How Comfortable Is Your Church?

Reprinted with permission from Voice magazine, July/August 2010.

I opened the door to a freshly painted, warmly decorated church foyer. It was my first time in this rural church of less than two hundred members. People were talking together in small huddles. Some were laughing; others were listening with concern. They greeted each other with hugs. They seemed comfortable and at home with one another.

I made eye contact with a few and smiled. Some looked away; some smiled back, but none left their group of friends to greet me. I took a bulletin from the table and walked into the sanctuary…alone.

The sanctuary was beautiful. Soft music created a worshipful atmosphere. I walked half way down the aisle and sat on the end. People began to fill the pews around me. Several excused themselves to step over me, but no one talked to me. Soon the room was filled, but I felt alone.

For over a year, I attended twenty different churches with similar scenarios. I was an undercover pastor’s wife, disguised as a visitor. My mission: to observe. I chose to accept this mission in order to help my husband lead our new church family ten hours away. Dave was already there, but due to a flat housing market, I stayed in our old town trying to sell our house for almost three years. With many Sundays free, I seized the opportunity to visit other churches.

I visited all types—conservative and liberal, various denominations and sizes. I visited to learn what is being taught (and what is missing) from pulpits. I visited to know which churches I could confidently recommend to others. I visited to get ideas for programs that work and didn’t work. I attended churches to see how it felt to be a visitor.

What did I see through my visitor glasses? Sadly, all of the questions below were answered in the negative by some church at some time. However, some churches made the “Places to Return” list. What reasons drew me back?

People said more than “hello”

Did they stop to introduce themselves, or did they say, “Hi, how are you?” in passing? Did I catch two women pointing at me, whispering,”Who is she?” but not coming to ask? (Yes, that really did happen.) Did someone offer to hang up my coat and show me the location of the restrooms? Did anyone get to know me by asking more than yes/no questions, for example, “What brings you here today?”

I may have brought a heart full of needs. It may have been my first time in any church. We don’t know a visitor’s story, but we do know each presents an opportunity to minister encouragement and love, and possibly even the privilege of leading them in the final step to salvation.

The church where the woman said, “Hi, my name is ‘so and so’. I’m glad you’re with us today. Would you like to come sit with my family?” made the list.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. (NASB, Heb. 13:2)

Personal contact made after my visit

Was I invited for lunch after church? Did someone offer to accompany me to the visitor reception following the service? Did one of the elders call later to see if I had any questions about the church? Did I get a form letter from the church, or a handwritten note? Churches are built one relationship at a time.

The church where the pastor’s wife sent a personal note that included, “We’re praying for you” made the list.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord…contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. (Rom. 12:10-13)

Members have good relationships

Did all ages greet each other—kids, adults, teens—or were there age cliques? Did I overhear gossip? Did people walk past each other without acknowledgement? Our greatest testimony to others is our unity and love for one another.

The church where I observed a woman consoling and praying with a younger woman made the list.

Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:1-3)

I remembered the sermon

Was I still mulling over a biblical nugget a few days later, or was it the flashy graphics and flawless oration that stayed with me? Did spiritual seed take root, or was the experience an emotional balloon that fizzled during the week? Was the sermon packaged, or was it spoken from the pastor’s heart? Was I distracted from the meaning by a flippant, dry, or showy presentation? Did the sermon contain something for the mature believer, as well as the seeker?

The pastor that stimulated me to reread and meditate on the sermon text in my quiet time made the list.

And He gave some as…pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ. (Eph. 4:11-12)

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires. (2 Tim. 4:3)

Members brought their Bibles

Did the congregation know their way around their Bibles? Did I hear pages turn, or did the congregation depend on an overhead? Did the people take notes? Did the sermon points come from the Scripture text, or did the pastor read a verse or two to back up his outline? We learn the heart and mind of God by listening with an open Bible.

