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Visiting Churches

Church Shopping

Looking to Find a New Church

My wife and I are looking to find a new church. I never thought we’d be in this situation. My assumption was we’d go to our church for the rest of our lives. So much for assumptions.

While writing my not-yet-published memoir, God, I Don’t Want to Go to Church, I realized I’d picked every church Candy and I have attended over the years. I’d have my favorite; she’d have hers.

Unable to agree, I’d effectively decide because I drove. She’d go along, grumbling a bit as we went, but eventually we’d settle into life at our new church.

For our last church, I committed us to be part of a church plant without consulting her. I assumed she’d be as excited as me. I was wrong.

Eventually she embraced my choice as we immersed ourselves with giddy excitement into the allure of creating a fresh faith expression, working with a like-minded community of spiritual mavericks and misfits, rejects of today’s church culture.

I later apologized to her for always picking our churches. I promised she could pick the next one—even though I assumed there never would be a next one.

A few years later, after our yearlong sabbatical of researching and writing 52 Churches, we returned to our home church. We picked up where we left off. Friends welcomed us back, excited about our return. A few, however, never knew we were gone.

This reminded me of how big and disconnected our church had become. Faithful regulars, even with a visible presence each Sunday, could slip away for a year and not be missed.

In his book The Barbarian Way, Erwin McManus wrote about being barbarians for Jesus, of not settling for a civilized acceptance of the religious status quo.

We started our church plant as passionate barbarians, but in eight short years we had settled into a civilized acquiescence. We had become like other churches, just with edgier music and more attendees from society’s fringe.

As we became organized (civilized), there was less room for my maverick soul to find solace. An all-too-familiar ache resurfaced, that spiritual yearning for more.

This unanswered pang in my spirit left me again asking questions about what it means to truly follow Jesus and how his church should function. Church is not to assure our comfort, but to insure his kingdom.

Our daughter and her family went to this church with us. We persisted in attending to be with them. But then our son-in-law switched jobs, and they moved near our son and his wife.

The pull of family caused us to ask an unexpected question: Should we move too? After consulting with our kids and receiving their blessing, we did just that.

Now we need to find a new church.

Shopping for Church: Searching for Christian Community, a Memoir

Key Considerations

I desire to worship with our neighbors in our new community, so we’ll look at churches nearby. Yet most of their buildings and names suggest they’re traditional congregations, with traditional views, and little patience for nontraditional me.

We’ll also consider the churches our neighbors attend. As far as we know, most of them drive outside our community each Sunday. If one of these churches clicks, at least we’ll be able to attend with some neighbors.

A third consideration is our kids’ churches. However, our daughter and son-in-law are still looking, while I’m not sure how long our son and daughter-in-law will continue where they’re going. What are the chances we could all end up at the same place?

We’ll know the right church when we see it, but it’s good to have an idea of what we’re looking for.

For me, true community is paramount. This implies a smaller congregation. I also want a church family that goes all out to follow Jesus, worships the Father in spirit and in truth, and embraces the power of the Holy Spirit.

I need a truly Trinitarian faith community. Traditional churches need not apply.

In addition, it’s important to find a church that gives me a place to plug in and help others. Over the years I’ve served in many areas at the churches we’ve attended, often in excess and to the detriment of my family.

At one time I was simultaneously involved in ten different areas at our church, going there two or three times throughout the week to meet all my commitments, in addition to being quite busy on Sundays.

Where to Serve?

Over the years I’ve served as elder, deacon, treasurer, assistant treasurer, and executive committee member. A few times I even gave the sermon. I also headed up one church’s small group ministry, a 20-hour-a-week commitment.

I’ve taught various Sunday school classes, from preschool to adult, with the junior high boys being my favorite. Along the way, I’ve led small groups. Then there is ushering, greeting, and taking the collection. And I’ve been on more committees than I care to remember.

Though I could do any of these things again, I don’t feel God calling me to any of them at this time. I also don’t think these are the best way for me to help advance his Kingdom.

After too many years of overcommitment, I established a guideline for my church involvement. It works well.

Quite simply, in addition to the Sunday service, I’m open to do one additional thing each week—and only one thing—at church. That’s it. I hope the church we pick offers me this one place to serve, one that will give me life.

Candy’s list is different. She seeks music that is worshipful and not a performance. They must speak the truth but in love. Last, she wants a church willing to address today’s issues, not worrying about being politically correct or afraid to declare biblical truth.

In visiting congregations for 52 Churches, I set each destination with only minimal input from my wife. It was my research. We weren’t looking for a new church, so the consequences were minimal.

A New Church Home

This time is different. We’re seeking a new church home. The stakes are high. This won’t be a methodical investigation to gather information. It’s an imperative journey to find a new church family, a place for us to belong.

This time we’ll make the list together. I expect we’ll skip traditional congregations, formal gatherings, and liturgical services. While these are ideal choices for some, they have no pull for us.

Though this journey is ours together, and I will write the book from my perspective, Candy will make the final decision. I promised her that. My hope is I’ll be able to accept her selection and then embrace it, just as she did with my past choices.

Our journey to find a new church home is about to begin.

Check back next Thursday to read about our first consideration.

Read about the first church in Shopping for Church.


Read the full story in Peter DeHaan’s new book Shopping for Church.

Travel along with Peter and his wife as they search for a new Christian community in his latest book, Shopping for Church, part of the Visiting Churches Series.

This book picks up the mantle from 52 Churches, their year-long sabbatical of visiting churches.

Here’s what happens:

My wife and I move. Now we need to find a new church. It’s not as easy as it sounds. She wants two things; I seek three others.

But this time the stakes are higher. I’ll write about the churches we visit, and my wife will pick which one we’ll call home. It sounds simple. What could possibly go wrong?

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.