I was raised in the church. I am a preacher’s daughter. I was at the church every time the doors were open and then some. Growing up, I never knew the struggle of finding a good, home church because everywhere my parents went, I went.
North Hardin Baptist Church. McDonald Memorial Baptist Church. First Baptist Church Hillsboro. I never knew anything different.
But now I’m not with my parents. I live on my own in DFW. Now I have faced the real struggle of finding a home church, and I will flat-out say it has been a struggle.
I’m sure you’re thinking – but didn’t you go to church in Waco while in college? Yes. However, my first two years of college I came home for church. Some (most) would argue I only came home to see my boyfriend. I won’t try to deny it, they were right. Of course I wanted to see him and I wanted to spend time with him, and that meant going to church together every Sunday.
Yeah, but y’all broke up right? Yes, we did. While this didn’t necessarily mean I had to find a church in Waco, now I wanted to. I wanted to find a church because I wanted answers. I wanted to find community. I was at the lowest point in my life, and I wanted to find and feel loved. I was able to achieve this at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church.
But now, now I live in DFW. I live surrounded by churches, but knowing where to begin is a different story entirely. My parents and I reached out, we tried to find recommendations, but it was up to me to go.
I tried two different churches with my cousins. Having been closed-minded to different churches in the past, I tried to stay open and give each church a fair shot. I went to these two churches twice with my cousins and both times I felt like the church didn’t have what I wanted and what I was looking for.
Sounds weird, right? Yet what I learned is churches truly are different from one another to an extent. I know my convictions, I know who I believe God to be, and I know what I believe the church should be. I hold nothing against these two churches my cousins attend, they just weren’t the churches for me.
But why? It was the most important question I had to ask myself when making these decisions. But why is this church not for you? What is it about this church that makes you think it’s not where you need to be. To do this I had to evaluate both churches.
The church of cousin #1 is non-denominational and very contemporary. My first Sunday there we sang Hillsong, Elevation Worship, and some songs from Passion. To say I loved the music was an understatement. I love contemporary worship music (notice I threw the word worship in there because I feel there is a difference between contemporary worship and Christian contemporary).
The preaching, however, felt more like a motivational speech than a sermon. I sat in the audience thinking “Did I come to church or a TED talk?” Not wanting that to be my only impression of the church, I tried again. The second time I went, I felt the same way. I found myself sitting in my chair wondering when the pastor would dive into the scripture.
The pastor would say things like “Here are the practical reasons you should do this and here’s what the bible says too.” Sure, I would love to know the practical reasons to do something, but I kept feeling like that’s all the pastor focused on. For me, it never went beyond health, wealth, and prosperity, but the Christian life is not about the “benefits”, the Christian life is about looking like Christ.
Similar to cousin #1, cousin #2 as well goes to a non-denominational and very contemporary church. The music consisted of songs from Vertical Church Band and I Am They. As with the other church, I was hooked on the worship, but church is more than just the worship.
Quite opposite of the pastor from church #1, the pastor at church #2 was a firm believer in diving into scriptures and understanding the meaning of everything. He consistently reminded the audience scripture is the divine revelation of God, even if something doesn’t make sense to us, it is no accident the verses inscribed in our bibles, and we should seek to find out why. This was something I could agree with. I felt like I was getting closer to a match.
While I hate there is a caveat, there is. What I couldn’t seem to move past is in the middle of the sermon the pastor said “If you allow sin to thrive in your life, you will receive a letter saying you are no longer welcome in small group because we will not let you bring the rest of us down.” Ummm…excuse me? If you’re rolling your eyes, don’t worry, I was too. This, among other statements, I couldn’t seem to move past.
I struggled so much with this I called my dad. I couldn’t understand why a pastor would outright say someone was not welcome in the church. I explained to my dad that as a visitor, it turned me off to the church. I felt like if I continued, if I joined, I would live more under an umbrella of legalism than grace.
I remember telling my dad I know grace doesn’t mean go live the life I want and feel no remorse, but I simply couldn’t understand why they would say someone who is struggling with anything in their life isn’t welcome. I felt as if I would constantly be judged because I struggled with things differently from them. All I could think was “How can you sit here and say you’re a sinner saved by grace and not extend that grace to someone else? Where is the ‘love like Christ’ in that?”
Sure, you can guilt and shame a person into changing their behavior, but kindness and mercy are what have the potential to change a heart. Grace spares us of our shame (which we ALL have). We can’t experience transformational change with God when we pretend like certain pieces of our hearts aren’t broken.
So I kept searching. From the recommendation of a friend of my dad’s, and wanting to try it personally, I decided to go to a church right off the interstate in Fort Worth.
I went even though I didn’t know a single person. I walked in alone. I felt vulnerable and exposed. It was a feeling I had never known before. After all, I grew up in the church. I always knew everyone there. And even if I didn’t know them, they certainly knew me. This time, that wasn’t the case.
It’s hard not to wonder what people think about you. Is she coming because she’s a “good girl”? Is she coming because her life is screwed up and she’s desperate? Though if we’re honest, it’s a combination of both. I didn’t know what to think or feel. All I knew was I wanted a church I could call home.
Again, worship in the church consisted of music from Hillsong, Bethel Worship, and ChurchHouse. However, what felt different about this church was the preaching. My first Sunday there, my dad’s friend Scott that recommended I try out the church was actually guest preaching. Talk about an act of God. Then the pastor began a sermon series entitled Authentic Hope. It was one of those moments I just felt like I needed to keep coming (even though Scott joked with me I would have better luck finding a husband at a mega-church).
I was so worried about people in the church, and what they would think of me, God took care of even that. On my second Sunday, I was walking out when I reached the exit at the same time as an elderly couple. The wife insisted I go first because they were slower, but I told her it was no problem and I would walk out with them. She wasted no time striking up conversation with me, asking me what brought me to the church, was I in school or a young professional (but I’m both), and just casual conversation. She introduced herself and her husband to me, shook my hand, and said she genuinely prayed she would see me again. It was that very act of kindness that I needed.
Similar to my spiritual apathy post, I think very rarely does someone walk into a church and know it’s the church for them on the first try. You have to make sure you will be comfortable there, and more importantly it is where God has called you to be. In Waco, I knew I wanted to join Columbus after three weeks (though I waited another month before I finally did). For now, this church of I-35 in Fort Worth feels like the best fit for me.