The church that revered the Word of God made the list.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

Reverence for God and the cross

Was respect for God shown through all aspects of the service—announcements, music, sermon, prayer, and appearance? Were the leaders and congregation attentive to and aware that God was present, or were they lulled by meaningless formalities? Had reverence been compromised in an attempt to change from traditional to contemporary? What was the goal of the service, to promote a certain style of worship, to inspire people to be better, to grow in numbers, to entertain, or…?

The church that honored the Savior made the list.

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ… that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. (Phil. 3:8-10)

Prayer was important

What did the people pray about? Was the pastoral prayer packaged, or from his heart? Did prayer requests have a balance between health issues and spiritual needs, between individual needs and global needs? Did leaders give public prayer support to believers in other places? Was there a mid-week prayer service? Content and participation in prayer is a barometer of the health of the church and its individuals. The church that prayed in accordance with God’s heart and mind made the list.

… we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience, joyously giving thanks to the Father. (Col. 1:9-12)

People were involved: loved the lord and others

Did they participate to please a personable pastor? Did they think spirituality was a flurry of church activities? Did the programs meet needs, or tradition? Were they intent on developing mature relationships with Christ? Were the people willing to serve outside their comfort zones? Was attendance out of desire, or duty?

The church where the people participated with passion and courage, according to their spiritual gifts, made the list.

For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function . .. since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly…he who gives with liberality, he who leads with diligence, he who shows mercy with cheerfulness. (Rom. 12:4-8)

Conclusion

Most ministry leaders do not have opportunity to attend other churches. Even on vacation, we often worship with families and friends. Consequently, we do not have opportunity to listen to the heartbeat of Christendom.

What ways can a ministry leader get to know the spiritual influences on the community, the religious teachings of the area churches, the needs of the local population, and how it feels to be a visitor? Visit churches that meet at times when your church does not meet (i.e., Saturday nights, Sunday nights, midweek services, seasonal services, special programs and speakers.) Send board members to visit different churches every quarter or so. Give them specific things to observe. Use their report as a base for constructive discussion and proactive brainstorming. List the various churches in your community and research their websites on the Internet. Visit a different denomination on vacation.

How does your church look through visitor glasses? Does it reach beyond what is comfortable to promote spiritual growth and service? Is your church comfortable, or is it inviting?

Now the God of peace…equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Heb. 13:20-21)


Connie Fink grew up as a pastor’s daughter and is now a pastor’s wife (serving with Dave, her husband for almost 30 years). Currently, they live in northwest Illinois and are between pastorates.

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There are 61 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I found this article a bit disturbing--in a good way. For those of us who haven't "looked for a church" in a long time, it's easy to become so blind to how we look/relate to new comers. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Jay's picture

One of the reasons why I am at the church I'm in now is because my wife and I were positively mobbed by other Christians when we visited the first time. I had all kinds of people coming up to me and introducing themselves and asking if we were new to the area and other questions. Then the next week, some of them already knew my name and were geniunely concerned about how we were doing (we'd stayed behind to talk a bit once the service was over - they had a newcomer's lunch that day, IIRC).

A lot of the other questions that Connie asked were answered positively by the members, but that first impression (that we were welcome0 was what really struck us. I'm glad to be a member at that church.

With that kind of reception, is it really any surprise that we stayed? Or that we invite others to come?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

gmetcalf73's picture

This is an excellent post and wake-up call for the church today. May I repost this on my site?

Gregg Metcalf
Colossians 1:28-29

Jim's picture

gmetcalf73 wrote:
This is an excellent post and wake-up call for the church today. May I repost this on my site?

Sure .... please send a check to J A M E S P E E T Smile

Ted Bigelow's picture

While I appreciate the sensitivity and skill of discernment, there are (obviously) some other factors to consider as well.

I wonder how the church I serve in would have done? I only hear back from people who tell me how warm and friendly our church is. The people who don't find us that way never tell me. They're probably gone by the time I make it out to the foyer after service. I fear I'm left with only hearing one side of that matter. And even if they did tell me we were unfriendly, I might not accept their testimony and chalk it up to them being somehow defective. I can be that way.

