A spiritual mentor once said to me, “Chris, The bigger you make God in your life, the smaller your problems are. If you want to live a peaceful, productive life, you have to do it on purpose.” One of the most important steps we can make toward this is finding the right church or organization to join and finding mentors to help us along our path.
And, when searching for a church to join, there’s never been an easier time to make an informed decision than now. Thanks to the Internet and the increasingly effective ways churches are learning to market themselves online, we can often take a virtual tour of the facility. We can check out its programs and activities and observe the sermons and services. From the Christian perspective, a church is not only motivated to grow for growth’s sake, but is tasked to move people to Christ. Because of this mandate, they have an intrinsic reason to bring people in using all the available tools. We can take advantage of every bit of information we have available to find the right fit for our needs and personalities.
When looking for a spiritual place to call home, we have to determine what’s most important for us in order to keep us engaged. For me, personally, there is power in passion — that’s what I’m drawn to. I have to see and hear the enthusiasm and conviction in the speaker’s voice and actions while they address their congregation. In a church setting, the old saying “the speed of the leader is the speed of the pack” holds true. The leader of a congregation, more often than not, sets the tone and tempo for the church’s activities, both for internal ministry and for ministry outreach.
When a church has multiple pastors, you can often see the difference between the passionate and “autopilot” speakers in action. The speakers with the most passion, who truly believe the message they are presenting, who are on fire with the ideas they are trying to share, will soon be speaking in front of a packed house every time. They may even be moved to the services in the hours that are more difficult to fill, and they’ll fill them just the same. No one goes to church — or any presentation for that matter — to be bored. Some may show up out of duty or habit, but people want to be excited.
As someone who has regularly worked six or seven days a week for the past 34 years, Sunday mornings are precious to me. The prospect of getting up on my only morning off and listening to a speaker who doesn’t engage my emotions or give me something to think about doesn’t motivate me. Why should I go listen to someone who doesn’t give the impression of believing what he or she is saying? Going through the motions doesn’t add anything to our spiritual life. Being bored doesn’t get the job done.
The message is as important as the way it’s delivered. The best speakers can relate spiritual messages to our real-life circumstances. A well-thought-out sermon can echo throughout our week — or in the best cases, our entire life. Messages that challenge us in all parts of our life — work, family, fitness, ethics and more — fully engage us spiritually, and that’s when we’ll experience the best growth.
And, as time goes on, we must make sure the church we attend continues to meet our needs. If we find ourselves not wanting to get up and listen to a sermon on Sunday, or if we have that feeling in our gut telling us we’re not receiving what we need, then we need to take a hard look and decide if our requirements might be better met elsewhere. Most people go through ups and downs in our faith. It’s not necessary to make an abrupt decision — unless there are circumstances happening in the church we believe require us to make a choice. If that feeling persists over time, however, it might be time to move on.