It’s a rarity when the task of visiting churches proves to be an exciting experience. The reason I say that is because normally when you look for another church, it implies that a significant change is taking place. Sometimes people move due to hurt feelings, disagreeing directions, or frustrating experiences with a previous church. Some people are visiting churches because a job changed has landed them in an unfamiliar town with few acquaintances. Some “church shopping” can be immature, but many of those visits have legitimate catalysts.
Do you realize that there were 3 churches present at the last church you visited?
No, I’m not saying that you visited 3 churches in 1 Sunday, I’m saying that there were 3 churches present at the last church you visited. When you visited, here were the 3 churches present.
Even if the church is young, there is a past present there. There’s a history. They have been through some exciting days and some depressing days. Some in that church think the glory days are behind them. Others are glad they are no longer living in the past years of dysfunction. And there are a bunch of people with their own preferences of what they have experienced through the years. The past weighs heavily on the experience you have.
One Sunday’s snapshot of a church will never portray how far a congregation has come from where they have been.
When you visit a church on Sunday, realize that they have come along way from where they have been.
You visited 1 Sunday. The preaching might have been better or worse than the average. The service might have been unique or the standard. The numbers might have been up or down. It was 1 Sunday.
If you judge a church based on 1 Sunday experience, you may fail to appreciate where it has been and where it is going.
You will never learn all there is to know about a church with 1 experience. You might know enough to make a decision. The church might display enough warnings of dysfunctional danger that you run for your spiritual life after just one exposure. But it might take a little more time to appreciate where the church is.
As you experienced today’s church and envisioned yesterday’s church, can you visualize tomorrow’s church? Can you see where the church is going and do you want to be there with them?
If you can see the direction of the church, maybe you need to figure out how you can help them get there rather than criticizing why they aren’t there now.
Oftentimes, people make a decision on a church regarding where it is presently versus what direction it is heading. As you engage with the people, can you tell the heart of the church? Where do you picture the church in 5 years? Is the pastor’s heart evident and inspiring?
If you are in a time of transition, I can understand the challenge that comes with selecting a church family. When you visit a church, realize there are 3 churches present.
- Yesterday’s church reminds you of where these people have been
- Today’s church shows you where these people are
- Tomorrow’s church envisions where these people could be
If you are in a time of transition, I pray you can find a church home not just to meet your needs but so that you can meet the needs of others. There are a lot of churches going somewhere. Jump in and see how you can help them get there!
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.