And then there are those folks who come but give non-verbal cues that they don't desire human contact. We've all learned to read them - looking down, emotionless face, moving away from people, not moving toward them, etc. I encourage our folks to be sure to meet those they don't know, but sometimes the person who is visiting makes it clear they feel uncomfortable. Should our folks see past that? Yes. But do they? Not always, right?

Then again, so much of this is entirely subjective. We are called to go to church. Not to observe, but to worship. Church looks different depending upon where the visitor is coming from. Those who come to observe find themselves in the seat of judgment and evaluation. Those who come to worship Christ are grateful for any good thing they might catch falling from the Master's table.

Along this line, we are called to go to church and render worship, not experience worship. Prayer, singing, giving, listening to God's word - these are activities offered to the Lord by worshipers. We are also called to serve, and it impossible to guess at how deeply a single body of needy believers could have served over the course of more than a year. It may well have rendered eternal reward.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

gmetcalf73 wrote:
This is an excellent post and wake-up call for the church today. May I repost this on my site?

Probably better check with Voice magazine. We received permission to "reprint" it here. There is a contact form http://setup.finalweb.net/site/cpage.asp?sec_id=140001498&cpage_id=14001... ]on this page at the IFCA website. I think that's what I used the first time.

Ted wrote:
I wonder how the church I serve in would have done?

Well, this is really the question you're supposed to ask... so it worked. Smile

As for the perspective of an observer/judge, I think we'd all agree it should not be the norm. But as Jim has suggested, that perspective can also be very helpful to church leaders who (as the article points out) rarely get a chance to do much of that kind of evaluating.

I have also seen the kind of visitor who transmits "leave me alone" signals. It's a tough call in those situations, I think. Some will warm to you if you give them lots of space and time and don't "smother" them. Others expect you to go after them a bit. No one size fits all there. But it is important to note that not everybody likes the kind of welcome Jay described. Personally, I like to be greeted by one or two and to have a conversation or two that goes beyond "Hi." But I don't like to make a scene or be the focus of a whole lot of attention.

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

Clap, clap, and many more claps! Too many congregants are entombed within their church walls to understand the needs around them. Actions like Mrs. Fink's, inspire us to get out of the building, recognize the needs, pick up our towels, and start serving others for the sake of the Gospel. We don't need to get into carnal comparisons between churches but we do need to sharper our iron together as the churches and seek the Lord for renewal.

This article is worthy of printing, copying and passing out at the church prayer meetings that take place this week. I am glad SI makes it easy to print and Jayne, my secretary, already has it copied and ready to pass out tonight.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

I could tell a lot of stories of my own on this topic...but I will save them for another day -- or maybe not use them at all.

One problem the article did not deal with -- sometimes a church which is struggling (financially challenged, legalistic, in turmoil, etc.) will actually do a good job at "putting on the dog" for unsuspecting visitors, and once they are drawn in it can take years for them to unravel the real story of what is happening in the situation. Once this happens to you, you become even more "discerning" about visiting churches...but I am not sure what the solution is...

Probably the most humorous thing that ever happened to me as a visitor (in hindsight) was when I went to a little country church to fill the pulpit. The church was surrounded by cornfields on winding country roads, and we were "late" trying to get there for Sunday School. Once we got there, we got the few stragglers corralled and I taught an adult SS lesson, complete with overhead transparencies on a barely functioning projector.

Come to find out later that the church does not have SS in the summertime, and we weren't late for SS, we were 45 minutes early for church. Whoops... :~ (The pastor had told me to teach SS when he invited me.)

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Paul J. Scharf wrote:
One problem the article did not deal with -- sometimes a church which is struggling (financially challenged, legalistic, in turmoil, etc.) will actually do a good job at "putting on the dog" for unsuspecting visitors, and once they are drawn in it can take years for them to unravel the real story of what is happening in the situation. Once this happens to you, you become even more "discerning" about visiting churches...but I am not sure what the solution is...

