Now that I’ve moved I have to find a new church. I want to be involved in the community in which I live, so even though I’m still pretty close to my current church, I think it’s important that I find a church in my new city. The problem with this is that I HATE the church search.
Being a little bit of an introvert and having a tendency towards shyness in some situations (such as walking into a room and not knowing a single soul), being new in a place is not really something I love. Instead, it’s something that gives me minor anxiety and I have to talk myself into it, which goes something like this: “It’s going to be ok. It’s not going to kill you. Yes, it’s going to be awkward, but you’ll survive it. It will not kill you.” That’s right; my encouragement to myself when I walk into a room filled with strangers is that I won’t die from it. By the way, this is also what I used to tell myself when I had to get teeth pulled or other painful dental/orthodontic procedures done.
The odd thing about my anxiety in looking for a new church is that I used to do Young Life ministry, which means that on a fairly regular basis I walked into a cafeteria or high school gym or football stadium and managed to go up to teenagers and start conversations and build meaningful relationships with them. I much preferred the part of ministry that involved discipleship and deep conversation over dinner or coffee or ice cream, but to get to that point, I had to actually meet teenage girls. In case you haven’t set foot in a high school since your own graduation, let me remind you that teenagers are a tough audience. Yet I did this week after week for about six or seven years. And my encouragement to myself wasn’t that I wasn’t going to die from it, but instead that God was with me, and He had called me to this. I walked into a situation having prayed beforehand and I prayed silently for most of the time I was in those situations. I didn’t pray for myself nearly as much as I prayed for girls I wanted to love and share Christ with. It wasn’t about me and my awkward feelings, it was about them.
But when I start church searching, it unfortunately becomes all about me. Are these people nice to me? Do people introduce themselves to me? Do they make me feel welcome? How will this church serve me? Will my needs be met here? Does this place have what I want?
So I wonder…if searching for a church to call home becomes less about me and more about, well, Christ, won’t it be easier? Sure, I’ll still feel awkward walking into a place where I don’t know anyone (that part of my personality isn’t changing anytime soon), but if I’m more concerned with how I make others feel than how others make me feel, with how I can serve a place rather than how it can serve me, then surely my encouragement will come from Christ being with me and calling me to this city, rather than knowing that I won’t actually keel over and die from feeling uncomfortable in a new environment. So on to the church search!