How does a former pastor choose a church? That is the question Andy Rowell and his wife are facing after their relocation to a new community. The process has opened their eyes to the differences and blessings of denominational and nondenominational churches. Although they've still not made a decision, Andy shares his reflections on the process so far.
"Occupational hazard," that is what my wife and I call it. We cannot help but thoroughly analyze churches we visit. My wife and I both have M.Div. degrees and have served as pastors. So when we need to pick a new church, overanalyzing churches is almost inevitable - an occupational hazard.
A month ago we moved to Durham, North Carolina so I could begin the 4-5 year Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) program at Duke Divinity School. We have visited seven churches in the last six weeks here and have not yet made a decision on where we will attend.
Our backgrounds are mostly in churches and institutions that were nondenominational or interdenominational - where denominational affiliation was played down. But around Durham, many of the churches that have been recommended to us are mainline churches. They are led by pastors that are theologically orthodox, yet the style of these mainline churches is different from what we are accustomed to.
In our vigorous Sunday lunch discussions, my wife and I have been impressed by aspects of the mainline churches we have visited. On the other hand, there are things we miss about nondenominational churches.
It seems to me nondenominational folks and mainliners can learn from each other. In that spirit, I offer a few summary points of our Sunday lunch discussions.
The Top Nine Things I Appreciate about Mainline Churches:
1. The leadership of mainline churches does not center so much on one person ? the pastor. When a senior leader leaves, there are mechanisms for finding a new pastor including trained interim pastors.
2. Mainline churches have a greater appreciation for Christian history. The liturgies of the mainline churches reflect the thought and deliberation of several centuries of Christians. Many evangelical worship leaders say whatever springs to mind.
3. The worship services at mainline churches have intellectual substance. The liturgies at mainline churches are usually very rich theologically. Someone has taken the time to craft the words of the liturgy carefully.
4. Mainline churches care for the poor and are more aware regarding social issues. Though evangelical churches are coming around, they have been slower than the mainline regarding racism, care for the poor, empowering women, and care for the environment.
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