Monday, October 26, 2009

What Would You Do?!? - The Chuch-Choosin' Conundrum.

[Editor's Note: This is a pretty serious topic, so let's stay off jokey-joke time, please. And yes, I have people in my life to discuss this sorta stuff with, but I was wondering how ya'll might approach a similar situation. And no, we haven't come to any final conclusion either.]

About a year ago, after the birth of our 2nd child, my wife and I made a mutual decision to find another church closer to home. We'd been at our old church for over a decade (we sorta met there), but with two children, and a lack of proper onsite facilities for managing young kids, plus a 35-45 minute drive, logistically it just became a lot more difficult. While we loved the church, and had no other real qualms about it, we sought out a place closer to home.

Over the past few months, I've visited a handful of local churches, some more welcoming than others, but none that really "lead us" to join. Until recently, that is, when we visited a great nondenominational church just minutes from our home. The facilities are amazing, as are the onsite childcare services, which essentially allow us to drop both kids off in separate, age-appropriate rooms where they'll be taken care of (and taught) while we enjoy service uninterrupted (a real problem at the old church, where we had to keep them with us in the crowded and noisy "children's room"). Since it's much closer to home, making it there for mid-week services, classes, and other activities will be a cinch. The church has a K-8 day school, just in case we decide to go that route in the future. The ultra-modern and leafy suburban church campus is top notch, and among the ministries/classes offered are non-traditional things like Spanish and weightlifting. Seriously, on paper, it's like "what's NOT to like"?!?

But of course, there's a hitch. While the services themselves are fine, this church is a bit, shall we say, activist in its direction. The pastor (who shall obviously remain nameless) is a well-known Conservative in the DC Urreah. He's renowned for his stances in favor of "preservation of marriage", as well as "anti-abortion". Anyone who reads this site knows I'm pretty laissez-faire on both issues. If gay folks want to be married and obtain all the legal benefits there within, I have no problem whatsoever with states (and DC, which is quickly headed in that direction) extending such a right. Likewise, I am completely and totally in favor of a woman's right to choose. I'm well aware that both of these stances are in some way contradicted by scripture, but I can't really say I care. It's not up to me to determine how others live their lives, especially when it doesn't effect me in any way, shape, or form. Call me a heathen if you want. So be it. I've been called far worse, trust me.

The couple of times I've visited the church, this insistence on bringing up social issues has nagged me a bit. Everything else about the service is great, from the praise and worship, to the service times (9:30, FTW!), and even the scripture-lead preachin' when it's not embedded with talk about banning gay marriage. This constant drumbeat is especially troubling given the fact that a handful of obviously gay men are on the praise team, playing instruments, and ushering. It's all a bit difficult to process.

I know some of you are thinking, "well, why not just choose another church?" Reality is, such decisions are seldom so black and white, especially when the inclusion of social issues is something that I can't really say is a normal thing (much of the buildup of late was in preparation for a recent pro-marriage rally in DC). I happen to like the way the guy otherwise preaches, and perhaps more interesting is that he is quite familiar with the pastor of my old church, which is a co-sign of sorts. The childcare, location, and overall facilities are all checks in the positive column. But that niggling "pro-marriage and anti-abortion" thing sorta gets to me, for reasons I can't say.

I guess in a round-about way, this is why the whole Obama-Rebb'n Wright thing last year really stuck in my craw. There's so much more to being a member of a church than what a pastor says during a pre-written 25 minute sermon once a week. The other 6 days and change are all about friendships, relationships, and other personal attachments that aren't so easily discarded. And let's face it, few congregations are such sheeple that they just follow what a pastor says word for word, as evidenced by the low grumbles when the pastor launched into his latest rant yesterday. Even the pastor at my old church, a guy whom I've got infinite respect for, said 2-3 things each week that he said which I fundamentally disagreed with to my core. Did I leave? No? It's never that simple, especially when you look at the churchgoing experience in totality.

All of which makes my hangups with whether or not to join this new church seem somewhat trivial overall. But I figured I'd ask ya'll anyway.

Question: How much should basic fundamental disagreements with a pastor influence whether or not you join/stay at a church? Have you ever experienced a similar conflict with your pastor? How, if at all, should you work this out?

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