Churches of Christ: On Looking for a Church Home

coc.jpgI get emails —

Jay,

I’ve just finished reading (mostly) and skimming (partly) your series on the future of the progressive movement in the Churches of Christ. My wife and I are looking for a new church, and yes, we want it to be in a certain spot on the spectrum that exists within the Churches of Christ. Do you know if there is a directory online that gives more information about congregations rather than just name, address, phone number, and website? I don’t know if I’m looking for a checklist, but some information about whether grace is taught, but a normal (read: similar to that which has been for 2000 years) view of what sin is, is taught as well. It would also (in my perfect world) say whether or not they sing songs written before 1960 on a regular basis (and songs written before 1690 as well). Also, it would address the attitude of the congregation toward a child who decides to let out a cry or laugh during communion or the sermon.

We need a church that understands mental illness. My own view of it is that as we get further and further away from the perfect genomes as created in Adam and Eve, more and more is getting messed up in our bodies. This makes things like Huntington’s Disease, other heritable diseases, and other conditions where the body doesn’t work correctly not punishments for sin, but results of the Fall, and to be handled with compassion, not contempt and stigmatization. My son suffers from [specified] disorders.

We’ve been around to a different congregation, but we found that that it’s difficult for people to understand our son. The first night we were there, we heard a sermon condemning a strawman premillennialism. This set off a few warning bells in my head, but not enough to move on immediately. What we’re looking for is a church that understands grace, but also understands that there is still sin. We want a church that is not afraid of the Restoration Movement traditions, but isn’t running from them either–IE, they’ll sing 728b, O Sacred Head, and As The Deer in a single service, and it won’t be 80% songs that were written after I was born. We want one where neither silent contemplation nor singing during communion is frowned upon, and both are practiced corporately, and often. We want a church that understands that we have roots going back 2000 years, some going back 150, and some new shoots that are growing all the time. We are also looking for a congregation that will accept our son and not blame us for being bad parents with the smallest behavioral incidents. We also are hoping to find one that does have an active outreach program, but does not neglect spiritual growth of members. Because of the situation with our son, my wife and I are more in need of support ourselves than we are capable of giving support to others, but we know that Jesus founded a church, not a Society of Religious Navel-Gazers.

I know you most likely don’t know all the ins and outs of every congregation in the Dallas area, but if you know someone who would, I would appreciate names and email addresses. Also, if you know of a directory of congregations that doesn’t mince words when it comes to a congregations positions on grace and sin, as well as some of the other positions that define the differences between the progressive and traditionalist CoCs, I would thank you for it.

God bless!

Readers?

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About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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21 Responses to Churches of Christ: On Looking for a Church Home

  1. Tim Perkins says:

    Allow me to heartily recommend Highland Oaks C of C at LBJ and Kingsley. I believe we meet every criterion you list. We have a stirring praise service that incorporates newer AND older songs. I would urge you to check out our website: http://www.hocc.org

  2. Alan S. says:

    I concur with Tim. I have family and friends at Highland Oaks. Having said that, Dallas is a big area and there are other churches of Christ in other parts of the Dallas area that may also meet the families needs: Richland Hills, Farmers Branch, Saturn Road, etc. Unfortunately, on-line directories tend to be out of date. They can be helpful in providing the web sites where one can drill down further for more information. Nothing beats meeting with members and leaders to understand how they think.

    God bless your search and your family.

  3. I cannot contribute specifically to your writer's dilemma, because I do not live in the Dallas area.

    And while I'm empathetic with the situation relating to their son (I have a good friend with two autistic children), philosophically, I'm troubled by how many people want a congregation to meet their needs, rather than finding a place where they can contribute to the needs of others.

    Jesus' singular command was to love each other the way he loved us.

    I'm not going to pretend I know how that applies in every situation, or to your writer's situation specifically, but when Jesus was in the wilderness, he did not pray for bread.

    In my experiences, it is because our individual troubles that we have much to give to others.