A visit is even less than a snapshot- it is maybe the bottom right hand corner of a much larger picture, but if one's spiritual discernment is thoroughly exercised, I think the instinctive response can be fairly valid. I think the outline given is reasonable and helpful, and would be beneficial for every church member to file in the For Future Reference area of the subconscious.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

I have a number of objections, a few rather strong ones and some more mild, to what was described in the article. And in fact, a few things I found rather clearly inappropriate which i thought would be detected more readily. Perhaps I should be more patient. I do not note Ted B's post with that reflected concern with some points and Paul's reference to a too rapid an assessment. But much beyond these, as I said, I have a few very pronounced issues with the operation the article describes. Unfortunately I won't have opportunity until at least Friday to expound but I suspect some might post before I do.

Connie Fink's picture

Good discussion! I would like to make a comment in regard to what Ted said:

Ted Bigelow wrote:
We are called to go to church. Not to observe, but to worship. Church looks different depending upon where the visitor is coming from. Those who come to observe find themselves in the seat of judgment and evaluation. Those who come to worship Christ are grateful for any good thing they might catch falling from the Master's table..

Yes, that is true that we are called to worship, not observe. However, observation is very important to find a church that facilitates worship. The criteria in my church-search was to find a place that facilitated my worship. Maybe the next person would have different criteria, but these are the things important to me. The important thing is identifying the things that are important from a biblical directive but also from an individual perspective.

On the other hand, I entered into my church-search journey not only for me, but also so I could get ideas to help my husband in his ministry and to help our congregation be a better congregation. I used my eyes and ears on their behalf.

I'm glad the article was posted now because it may give a ministry family the idea to take advantage of the time away from their church to do some exploring, which hopefully will make their ministries better when they return home. Thank you and I look forward to more good discussion on this topic!

Connie Fink's picture

What ways can a ministry leader get to know the spiritual influences on the community, the religious teachings of the area churches, the needs of the local population, and how it feels to be a visitor? Here are some further ideas:

1. Visit churches that meet at times when your church does not meet, i.e., Saturday nights, Sunday nights, mid-week services, seasonal services, special programs and speakers.
2. Send board members to visit different churches every quarter or so. Give them specific things to observe. Use their report as a base for constructive discussion and proactive brainstorming.
3. List the various churches in your community and research their denominational websites on the Internet.
4. Visit a different denomination on vacation.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Connie, thanks for posting.

Got a vacation coming myself soon. I used to pretty often line up pulpit fill on the returning end of the trip then go visit an area church. Haven't done that in years, though. Not sure what changed. But I'm planning to get at least one visit in on this next trip. I can't think of any time when I've done that when it failed to be informative... though some of the churches are not ones I'd recommend to anybody.

Eric R.'s picture

There appears to be some omitted text at the beginning of the paragraph under the heading "Reverence for God and the cross." Could someone, perhaps Connie, fill in the blanks there for us?

Thanks! Smile

Connie Fink's picture

Aaron -- can you help with this? If more convenient, I can copy and paste the omitted sentences into the forum. Thanks!

Dick Dayton's picture

Connie, As a pastor, I appreciated your comments. We are all creatures of habit, and we quickly become accustomed to our routines, and this includes church. When we try to see things through the eyes of another person, it can be very enlightening and challenging. Our goals are to glorify God and share Him with others. We sometimes unknowingly put up barriers that interfere with our ability to minister to others. Your experience as a visitor should help all of us seek to "look not each man on his own things, but on the things of others." If our focus is upon the Lord and reaching out with His love to others, we will be more sensitive.

Dick Dayton

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Eric R. wrote:
There appears to be some omitted text at the beginning of the paragraph under the heading "Reverence for God and the cross." Could someone, perhaps Connie, fill in the blanks there for us?

Article fixed with text provided by Connie.

Dave Barnhart

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Sorry about the dropped text. We did a scan and convert and sometimes something goes into the ether. Thanks for catching it.

