Visiting Churches

Getting Started Visiting 52 Churches

Apprehension about Visiting Our First Congregation

It’s Sunday morning, and we’ve yet to visit our first church. Even though it’s only been a week, I already miss my friends at our church. I already miss what I know and expect, even though I know to expect the unexpected.

At least the unexpected happens in a familiar place and with friends.

As an introvert who excels at social awkwardness, I relish familiar surroundings. Going somewhere new produces a deep fear I yearn to avoid. I have driven into a parking lot at a new place, panicked, and driven away.

Instead of fighting fear, I prefer to flee it. I understand panic attacks. It takes prayer and God’s help to subdue them.

I get up around 6 a.m., as usual, but Church #1 doesn’t start for five hours. That’s far too much time for me to wait. I wonder, and I worry. Doubt creeps in. My fear grows.

If only the service started earlier. Then there wouldn’t be as much time for the enemy to whisper his lies: “This is a stupid idea.” “You will fail.” “No one will read your book.”

52 Churches: A Yearlong Journey Encountering God, His Church, and Our Common Faith

I must resist the devil, so he will flee from me (see James 4:7).

Or at least I can distract myself by working on this chapter. My insides churn with equal parts excitement and fear—or perhaps it’s just the sausage pizza from last night.

It doesn’t help that my bed provided more restlessness than rest. I add “tired” to my growing list of reasons not to go.

I now understand why the non-regular church attender can so easily stay home despite their best intentions. The living room recliner and television remote are much more inviting and much less threatening.

Yet I press on. This isn’t due to my character but to avoid embarrassment. Too many people know about this project for me to abort my mission on day one.

The first of fifty-two churches is a small one in an old building. I know nothing about them, even though they’re a scant one mile from home.

For years, we’ve driven past their tiny church, yet I’ve never met anyone who went there. How strange. We’ve lived in this community for nearly a quarter of a century, and my connection to it goes back even further.

I know people from the other local churches, why not here?

Does anyone actually go to this one?

Learning about them online isn’t an option. They don’t have a website or even a Facebook page.

Candy and I discuss when we should leave but don’t agree.

We don’t want to breeze in at the last minute, removing any opportunity for pre-service interaction. Yet, arriving too early opens us to awkwardness if there’s no one to talk to, leaving us with nothing to do but squirm.

We pray before heading out. I ask God to bless our time at church and teach us what he wants us to learn. I request his favor, so we can have a positive impact on this church and the people there. We say “amen,” and then we leave.

Candy shows no apprehension, and I doubt she’s aware of mine. She keeps our conversation light. In the two-minute drive, there’s no time for my angst to grow. Before I know it, we’re there.

My palms grow sweaty and my heart pounds. Nausea overtakes me.

What have I gotten us into?

Takeaway for Everyone: Make it as easy for visitors as possible. Providing helpful information online is critical: what to expect, how to dress, a theological overview, and any distinctive characteristics.

[Check out the discussion questions for church #1.]

Learn what happens next when we visit our first church.

My wife and I visited a different Christian Church every Sunday for a year. This is our story. Get your copy of 52 Churches today, available in ebook, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

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.