    I wish I'd heard more of that point of view from your writer.

  4. Alan says:

    To be honest, my initial reaction to the letter is this: What would we think of a church that posted a similar article stating what they are looking for in a member? And, as in the individual case, the church exercises its prerogative to pass over prospective members that do not measure up?

    I don't see anything in the scriptures leading me to believe that it is God's plan for a person to shop around for an ideal church. Churches are made up of sinners, so churches need grace also. Yet I do understand the sentiment (and the real needs) expressed in the letter.

    There is something to be said for another approach. Find a church that has the core elements right, and that can meet your pressing, unique needs (such as with your son) and try to be the leaven that causes that church to grow in the other elements.

  5. Dave R. says:

    One of the great things I experience when I attend Churches of Christ is the stillness during the communion. If I listen I can actually hear God speaking. Really! Sometimes He speaks through an enfant fretting, sometimes through a mother comforting a baby, sometimes in a child's laugh. Just listen and you will hear it also.

  6. Terry says:

    If you have a reader with a child who has similar challenges in the Tulsa area, I would recommend the Contact Church of Christ (www.contactchurch.net). I am not familiar with churches in Dallas, unfortunately.

  7. Jody B. says:

    Speaking from the experience of recently choosing a congregation with which to work, my wife and I recently moved from China where we were a part of starting two house churches. Before we left China, a man who I met in Russia over 15 years prior asked us to come and be a part of the congregation there. When we arrived, we found that the area was highly diverse in terms of socioeconomics. The congregation used to have a membership of over 500 almost 20 years ago, but has just a little less than 100. However, it has the first Hispanic congregation of the church of Christ in the city. The membership is as diverse as the community around it, and the older members want to reach out even further. Sure there are congregations that are closer and certainly have more uplifting "praise services", but I don't think this is what God is looking for when he determines the effectiveness of His church. We came to feed and not just be fed, and have been blessed as a result. We sing old songs, we have old people, and we aren't big. However, we love one another, we serve the poor and downtrodden, and above all, I think we want to serve God because he loved us first. It's not perfect, but these are my brothers and sisters, and I'll take them just like God took me.
    IMHO, that's how you find a home.

  8. Jody B. says:

    BTW, we are in Atlanta, NOT Russia. :)

  9. Ray B. says:

    I would encourage you to look into Prestoncrest. Our oldest son is there and very active. We have attended several times and found it to be a wonderful place of worship, teaching, and fellowship.

  10. Respondents, please remember that the writer said:

    "Because of the situation with our son, my wife and I are more in need of support ourselves than we are capable of giving support to others …"

    Let's not be quick to demand that the starving immediately begin feeding others in our comments, okay?

  11. dr brenda baker says:

    As I read this article, I understand wanting to find a church that you "fit" into. One where you feel understood and accepted. One which teaches truth and grace. One which allows room for growth. I feel a bit of jealousy, I must admit. Where I live in Kentucky, there is no such deliema. There is only one congregation into which you have to "fit". Only one mold, and you are not to emerge from that mold speaking anything different, thinking anything different, believing anything different. If you are the least bit different, see things in any other way than the majority (of about 50 people), then you are a "heretic". Subject to loosing your soul. The cause of anxiety in the flock and grief to your husband. So, you do your duty, "not forsaking the assembling" and try your best to agree with what you don't always agree upon, all in an effort to keep the peace, not to divide the church. You offer your desire to be more, do more, as a sacrifice to God for the sake of unity, all the while, quietly wilting away from lack of spiritual water that you know is found elsewhere. Awe, the deliema of your choice. I would suggest that you find your "fit" in God. Although the church is there to encourage you and admonish you, God is the One to whom you belong. The One you have to seek for the Spiritual food and water. If you don't find Him in the corporate services, seek Him at home, at work, in all that you do. Good luck. I hope you find a place where you and your family can grow and be fed. God bless your child and your efforts to nuture him.

