How to Visit Churches Pt 2 – Your new Church is not, and will never be, your old church, for better or worse

Whether or not you left your other church under less-than-favorable circumstances remember: Don’t judge the new church by the old one. (If you left under less-than-favorable circumstances, be especially careful. You may already be in a defensive or critical frame of mind.)
(1) Just because there are some similarities between the church you are visiting and your old church doesn’t mean this church is bad. These may be good people in a good church who just happen to worship or talk or sing or preach or whatever just like the old one. Maybe this new church is more like what the old church should be.
(2) Just because there are some similarities between the church you are visiting and your old church doesn’t mean this church is good, either. These people may do everything outwardly just like your old church, but, once you get to know them, they could be worse. This could be your old church if things really got bad.
With either one, you really don’t know until you get to know them. At any church once you peer behind the curtain you will find fallen people just like at your old one. (I might add, fallen people just like you only perhaps given to different things.)
If you did not leave your other church in bad circumstances (you moved, it closed its doors, etc.) remember the following:
(1) Your old church was your old church; it is not this one and this one is not your old one.
Sounds simple but I see it all the time.
All I’m saying is: Don’t go expecting to find a church just like your old one. Each church has its own unique culture and this one will, too. It may not be bad; it’s just different. You may think they’re strange because they take up the offering at the end and you’re used to it being taken up in the middle. Remember that they may think you’re strange for thinking it should be the opposite. Does it really matter? Does the Scripture say it must be done in the middle? No.
They and their ways seem different to you; you may seem different to them, too. When you start to feel gracious, like you’re cutting them some slack, remember that they are probably cutting you some slack, too.
(2) Don’t expect them to change everything to suit you.
In your old church if someone had come in expecting everyone to change for them what would you have said? Right. That’s what everyone at your new church is thinking of saying to you when you start with “At our old church we did this…”
Lastly, for both groups, remember not to take out your emotional turmoil on the churches you visit.
For example, consider the couple that visited here at Zion after their church closed its doors. They later admitted that they were more critical on us than they should have been simply because they were unhappy anyway during the time they visited us. It wasn’t our fault that the church had closed its doors, but we bore the brunt of it.
I’m sure my experience is no different from that of other pastors: I can often tell what issues a family had with their old church just by the questions they ask me about this church. Don’t let the issues that bothered you before obscure the more important issues.
Next Post: It helps to do a little research
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About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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