So after leaving our church of 8 years we visited some churches in our city. We tried not to be too picky, realizing that there is no such thing as a perfect church. We also did not want to be unaware in our approach either. We tried churches within our current denomination and without. There are certain doctrinal issues that play an important role for me. I believe that the Bible reveals that baptism is important to God. All of the conversions that I read of in Scripture are followed soon after by baptism. Also, communion is another thing I feel strongly about. While I am not sure that the Bible teaches that it MUST be done every Sunday, I feel there is great value in practicing sincere communion on a regular and frequent basis.
After a few frustrating visits at various nearby churches, we were invited to attend a church in Muncie, about a 20 minute drive for us. Location is important, as the farther the church the harder it is to get connected. And while we did not feel that this church was perfect, as my wife and I talked about it, we both felt that God was tugging at our hearts to put some roots down here for a while. One of the issues that concerned me was I felt that the sermons were weak. They relied much more on presentation than on content. The pastor later confirmed this, in my opinion, when he taught a class on communicating. Although I was not present for the class, I received the outline and handouts. A lot of emphasis was placed on dress, use of humor, etc., and very little on content. I have heard a lot of speakers in my days, and for me the ones that have the greatest impact are those who have a passion for their topic, and not those who might otherwise be considered the most effective communicators. (1 Cor 1:17 "For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.")
One of the bright spots in this congregation was the people. They seemed friendly and sincere. Another positive was our Sunday School class. Our first Sunday there, we were greeted by the preacher. Somehow in that first week, I cannot recall for sure if it was via letter or direct communication, we were told that the pastor would like to follow up and visit with us soon. Four weeks later I mentioned to my friend my disappointment that this had never occurred. The following Sunday pastor told me he wanted to meet with us, and could we schedule a time to come to his office. Coincidence? I don't know. But he asked us to schedule an appointment to meet with him in his office, and we did.
We showed up for our first meeting. It felt a bit awkward for some reason. We sat down and had some small talk. Talk turned to church membership. We were very upfront, as we explained with some detail what our previous experience had been like, and how we were a bit gun shy about jumping right in without having a real knowledge of the church yet. We were assured that University Christian Church was not that kind of place. I had my doubts, but I wanted to keep an open mind.
The pastor shared a little bit about his history with the church, and the church's history as well. I still don't know all of the facts, but the church had just been through a split prior to his coming, and had had some difficulties in the past. I think that explains a lot about their current demeanor. Anything that hints of being a problem seems to be swept away, and all is handshakes and smiles. A facade is put up that paints such a pretty picture. (Mt 23:27 comes to mind). Is there an elephant in the room? I don't see no stinkin' elephant!
My wife and I left that meeting and we talked with one another about how we felt. We agreed that we were not ready to become members yet, but that we still felt that this was a place God wanted us to be for at least the present time, although we were not sure why. I jokingly said that maybe it was because God was punishing us for something. Bad theology, good joke.