  12. Rich says:

    I love it when I hear babies crying during worship. That means they and their parents are with us.

  13. Jody B. says:

    Keith, I gather from this letter that the person seeking advice is looking for a congregation that matches the theology and worship style with which they agree as much as they want someone to understand their son.

    All of us have situations in our lives that churches may not understand, but those have nothing to do with whether or not we sing 728b. There may be churches with contemporary worship styles to which one would not feel comfortable taking a mentally disabled child and vice versa. The church of which I am a part teaches and practices grace from what most people consider to be a pretty liberal point of view. However, they sing old songs and the worship is quite frankly, not very exciting. If I only spent 1 hour of worship a week around these people, I'd be tempted to find another church. However, after becoming involved in the lives of some of the members, we find that they show love for us as well in what has been a very dififcult adjustment back to life in the states.

    The idea is that if we go to a church seeking where we can be active (even with limited resources), we will likely find that people step up in the most amazing ways in terms of empathy to the situations in which we are struggling. I simply think we need to be very careful of our motives in seeking a home congregation and not rule out a congregation simply because of worship style.

  14. adam davis says:

    I definitely understand wanting to "belong." The Bible even talks about the importance of being one in mind [that doesn't necesarily mean agreeing on everything, but being one in heart]. I also know that God sometimes wants to us sacrifice some things for love's sake, things like maybe worship style preferences.

    I believe those who have come out of the legalistic Church of Christ sect are some of the most sacrificial, self-giving people out there. Unfortunately, some cater to those who wish to rule over us kind of like a papacy, but there are even more who sacrifice for the sake of the weak consciences of the following the legalists among us have created. Everything from fellowship halls to musical instruments have been sacrificed in our fellowship, expedients taken for granted among most other Christians.

    As for the man who wrote the letter, my advice would be to seek and pray to find the church God would have him and his family to worship, a place where he can serve and also be served.

  15. Understood, Jody; I'd just like to encourage all of us to be more sensitive to folks who have been hurt and are still hurting.

  16. Jody B. says:

    Gotcha… BTW, I like the name of your blog. Classic indeed.

  17. K. Rex Butts says:

    I have one major criterion in finding a church home before I look at anything else. Is church X a place that I believe a person with either no faith or a weak faith can be taught, nutured, discipled into a strong faith?

    If I cannot answer that question in the affirmative then I do not want to be part of it. I don't want to bring someone into a church community that will just ingrain a shallow materialistic faith, a poisoness legalistic faith, or any of the other false gospels that some churches portray as real Christianity.

    Other criterion include but are not limited too, do I fit in with this group; does this group have room for the use of my spiritual gift(s); what is the history of the group; who are its leaders;

    I will assume the church shares my confession of Jesus but if for some abnormal reason it does not, that would exclude it as well.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  18. Joe Hegyi III says:

    You may want to check out the local Christian Church (if you have one). They are very similar in structure and beliefs but are often times more open to grace and the Spirit.

  19. The short answer for everyone is this: Go where Jesus is. The parents will get the help they need. The child will get the help he needs. The whole family will contribute immediately to the church, even if all they bring is need, because people who know Jesus desire to care for others. If no one has a need, then the church doesn't get to exercise its gifts. So bringing needs IS a blessing where Jesus is. Somewhere there is a church praying for this family to come. God can show them which one it is, regardless of the name. "If He says go, we will go. His people will be our people," is a good policy. If it's at one of the congregations listed above, all the easier on everyone! If not, all the greater God will be to you on the other side of following Him through this decision.

    I know far too well what happens when one chooses the path away from your upbringing, your family, your current church friends. But I can personally testify: finding Jesus is better than finding a place that fits with the boundaries of our understanding at any given point.

    Now chase Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. He will be faithful!

  20. Ken says:

    Hey! That sign is in front of my wife's church. I would be considered "anti" by mainstream folks as they don't support institutions.

    Generally a nice group of people. Though they have the typical CoC problems.

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