Things I’m looking for

I am going to attempt to be as broad minded as possible, and attend churches from different denominations. I am baptised in the C of E and have some sympathy to it, but I’m going to try not to let that get in the way of reviewing different churches in Manchester.

The criteria I judge a church by is pretty wide and varied, but I think all of these are pretty important if you view the church-going-experience holistically.

These criteria are;

Music-  traditional hymns, gospel music, Christian rock? Music is a pretty important part of the whole church experience. For some people it is make or break, whereas I suppose others can take it or leave it. I am definately in the former category. I think that music really creates the atmosphere of a place, either making it majestic or adding to the casual, relaxed vibe. I will attempt to suspend my aesthetic preferences to a degree, but there is only so much Christian rock I can handle.   

Sermon/preaching- Although its difficult to fully qualify, how good was the sermon? Was it based entirely on an exposition of the bible, or was it an anecdote about a time the preacher went to the shops? 

Style of worship- do people lift their hands in the air like they just don’t care, or do they get down on their knees? Is it focussed around ritual and Holy Communion, or does the sermon take the main part? How much time is spent singing? My aim is to describe this part so that people know what they are getting- an hour of casual conversation, or a “fire and brimstone” demagogue.

Congregation- the type of “crowd” attending a church will likely form a large part of your opinion of it, and so the church shopper will let you know if its suitable for you. Some people like a mixed congregation, some churches are more suitable for families, while some students would never be caught dead worshipping with “coffin-dodgers”. However, shallow judgements based on age and lifestyle are not all that matter. How welcoming the congregation are is far more important. Do they invite you for tea or to the pub afterwards?

“Objectivity” aside, I do have a few preferences that will probably be relevant to disclose. In particular, the role of women in the church is something I try and pay attention to. If 90% of the congregation are women, but all the readings and rituals are performed by men, then the church shopper will not approve. Also, as a good repressed member of the middle class, I have in the past felt a bit uncomfortable when people become so overwhelmed with the spirit that they proceed to do ballet at the front of the church, but then again that might just have been the fault of a particularly poor ballerina. And I’m sure I don’t need to mention my aversion to certain cringey types of music.


7 thoughts on “Things I’m looking for

  1. Hi, you sound a bit like me 20-something years ago, so I would like to share my experience …
    I was brought up Anglican, but I only went because my dad wanted me to go, there was nothing inspiring there for me so when I left for University I stopped going. While there I started to consider the purpose of my life, and realised I didn’t have one that satisfied me, “the world was my oyster”, but there was no pearl! I tended to worry & had no answers, no fulfilling purpose, I no longer believed in my own ways.

    When some people who obviously believed in the bible spoke to me I decided to investigate properly. I started going to various church meetings and was told to pray a “sinners prayer”, believing, and as such I was “a Christian”. For the next 18 months I continued going to meetings and reading books by people considered to be “Christian leaders” to try and work out God’s will for me, without success! All I got was opinions.

    Then I met people who were not going to different churches and reading lots of books about God, they had a confidence and contentment I had not attained to, despite my efforts. I realised my relationship with God was mostly one-way, from me, not the daily, growing 2-way relationship they seemed to have.

    They had received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues (an unlearned prayer language that God leads his people in, cos only he knows his perfect will for us, it allows him to minister his grace & love to our hearts – 1 Cor. 14v2, 4; Jude 20-21). They also had other direct input and leading from God. After a while I realised I was getting nowhere spiritually so for the first time I actually prayed expecting God to *do* something… namely give me the same as them or whatever else I needed.

    One evening I was alone in my room, not doubting or fearing, just believing God had said yes to me (because he could have no favourites), and wanting nothing more, I prayed and spoke in tongues and in the days that followed I realised I had the Life spoken of in the bible, whereas before I was trying to be something I was not!
    Now I appreciate why things are the way they are, and more importantly, what life can be like.