Rob Fall's picture

Actually, i looked at the article and saw a pastor's wife making good use of her time. She gathered useful information for her husband and the new church. She learned both positive and negative lessons. I would hazard she didn't go out looking for the negative ones. However, over the years, I've learned sometimes you can learn what not to do as easily as what to do.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Alex Guggenheim's picture

The article itself concerned me, particularly its incongruity with both reality and practicality, but even more so the license it took to make judgments that simply are not ours to make. While I believe the author, Connie Fink, certainly had good intentions and have no basis for indicating otherwise (hence anyone objecting to my position please be advised in your possible zeal to rescue a damsel, her intentions, motives nor person are in view with respect to the critique of the article), I believe her article which describes a mission of visiting churches, contains some harmful and objectionable elements that need to be identified.

As I read the article I got the impression that as she wrote, Fink was mixing real things that she observed or experienced with ideal things that should be present in a congregation. That is, the narrative is was not wholly literal; rather it was constructed from both the real and the ideal.

Here is what I mean. It is quite believable that Connie Fink visited a church and someone said hello and invited her to sit with them. But I find it implausible that upon a single visit (or several visits) she ascertained whether people participated to please a personable Pastor or not, while making all of her other observations. It is worth noting at the IFCA/Voice website there is a category devoted to the criteria of a healthy church ( http://setup.finalweb.net/site/cpage.asp?cpage_id=140003910&sec_id=14000... ]Vital Signs of Health Churches ) which she says she was able to determine in a visit.

But before elaborating any further, allow me to pepper my response with some examples of my objections and why:

1. Saying hello. Every question Fink asks here with respect to questions one should find answered in the affirmative in order to “make the list” all have valid negative responses as well. For example, someone asking “what brings you here today” might be considered by some thoughtful minds to be rapidly intrusive or a rude imposition. They may respect the privacy of others and thereby display a certain “hospitality”.
2. Personal contact. Not all elements here are objectionable but the expectation that someone be asked to lunch on their first visit as a valid example is. This may sound good in a story but in reality people have the biblical right to guard their environment and not knowing someone is a valid reason to take one’s time to learn who is and is not safe. Citing the “angels unaware” passage is not a carte blanche to demand its prescription in any given situation and access inhospitably when companionship at lunch is not offered. I sense a certain ego-centric theme rising in the basis for evaluation by Fink.
3. I remembered the sermon. Fortunately this essential element to a healthy church was not overlooked and has a value. I favor a preeminence of this in the hierarchy of values when attempting to determine an assembly’s appropriateness regarding my membership, seeing that when the spiritual food is poor, nothing can supplant or replace this and all the personal charm in the world that a congregation has to offer is part of that ineffective substitute.
4. Members brought their Bibles. I chuckled at what I saw here as an unfortunate posture that some might even view as elitist. First, when one enters an assembly, as an observer, visitor or in any role it is never their business what others bring or do not bring. And I cannot recall ever hearing someone proclaim, “I’d come back but not enough people brought their bibles". No one has any idea why people do or do not bring a bible. But more importantly, it is a gravely unwise lesson to communicate here, which is teaching such inappropriate judgments.
5. Reverence for God and the cross. While demanding a show of reverence from congregations, Connie Fink provides no standard by which we are to understand just how she determined one congregation is reverent and the other irreverent. She does allude to “leaders and congregation” being “attentive to and aware God was present”- but never takes us on a tour of just how she went or we go about making such judgments about others or exactly what the criteria are (remember, earlier when I stated she appears to go from real to ideal and here I believe one can observer this transition and the narrative appears to take on the ideal, reflecting more of what “should be true” than what one really could determine in a visit).
6. Prayer was important. Fink was concerned with packaged prayers but does not explain what these are. Hopefully she does not mean pre-written prayers or our Lords prayer (as is commonly called) would be nixed. But oddly she requires that prayer requests be balanced between health issues and spiritual needs. So now we have an assembly’s worth being determined, in part, based on a prayer ratio? I am more than uncomfortable with where such a path leads.
7. People were involved: loved the Lord and others. I simply cannot say anything other than complete astonishment that if one cannot see the utter inappropriateness of this last criterion. Does anyone really believe this is what a visitor attempts to determine in a visit? And am I too really believe that Connie Fink was able to pull off this feat of judgment based a visit to a congregation? How does one come to a point where they deem themselves seriously able to judge, in one visit, the following:

• Did they participate to please a personable Pastor?
• Did the programs meet needs, or tradition?
• Was attendance out of desire, or duty?

