Not long ago someone who was moving to a new city asked a group of us what we looked for in a church.
Some people said they valued good preaching, or good worship music, or a good children’s program. Some wanted a place that offered the old time religion and salvation message that was good enough for Grandma. Some wanted something deeper or fresher or more relevant. Some wanted standards. Some wanted to be open to everyone and everything. Some wanted a place where they could take an active part and others wanted a service that ended on time with easy access to the exit and the parking lot.
When they asked me I said I don’t know anymore.
I’ve been in rooms with brilliant teachers teaching brilliant thoughts to eager learners.
I’ve been in open fields with people willing to lay down their lives for the nations,
in kitchens where folks fed the poor,
in safe houses with two or three friends who understood my brokeness patiently worked toward my emotional healing,
in giant cathedrals with choirs and organ music that carried the echoes of a thousand years of faithfulness,
on patios around the barbecue where people talk about the love of Christ and things that matter,
in backrooms where street people loved each other with the deepest sincerity,
in quiet sanctuaries where the sacraments repeated the promises I needed to hear,
in rented spaces with music and dance so enthusiastic I could feel the beat in my chest,
in accepting ethnic communities where I was the only white person,
in gyms where children laughed and played and recited memory verses,
in creaky old pews where multi-generational families prayed together and stayed together
in halls and airport hangars where the power of the Holy Spirit was so strong people were thrown out of their chairs or fell on the floor with laughter or were healed of incurable diseases on the spot,
and in wood paneled sanctuaries where the elderly found comfort in hymns about heaven.
I have known the safety of basement classrooms with friends who desire to hear the Lord and are willing to graciously speak truth into my life.
I’ve known the church of the internet where spirit to spirit connection rides the air waves.
I’ve known the reverent and the raucous, the richly furnished and the barely maintained, the well-staffed and the unstaffed, the steadfast and the risk-taking.
It’s hard to choose which one I will reject if I cling solely to one and forsake the others.
I love them all.
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.