    I left the old churches because I could see they was as I was before, not as I wanted to be. The church I’m now in is like the one in the new testament, all members have the new Life, we have a unity I never found before. I now have contentment and fulfilling purpose that only the living God can give. I am now able to know God’s thoughts and live according to His nature because I have His heart and mind through the Holy Spirit in me, so long as I’m disciplined to look at things God’s way . . . that’s the “good fight”.

    I believe Jesus knows what he wants, he only set up one church! … “all received all” – the perfect message! .. God’s *nominated* way (that man has de-nominated, broken up), creating confusion to people who havn’t first had the original. Please just read Acts 2, and put yourself there … you will find a remarkable clear message!

    I’d be happy to talk further or better still try our Manchester meeting.

    • Hi Nick, I have read your comment with interest. I will investigate the Revival Fellowship’s Manchester meeting more fully, and I will probably get round to attending one of their meetings. I should make it clear that I have my doubts about the charismatic movement: the type of tongues the apostles speak in Acts 2 (xenoglossia) is entirely different to the type spoken by modern charismatics and in the Church of Corinth (glossollalia). Also in Corinthians Paul makes it clear that God only appoints one person to speak in tongues at a time, and one person to interpret the message, to prevent disorderly worship. In my opinion, disorderly worship is exactly what you find in a lot of pentecostal/charismatic churches! My interpretation of your comments is what has made me assume that your church network is very charismatic, but if I am wrong about this (or anything else!) feel free to put me right.

      • Hi,
        I think you will be pleasantly surprised with us. we agree that in public meetings only one should speak at once. Many of us have left the Pente/charismatic scene where we oten find spirituality confused with emotionalism. The Spirit does not take people over, we can and should control when, how loud etc we speak, “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” (1 Cor. 14:32), “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). “Slain in the Spirit”, “laughing in the Spirit”, “Toronto blessing” etc came and went, we never got involved in any of them. We have all God’s gifts and ministries, we have no need of supposed “new moves of God’s Spirit”.

        I would like to point out that in Acts 2, the people over-hearng 120 disciples speaking to God in tongues were all left in doubt and confusion (v12-13). When the apostles realised this was happening, they stopped speaking in tongues, Peter stood up and spoke *to the crowd* in the common learned language (Aramaic), *then* they understood and 3000 more were added that day.

        This is the same as the phenomena in 1 Corinthians where there *needs* to be interpretation.

  2. Hi Churchshopper. It’s interesting to read some of your thoughts on different churches, plus your “shopping list” of what you’re looking for. It’s important to find a church you’re happy with and can feel part of.

    But do you think there’s a danger of slipping into a me-centred consumeristic attitude, rather than seeing the search for a church as the search for a community to be part of and to contribute to? To paraphrase JFK, don’t just ask what a church can do for you, but what you can do for the church. Just another angle you might want to consider!

    God bless you in your search.

  3. The idea that tongues was for preaching (xenoglossia) is in fact a confusing and misleading doctrine based on a slack reading of the text, and ignores other passages and the experience of Christians then and now.

    A careful look at Acts 2 reveals:
    1) they were sitting in an upper room (because they later stood up) and began speaking in tongues
    – so they were not directing their speech at outsiders

    2) Jews on the street over-heard and recognised the languages of the countries they were from
    – because they were bi-lingual jews

    3) The non-disciples are all amazed, confused and in doubt as a result (vv12-13),
    – no-one understands the gospel or repents because no-one is taught the gospel through tongues.

    The apostles become aware of this and stand up, Peter then begins to preach to the crowd and they all understand him, because they have all learned the Jewish language (aramaic).

    Analogy: If I walk down the Champs Elyses in Paris and over-hear two Americans talking. I will recognise their words, but I will not assume therefore that they are talking to me! Similarly I hope you will no longer believe that tongues was for preaching to people!

    The Xenoglossy doctrine latches on to the fact that they were over-heard speaking “the wonderful works of God” and just assumes that this = the gospel.

  4. Any chance of you checking out the church at the bottom of the Rochdale Rd? that one slap in the middle of the flats? I think it’s strict…or particular…or both. Just that it would be so much easier for a fella to go-see rather than a woman: think hats

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