Friday, July 22, 2005

Fantastic Four(square)

We were on the march again, searching for a church that would fulfill my vision of what a church should be, both theologically as well as practically. Laura just wanted a place to plant roots. This time we didn't have a plan of what we wanted, I just had a vague notion, so we sampled quite a few. We took about six months to visit churches, question their pastors, spy out the childcare setup, and see how they treated visitors.

After several months we compared lists. My top three looked like this:
1) The Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Cleveland. This church was a good half hour drive away, but easily made the top of my list. I like Vineyard churches. I like the casual atmosphere, I like the music, I like the expectancy that God can and wants to move at any time. They are charismatic but not overwhelmingly so. The people at Vineyard churches have always been friendly to me. The pastor, Rick Evans, had been involved with the Vineyard for 25 years. He was easygoing and friendly. How do you describe a vibe? I just felt at home there.

2) Family Fellowhip Foursquare church of Amherst (OH). They are part of the Foursquare denomination founded by Aimee Semple McPherson in the 1920's, Pentecostal in their theology. The church is pastored by Bill Mouer, one of many Foursquare Bill Mouers, a man who had held many positions in his denomination and had been pastor of Family Fellowship for 20 years. The music was pretty good, the preaching pretty mellow. Pastor Mouer was not a screamer.

3) House of Praise International Church of Lorain (OH). I had known people at House of Praise for several years. My sister was going to the HOP at the time. Laura was attending a small group Bible study sponsored by House of Praise. The church is pastored by Gilbert Silva, who can preach like nobody's business. The theology leans heavily on "word of faith" teaching, as taught and practiced by Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, etc.- God wants you healthy, God wants you prosperous, God is a good God who wants to meet your needs. The music on Sunday mornings was OK, I could take it or leave it, but the music on Friday nights during their youth services was slamming. It was awesome. Move that band to Sunday mornings and I'm writing a completely different blog entry.

Laura's list had the same three churches, but the order was reversed. She had the HOP on top, Family Fellowship no. 2, and the Vineyard last. A compromise had to be reached. Family Fellowship seemed to be a good, non-threatening choice for a woman who had never been a part of a Pentecostal church before, so that's the one we chose.

Family Fellowship was a positive experience, for the most part. I didn't really care for the 40 Days of Purpose campaign- I've never cared for fads, of which this is definitely one, and our small group leaders were pretty bad at it. Apart from that, I don't really have anything bad to say. We were there for three years, which was longer than I've spent at any other church. And after three years I didn't feel any closer to any person at the church than when I started going there. My fault? Their fault? Hard to say. I made my effort- we went to a 40 days small group, we went to a home group for a year, we were at church every Sunday- and yet no friends.

I was going through some changes at the same time, changes that were unknown to everyone but my wife. My dear wife watched this conservative Christian who loved the Lord turn into a person she didn't recognize.

Next time.


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