Oxymoron: 'Shopping for a Missional Church' | Part 2
So here’s the problem: I’ve moved to Orlando, Florida. I was a campus minister for eight years, I have a seminary degree, and now am a manager in a Christian missions agency that serves missional leaders throughout the US. But I don’t have a local body of believers to call my own—to serve or lead or embody redemption with. And the biggest barrier to me finding one? Probably myself. (Part 1)
Part 2—My Past Churches
I suppose part of the church search should be knowing what you’re looking for. This part already bothers me a little bit. Do I have strong, over-educated opinions about what the church should be? You bet. But do I know that no church is anywhere close to perfect? Yes. In theory.
So the picture of what I’m looking for may not match to Reality. But what would it be, if I did? (Let’s set aside my nervousness about me being the sole-definer of what I’m looking for… I’ll deal with that in a separate thought somewhere). What is Chris’s ideal church?
There’s probably a pre-question: knowing where you’ve come from is important. I’ve had a strong variety of church experiences. Growing up conservative reformed gave me the Westminster Confession lens on life, where theology reigned king. I’ve got baggage here from what I now think was an over-narrow definition of orthodoxy, but I still respect deep study and careful thought.
The church that most affected me was my student church that grew me up and I eventually helped lead. Part of a small network of
chuches started in the 70s and 80s, my church was characterized by, among other things: house churches of ten to thirty people, emphasis on the Great Commission, an informal and participatory worship style, high relational intimacy, plurality of eldership, the priesthood of all believers, scripture memorization, and discipleship marked by principles of mentorship, multiplication, and leadership development. Our network was partly the unlikely mating of Plymouth Brethren and Campus Crusade for Christ. So there's that.
My most recent church was Life on the Vine, in which I was only just barely beginning to be able to serve, yet felt like home very quickly. This missional/liturgical/community oriented fellowship extended much of what I believed and lead in I-Life, but added a significant historical-liturgical dimension in practice and kingdom-gospel theology that embodied much of what I had spent the previous five years coming to advocate for. Think loud reading of scripture, icons, and Eucharist as the climax of every gathering together.
Believe it or not, those are my total church home experiences. Since I’ve raised financial support as a missionary for many years, I’ve met tons of other churches: from Assemblies of God to Bible Baptists to Anglicans to large seeker-oriented boxes. But I’ve had relatively few I’ve ever belonged to.
So now, what do I want to belong to?
I think, however much it bothers me, I've gotta make a list. As soon as I can write some more.