I can’t tell you how often this question comes up. And I would be lying to you if I said I feel freedom in the fact that my answer is “I don’t have one”. But I’d also be lying if I told you that everytime someone invites me to their church I feel some sort of thrill that I can try out a new one until I find the one God wants me at.
The raw, honest truth is, I make time to spend with God on my own, during the week. Churches aren’t as open in the United States as I romanticize them to have been a few centuries ago. When I think of an effective church, I think of one where I can go in and pray, and be able to recieve fellowship with God’s people. That’s probably because the ideal church environment in my head, is what we had in the 90s at The Cathedral of Incarnation in Nashville, TN. I haven’t been back for quite some time, but I imagine they are the same as they use to be, but of course they have the funding to pull it off.
Most Protestant Churches, however, don’t. And even many of the Catholic Churches in my region don’t have the staffing to keep an open space for people that just want to come in and pray. In the Upstate, there are only two welcoming places I have been able to find for someone that just wants to come in and pray- an Episcopal Church in Downtown Greenville and The Potter’s Place in Central, SC just behind Southern Wesleyan University.
One might ask- why does an open-door church, with an accessible ministry team, matter? We live in a day and age where fighting to make a living is difficult. My husband works the second shift during the week, and to make ends meet I work a two day 12-hr security shift on the weekends. This allows us the ability to have a stable income just to maintain living in a trailer, while we try to save up for a better place…through the turmoil of maintaining a single car and 500cc scooter, and raising a rambucous 8 year old. Churches which have weekday services or bible studies, are missing daycares- and my son simply will not sit still. I’ve tried looking for daytime Bible Study groups, but they lack the fellowship aspect. Every Bible Study I’ve tried to go to as an adult has ended up being less interaction and more watch-the-video, here’s a workbook and homework (it’s not graded).
Though, there was one. Exactly one church I thought I could be a part of…then God woke me up. This church had Charismatic leanings, and the more I paid attention to what was being said, and how my soul responded to those things, the more spiritually sick I felt. I still love the people that started the church, and even believe God wanted me there for a short time to bear witness. It hurts even that I had a place I could fellowship, but I had to leave because the church itself was decieved into teaching Christianized witchcraft. Exposure to this church has knocked out several congregations, such as those which follow Pentacostalism, Bethel and Hillsong.
I have difficulty with the Catholic Church, Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches for various reasons. The church my mother attends (Shepherd’s Chapel) may have been helpful early on, but theologically I’ve reached different conclusions on many of the key points their ministry is founded upon. Jehovah’s Witness relies to heavily on trying to correct failed internal prophecies and Mormonism accepts books that flies in the face of God’s declaration that He would use Israel itself to make the world know He is God. Then there are times I see things that concern me within congregations, such was the case in 2019 when the United Methodist Convened to discuss the topic of LGBT rights within the church. Guest musicians seemed to lack the spirit of worship when they sang, the arguments for and against equal LGBT representation were less based on scripture and history and more about personal feelings. The convention, from every angle, was built too heavily upon a popularity contest, rather than getting down to the bottom of what God’s wishes are. Some churches deny the reality of demons and witchcraft, regulating them to nothing more than figments of imagination- something that I find is very damaging, though can understand others find more benign.
Assuming I did find a denomination that fit, the next problem is finding a church that lives those values. It sounds like I’m looking for perfection, but I’m not. I know there is no such thing as the perfect church, at least not since the Apostles and possibly their proteges lived. After that point, it’s been a game of telephone. And as things got more spread out, people were able to mix other theological thought with scripture- as far back as Ignatius and Polycarp calling out Gnostic traditions. One might even argue earlier, as Paul is seen several times calling out false prophets.
Finding a church is difficult and a personal journey that must be taken seriously. I can tell you that the longer I go without finding one, the more the questions weigh upon me:
Is my pride keeping me from Church?
Is God waiting for me to do something before revealing a church?
Or is it true that he doctrines of man have really corrupted the Body of Christ that much that it’s harder to find a church that teaches truth?
For Christians that invoke Paul’s epistle 1 Timothy 2:12-15, saying a woman has no right to seek their own answers, for they are easily decieved, my message is simple: with over 30,000 denominations in the world, many having vastly different undrstandings, how can you expect a woman to follow man and know for certain they are following God’s Word? For just as easily as women are decieved, Paul warned against false prophets, Polycarp, Ignatius and Ireneaus being so close in time to the original apostles fought against heresays. Paul himself acknowledges that men can be decieved. And God multiple times over has made the statement that the sin of a person lays upon them, even when they have been led astray by another.
It is for this reason, my prayer is that if it seem right to God, that he find us worthy to send a Prophet for the nations, to set us right once more.