side of the city and has no students; really God? Is it where you want me to be?
I had plans for the following week (now last week) as I had connections with someone at a church in Bath so felt I had to visit it; it also had a large student presence so I felt it was worth a look (#6). I also had an idea for the evening service; a student church plant of another New Wine church (#7). #6 was too traditional and not lively enough for me. I think that sentence is pretty hypocritical of me but actually I didn’t feel like it was where I was meant to be and maybe I just put it down to the “preferences” mentioned. #7 was brilliant, extremely contemporary and quite charismatic. It reminded me very much of Soul Survivor, which generally is a good thing; however I feel like for that to be a weekly occurrence it would be too overwhelming for me. Again perhaps it was a “this isn’t where I want you” nudge which I gave reason to. I spoke to one of the CU leaders who was already at #7 as he arranged a ride for me. I told him I really liked #5 and he agreed it was a great church and it’s a pity there aren’t any students there. He had a friend who is actually doing an internship at #5 and would happen to be at #7 that night. After the service I was introduced to this guy and we talked for 10/15 minutes about #5 and why I liked it, asked him some questions and only got more and more sure that it was where I was meant to be.
Over this week I’ve prayed and thought it through and decided that it where I want to go. I’m going back this morning to be sure that the service I went to wasn’t a weird fluke that never happens usually and if it still feels right it’s probably where I’ll stick.
I really want to emphasise that decision came about from praying and listening to where God wanted me. I made excuses for not wanting to be at other churches but they were just excuses to cover God telling me it wasn’t where I was meant to be.
I’m sorry about how long this post has become but I really hope it will help you if you’re looking for a new church in a new place.
I guess it can all be summed up in: focus on where God wants you to be, not on where you feel most comfortable. If that’s the first church you see then great, but don’t be phased if it isn’t.
Anyone else gone through this? Any thoughts, comments, questions or disagreements?
This video talks about why religion isn’t what Christ came to start but what he came to abolish which is a central point in the Christian faith
I know many have seen this video before but I think it’s a clear way of showing how Jesus came to abolish the rules not reinforce them. No one can ever live up to rule after rule to get to God, we’re simply imperfect. Jesus’ death and resurrection means that that fact doesn’t matter; we can get to God through Him.
That’s also what sets Christianity apart from other religions; we don’t have to please a God or act in a certain way to be rewarded, we are given the reward despite how we act, through God sacrificing Himself for us!
Hope that if you’ve seen it before you thought it was worth watching again and if not that it spoke to you.
Please feel free to comment below!
Yes, I’m sorry, but it has come up (again) and it is an issue I really care about. Abortion.
Maria Miller is the new women’s minister and weirdly, there’s no news. She’s been criticised for voting for lowering the abortion limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks in 2008 and then defending and reinforcing that view now. She makes it clear this is because of advances in medical science that means a premature baby born before 20 weeks can survive and that she is a “very modern feminist.” Pro-choice supporters are angry with David Cameron for appointing her to her position, just as they were for appointing Jeremy Hunt to Health minister as he is also in favour of reducing the limit – although he would like to halve it to 12 weeks.
As a side note, although these appointments clearly aren’t preferable for pro-choice supporters, it doesn’t make sense to me for them to be angry. Two-thirds of the public and three-quarters of women in the UK would support a reduction in the limit and Marie Stopes International in 2007 found that two-thirds of GPs want the limit lowered (stats from Christian Medical Journal‘s blog via God and Politics UK). So actually these appointments are exactly as they should be; representative of the public’s views.
I am a firm pro-life supporter. This may be down to my religious views in that I believe that all life is precious and should be protected. And certainly that is probably my motivation for my views but they’re not just blind religious following; they make moral sense. Why is the mother’s choice more important the baby’s life? Pro-choice supporters like to talk about situations where the mother’s life is in danger, rape and incest as the reason it should be allowed. Where the mother’s life is in danger we have a very different situation where abortion is justified that Catholics call the Doctrine of Double Effect. It is now the mother’s life we’re saving not the baby’s life we’re taking away. As for rape and incest I would still say abortion is not preferable but especially in the case of rape this is very fairly down to personal feeling. But I would say why should the baby be punished because the father has committed a terrible crime? But even if these were the reasons most abortions took place I would be much happier with the situation. While in actual fact these cases are the minority.
There are seven grounds for abortion, A, B, C, D, E, F and G. 98% of abortions are carried out on Ground C :
‘the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuation of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.’
And actually only about half a percent of these are because of the mother’s physical health; so the rest are for the mother’s mental health. The Abortion Review, published by BPAS, an organisation that provides abortion care admits that:
“the construction of the British abortion law still presents a problem for women and doctors. It is not the case that the majority of women seeking abortion are necessarily at risk of damaging their mental health if they continue their pregnancy. But it is significant that, because of the law, women and their doctors have to indicate that this is the case”
Now, of course, there will be many cases where the mental health would really be affected and even seriously but I would challenge, even then, is the baby’s life worth less than that? And what about the mothers who simply don’t have time for a child or for whom it would be inconvenient? How can we really, as a society, say that someone being a bit too careless with their sexual activity has the right to end a life?
Mothers-to-be need counselling, advice and a listening ear, especially single mothers. And I would say someone like me (ignoring the fact I’m male) would not be appropriate to do this. They would need to be impartial, listen to the mother’s feelings and be able to present all the options. But I think that abortion should be a last resort and that at every point of the process the mother should be asked if it is definitely what they want.
So I would support a reduction of the limit. But actually the amount of abortions over 20 weeks is relatively small and although I would like them to stop, I would rather Ground C was simply better used and not for “social abortions”. To do this we would need to change the image of abortion and what it is. Because it is the killing of what most would at least call a potential human life, and what many would call a human life. How we can see it so, so differently from killing a newborn is something I simply can’t fathom. I have watched footage of an abortion (the perks of a Catholic school education) and I feel like saying that all women who will potentially have an abortion should do the same but I think I could be seen as insensitive, however the detail should still be known. This article recounts a description from a doctor who has carried out many abortions and has since become pro-life.
Full statistics for 2011, including ones I have mentioned can be found at https://www.wp.dh.gov.uk/transparency/files/2012/05/Commentary1.pdf
There’s something else I want to make clear. I will never tell a women who has had an abortion that she is evil or judge her or anything like that for having done so. I would be interested as to her reasoning and possibly challenge it but for a variety of reasons I cannot pretend to understand individual women’s situation or what she went through. I’m for loving discussions, not hateful condemnation. My example is Jesus Christ. He was perfect God; he had the right to condemn the sinners he met and yet he didn’t. He treated them with love and respect and simply discussed their issues with them. I fight for the principle, not against the individuals who have been through it. Fighting to stop it happening in the first place rather than condemning those who believed they were doing the right thing.
I know there’s a lot in here but if you have any questions on what I’ve said or think I’m way out of line or in fact agree please comment below. Over to you.
EDIT (7/12/12): There’s whole point I’ve realised I’ve missed here, something I touched on in the Presidential election – tackling the causes is much more important and effective than reducing the limit (let alone banning altogether). This will just push many women who feel they can’t bring a baby into the world to finding illegal means of terminating their pregnancy, putting the woman in danger too. If we can fight the causes; poverty, family instability, the lack of abstinence and use of contraception among young people and more; we have a real chance of reducing the abortion rate.