These questions were really asked and an appropriate answer determined how? And in one visit? Really? And you feel it is your divine license to make judgments about others regarding why they participate or attend? Really?

And ultimately Fink declares:

• The church where the people participated with passion and courage, according to their spiritual gifts, made the list.

I was catapulted into amazement that she could make such an evaluation in so brief a period of time.

So as I read the article I was struck with the observation that Fink, in a rather unconscious manner, was creating a narrative rather than reporting in a most literal way all the events. Now, it may be that all she said she “observed” and clearly came to conclusions about actually all occurred(seeing that she asked the questions to which she had to answer in order to determine if they were going onto her list or not one must conclude she means to imply it all really happened), so I don’t contend otherwise. But I do contend that questions about is plausibility are valid.

This is why I believe she is writing with a subconscious insertion from the ideal. And if you look at the website it just happens to emphasize the very things that you find in her move from what appears to be real experiences and evaluations to ideal evaluations and determinations that I simply cannot see being made in a single visit, rather they reflect what her groups believes “should be true”.

Now someone might respond with that objection that suppose what I say is true, that she did subconsciously insert some of the ideology in the narrative, so what? It's benign, right?

Well, I’ll answer that. The danger here is that real and ideal are not the same and when we both create and accept a narrative that does not recognize such distinctions we introduce to others a dangerous and damaging precedent that leads them to believe such a mechanism is operable and leads to a fair and enlightened determination. I contend otherwise.

Finally, I found Fink's view that she was acting truly as a visitor, insufficient and contradictory. As described above she considered, pursued and judged things unlike any visitor I have ever met. While there might be a few points upon which one can say, "Yes, I remember a visitor once saying this or that", her overall agency was not that of a visitor or observer, but far, far more as an inspector and judged. As well, the criteria seemed to be quite self-centric or ego-centric. She never viewed herself as part of either the problem or solution with respect to her objections as most adults do upon reflection. Finally, she never had any intention of joining any of the congregations she visited so her detachment was exacerbated to an unreal level. Hence any remedy we may attempt to produce when addressing a church's experience for a visitor, I do not believe is going to benefit from this narrative.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

OK, Alex. Nits officially picked, dissected, and pulverized.

All articles have to make some assumptions. This one assumes pretty much ordinary regular folks visiting a church and what pretty much ordinary regular folks should do in response to make them feel welcome... along with some non-visitor-related signs of good health. (It also assumes a common sense reading)

Diane Heeney's picture

Quote:
As described above she considered, pursued and judged things unlike any visitor I have ever met.

I don't know. When we were in Missouri and had no idea what was "out there"...no connections at all...we visited churches with a pretty scrutinizing eye. Our church family usually becomes our family, as we have many unsaved on both sides of our biological family. We also are considering our children and the affect the church will have upon them. Some may call that judgmental...I see it as discerning. And, no, we would not base our decision upon one visit...but the first visit is usually telling. It is before people view you as a prospective member and have begun designing how your particular talents might plug into their needs (we call it "vulture syndrome"). Wink

Quote:
OK, Alex. Nits officially picked, dissected, and pulverized.

All articles have to make some assumptions. This one assumes pretty much ordinary regular folks visiting a church and what pretty much ordinary regular folks should do in response to make them feel welcome... along with some non-visitor-related signs of good health. (It also assumes a common sense reading)


We need a "like" button.

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
OK, Alex. Nits officially picked, dissected, and pulverized.

