What’s important in a church

Recently I’ve had a couple of people express frustration over finding a church. These kind of conversations are usually with younger 20-somethings who distrust hyper-conservative theology, but are still hopeful to connect with people fighting for the right things. I TOTALLY get these frustrations – especially in the South, in can be difficult to find the “right fit”. So here’s where I’ve landed for anyone that cares…

I’ve been in church most of my life. I’ve run the gamut on denominations, styles, methodology, theology, whether or not you could wear jeans or speak in tongues. I’ve been under some great leadership and some not-so-great leadership, worshiped with rock bands and with one dude on a keyboard, gone to a huge campus with multiple buildings and to a church that met in someone’s living room. And at the end of the day, I’ve decided there are only a couple of things really important about the people I choose to partner with in a church.

And it can all be summed up in Micah 6:8

“He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?”

That’s it. That’s what I look for in a church. Are they actively DOING justice in the city? Are they KIND? Does the leadership walk in HUMILITY?  I can look past theological differences, worship styles, how “cool” the pastor is, whether or not they voted for Obama, and if they serve coffee in the lobby if these three things are true about a group of people.

And this is mostly true because I’ve been in churches where these things were NOT the reality. I’ve been in churches that give lip service to justice, but are so inwardly focused that they don’t even know about the brokenness and injustice that surrounds them. I’ve been in churches where the pastor said out of one side of his mouth that we should love people and out of the other side of his mouth that people that didn’t think like him were the enemy. And I’ve been in churches where the leadership was so saturated in pride that they couldn’t admit their own sin.

I’ve totally given up on the idea of finding a group of people that agree with me on every theological, political, or methodological issue (hello, welcome to the rest of your life) and I’ve decided it’s more important to surround my kids with people I want them to BE like. People that love well, fight for justice, and don’t take themselves too seriously in the process. If Jac grows up wanting to defend the defenseless like Josh, if Charis grows up wanting to care for the sick like Meredith, if Abigail grows up fighting for opportunities for those stuck in poverty like Kate, if Jones grows up…well if we get Jones through high school you’ll KNOW it’s because I had a rockstar support group. That will be success.

I know a lot of people that have given up on church entirely. And can you blame them? In a world where a typical American church spends 82 percent of their budget on internal expenses while the American Red Cross spends 8 percent. A world where time and money are precious and the needs around us are so pressing. A world where the leader of the National Association of Evangelicals condemns homosexuals from the pulpit and then pays a man for sex in an alley.

But despite these realities, I still have hope for the church. For a group of people that are willing to give up time, money, comfort, personal ambition – to fight TOGETHER for the right things.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead

merbrit livingroom

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