So, I’ve Been Church-Shopping…What Happened Out There?!

Photograph of the Prayer Tower on the campus o...
Photograph of the Prayer Tower on the campus of Oral Roberts University en in Tulsa en , Oklahoma en . (Photo credit: Wikipedia) At this point, I’m starting to look for the Two Witnesses…I think it would be easier to find them than a solid church.

Okay. I’m going to rant, and this got too long, so I understand you skipping it. I meant to keep it short, but frankly, I got appalled, and then I got angry, and this is the result.

I seriously want to know what has happened to our churches?

Sometimes, especially when I’m getting spiritually attacked from multiple directions, like lately, I really miss going to church. Over the years, I’ve looked on the internet, actually attended a handful to test out, and investigated some churches at the suggestions of friends, all in the quest to find a church that I could become a part of. I tend to be somewhat anti-social anyways, so it would also be good for me to get out and actually be around people at least once a week that aren’t riding around on motorcycles and drinking beer in bars…though after my search recently, and today, I am inclined to say that the motorcycle crowd is way more fun, and in some cases, the beer-drinking bar crowds are bearing more righteous fruit than I found in some of these churches, and that includes their pastors and elders. Still, I went ahead and searched again today, though I’ve found this search to be fruitless many times before.

You’d think that finding a church in Oklahoma shouldn’t be too hard, right? I mean, I live in the buckle of the Bible belt, Tulsa!!. I visited site after site after site. I even looked at multiple denominations, though I consider myself non-denominational if I have to pick something. Having been burned by a church and it’s pastor before, I now do my homework long before I commit to anything about a place. We should be able to relax and learn in church, and that, for me, requires trust. And trust in a church is earned, the same as it would be for a person

So, here is what I came across:

I could not find one. I ran into problems on various issues, from small, probably over-lookable differences to all-out, bold, in-your-face rejections and twisting of God’s Word, and some of what I would call blasphemy. I wanted to keep this article short, but I got pretty worked up about some of this stuff, so again, I apologize for the length..

I couldn’t find one church that I could agree with their teachings completely…you know, about basics like the Trinity, saved by grace, was Jesus born to a Virgin…stuff like that. I am not saying that a church for me doesn’t exist here in Tulsa. I’m saying that if it does, I haven’t found it on the internet yet, nor have I visited it yet.

However, most of the indicators I check for were right there for me to see on church websites. Most churches now that have a website include their basic beliefs outlined in a statement of faith, they have introduction pages that tell about church leadership, and stuff like that.  I especially found some of the on-line sermons and podcasts helpful, as well. I went through pdf sermons, study guides, announcements, calendars and newsletters. When I research, I’m thorough..:-)

I found preachers who never once mention any scripture but instead ramble on about what God told them to say, but never backing any of it up with scripture..Personal prophecy-like sermons that may or may not be from the Lord…you can’t tell something like that from a recording. Still, I steer clear of that stuff too.

Some churches seemed to be stuck on what I call the Milk Stage, teaching only basic Christianity but never delving into any more mature Meat lessons. These basic lessons are important, and they do great for evangelizing churches that teach missionaries and new believers, but for a person who has been a Christian most of her life, I would like some more grown-up Christianity lessons. Then on the other side of that spectrum, there were the churches that are so academic, I could barely follow along with them in their podcast, and I gave them up pretty quickly. They were more focused on church history, Greek, Hebrew, Latin translations, and there seemed to be no Biblical lesson at all, or one that was added in towards the end, like an after-thought. Interesting stuff, from what I was able to understand, but I didn’t feel the Lord’s hand on any of it. It felt like I was listening to a professor lecture in a religion class about an interesting subject, not spiritual food.

There were several churches with female pastors. I know this is a charged subject, and I am not speaking for anyone else. My understanding of the Bible specifically states pastors have to be un-divorced men. Please don’t send me hate mail…I know quite a few women who know the Bible better than any male pastor I’ve ever met, with a heart 100% for the Lord, and that one part of the Bible is the ONLY reason I don’t attend these churches. I have to follow my own conscience…

I found churches that fastened the title of “apostle” to themselves, and even some that consider their saved memberships are “mini-gods”. You have got to be kidding me!!  I’m afraid that if you consider yourself a mini-god, you need to re-evaluate yourself thoroughly. My spirit absolutely cringed when I heard a sermon on why we can claim all of Jesus’s blessings and rewards, (the Name It/Claim It, Prosperity gospel at it’s best..who doesn’t want to be a god!!), because we had been adopted into a family of gods, and that made me a mini-god. No it doesnt. You were adopted. If an Irish child is adopted into a pure Italian family, does his genetics suddenly turn Italian? No. He’s Irish, and he can take an Italian name, die his hair black, and get a tan, but he is Irish. Same for our adoption. We are a creation, and being saved does not make us any less a creation; God is the creator and by adopting us, we are not suddenly made in to Mini-Gods. I can’t believe how common I’m finding this…How are people’s spirits standing this??. Jesus shares His glory with no one.