All articles have to make some assumptions. This one assumes pretty much ordinary regular folks visiting a church and what pretty much ordinary regular folks should do in response to make them feel welcome... along with some non-visitor-related signs of good health. (It also assumes a common sense reading)


Well, you certainly are welcome to use the indiscriminate language of dismissal and minimization in response to my objections and their developed arguments. Obviously it serves some purpose for you.

As to the article assuming "ordinary regular folks visiting a church" and "what pretty much ordinary regular folks should do in response to welcome them", though the article contained this assumption it extended far beyond that to a great deal of prescription.

As to your final parenthesis where you state "It also assumes a common sense reading", I agree and common sense tells me when there are incongruities and concerning precedents and views being forwarded they should be addressed.

The objections and their arguments remain with all due respect to the author of whom I am certain had good intentions and desire.

Rob Fall's picture

I fear she would be disappointed at HSBC by how many attendees bring their Bibles. However, we do make up for it by having pew bibles (ABS KJVs) in the racks alongside the hymnals.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Eric R.'s picture

Let's all find something in this article we disagree with or find not universally true in our experience. Then let's detail our disagreements to display our theological acumen and superior reasoning. That way, we won't have to actually examine our own ministries and see if there's something we could be doing better or how we could otherwise benefit from a different perspective. Be sure to use terminology and syntax that properly conveys the gravity of the situation. (Typing with brow furrowed Meh may be helpful to some.) GO!

One of Fundamentalists' strengths is certainly our ability (and eagerness) to articulate all the things we disagree with and oppose. If only there were some way to learn from or appreciate someone who doesn't think about things exactly as we do...

(*removes tongue from cheek*)

1) I speak as a fool and I speak to myself. I benefit greatly from forums such as this, but just like everything else, my flesh likes to get in the way and I need reminded. Does anyone else find yourself looking primarily for things to disagree with, rather than things to learn and grow from? Are we here to sharpen and be sharpened, or do we just like the sparks flying around? "Who will deliver me from the body of this death?"

2) Connie, thanks for sharing your thoughts, and for your labor of love for the betterment of your husband's ministry and all of ours.

FWIW

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Eric R. wrote:
Let's all find something in this article we disagree with or find not universally true in our experience. Then let's detail our disagreements to display our theological acumen and superior reasoning. That way, we won't have to actually examine our own ministries and see if there's something we could be doing better or how we could otherwise benefit from a different perspective. Be sure to use terminology and syntax that properly conveys the gravity of the situation. (Typing with brow furrowed Meh may be helpful to some.) GO!
I think your suggestion is unwise. Instead, let's avoid ad hominem responses which lead to a zero sum enlightenment and pursue sound doctrine and an effective survey, discussion and debate about the merits of any and all propositions forwarded as those by which believers must be constrained. Hence we may indeed be a source of iron sharpening iron. But I do understand your method of response, it is common in many human quarters when faced with arguments with which one does not have an effective rebuttal, which is of course to vilify the source. While is serves self it certainly does not lead to enlightenment and essential examination.

But let me tell you the other lessen, whether intended or not, you are communicating here to those that are reading. Instead of dealing with the merits of the propositions contained in the OP or in my rebuttal, what you are teaching here is that the lesson to be learned is if someone disagrees with a person or view which you favor, and worse if they do so with detailed analysis and well constructed arguments, they are to be parodied and the merits of their rebuttal ignored. This is not a good thing to example.

Fundamentalism, but even beyond that to all of Christianity and the human race is not served in the least by such methods seeing they deal with absolutely nothing with respect to the process of validating or invalidating propositions in Christian doctrine. Again though, I understand your method, it is not uncommon and there are a number of reasons people feel pressed to use this but in the end it does not serve to enlighten and teaches us to punish those with whom we disagree with parody or some form of personal minimization. Fundamentalism certainly does not need more of that.

I invite you to respond to the objections and their arguments which remain with all due respect to the author of whom I am certain had good intentions and desire.

So let's look forward to staying on topic, eh?

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