You have no idea how much I hate this particular teaching. Well, maybe you do now…lol! 🙂

I will say I seriously have issues with men and women calling themselves apostles, mainly because I haven’t found even one of these people in my really-real life that cares more about his fellow mankind and their salvation, spiritual well-being, or their physical and emotion health than they do about their own title and the respect they think they deserve because of other people are willing to call them that. I think there are real  apostles today, and I’d even venture to say I know a couple of them personally, but I’m betting they’d never consider giving themselves the actual title. The two I’m thinking of certainly would never want to be called apostles, and they are both two of the most humble men I know.

I don’t care much for people calling each other Brother Joe and Sister Jane either, only because it suggests an exclusivity that I don’t think Jesus would want us to convey. That being said, that sort of thing is a conscience matter, and I don’t expect anyone to embrace my opinion. It is just opinion. My fellow Christians are my brothers and sisters in Christ. But, as I don’t call my brother Michael “Brother Michael”, I don’t do that within my Christian family either. Just seems fake to me…

Then, I came across the churches that demanded tithes for the poor, yet had pastors living in luxury and building new gyms and sending a missionary to Guam. I’m am totally for missionaries being sent to anywhere. I’m cool with gyms, too. What I’m not cool with is building a new nursery, or a bigger church, or a better gym, or anything like this every few years. This is all money that could be used to help your one missionary, or spread around to help the many, many people that are now unemployed, or the now-adult childhood sexual abuse victims that can’t afford to pay $135/hour for the necessary therapy that so many of them need, or the any number of people that could just use some financial help from time to time. Priorities should be people..not real estate.

Mega-churches are not my favorite either. How is a pastor to truly develop an intimate, trusting relationship with his flock if there are a million of them? Too much money and power like that always ends up corrupting the management…always. Satan barely has to work at all when there is a lot of money and power around. I went to a mega-church for a little bit when I lived in San Antonio, …. because it was a perfect place to hide in plain site. That pastor wouldn’t have known my name had his life depended on it. I don’t think churches should be allowed to get so big.

My favorites though, were the churches that require you to bring a letter of reference from a prior church and/or go through a lengthy indoctrination class before you could become a member. This new phenomena must have crept up recently, because I’ve never run across it before. And yet, I actually ran into a few websites with this demand. What happened to people just showing up for church and then going home again? When did membership become so important? It all feels clubish..not welcoming, or merciful, or non-judgmental. Not at all what I saw Jesus or His apostles — the real ones– doing in the Bible.

Are churches bringing people to Christ anymore, I wonder? The couple of churches that I attended during my time in Tulsa had absolutely no one respond to their dry, lifeless alter call. You know why? Because it’s becoming an exclusive, members only God club. Non-Christian people aren’t going to be interested in something the real Christians find boring and dry, elite and snobbish. In fact, around here, the die-hard, in-the-battle Christians that I know in my really-real life don’t belong to any churches at all…. That can not be a coincidence.

I’m amazed by the new low I’ve witnessed in the churches around me. Not a happy end to my search, I’m afraid.

Maybe the diehard, saved by Grace Christians have gone underground, or started blogs and websites, or just teach from their own homes because they are unable to ignore the obvious basic departures from the Bible. I read a couple of preachers and pastor’s sites here in the Blogosphere, and I always think the same thing…why couldn’t I live near these guys??...I agree with everything they teach on their far. I am here in Tulsa, though, and I am here because this is where God wants me.

I really don’t enjoy church shopping, but you have to be careful in these last days. Be always vigilant so the devil can’t slip some poison into your beliefs. It is a far-cry from the churches of my youth. I miss the days that I could go into church, listen with an open mind to a man whose obvious motives were to be a godly leader, and not feel like every single word must be analyzed for hidden meanings. I miss going to a pastor that I knew and trusted personally and spilling out my guts to him and then receiving, after prayer, God’s words of direction for me, not some apostle-like mini-god’s opinion from a guy that I have no idea who he is or what he is about..

I also miss the days when I didn’t have to listen to 20 minutes of a mini-sermon on tithing before taking the offering. I happen to believe tithing is part of the Old Law. I give a lot of our money away, but not because it is a tithe. I give it to the poor because being poor, I know that is the quickest way to introduce Jesus to someone, and every single time I do it, Jesus blows me away with His blessings. I say I’m poor all the time…but in actuality, we have so many people right there to help us with just about anything we could need or want, I consider us pretty well-off.

I believe you should take care of your pastor and the fellow members in your church. I don’t believe it has to be a certain percent, and I certainly don’t believe that if you don’t tithe 10% that you’re stealing from God..Seriously, people?? How much you give is between you and the Lord, and frankly it should be left there. Stop begging like your King doesn’t own all the cattle on all the hills…

I know this rant-like, but it feels good to get those thoughts out of my head. I am praying about this whole church thing, and I know He will answer. Or maybe He just wanted me to see just where His church is failing and make adjustments in my war. I don’t know, but something really should be done about this. I can see now why there will be a great falling away.

Okay. I feel better now. I’ll put my soapbox away.

— Bird

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