Things I Value in A Church: A Confession of Faith?

After writing three posts about things to look for when church shopping, I got to thinking about what things people would be looking for when they asked those questions. I am of the opinion that we all have certain things we look for when trying to find a church. So here are some of the things I would look for…

The list I offer below is two-fold: 1) the really important core-value type stuff I like and 2) the almost as important other stuff. In other words, if I could only have the first list, I could make due, but if I could have it all baby, then I would jump at the chance.

*Also, please note, these are things Wess is looking for in a church, I am not suggesting that you need to look for a church with these same things, or that my list holds all the most important things because it may not fit you, but hey if you want to go right ahead. This post is pretty blatantly honest about my own theology and presuppositions, I recognize I have changed a lot over the years and that many may not like what I have to offer here – if that is so at least read it as a sort of confession of faith. This is where I am at.

1. Core Values for the Church I Look For
Jesus-Oriented Practices and Theology
Everything that this church does and says should be rooted in the life of Jesus Christ. This includes and presupposes an orthodox view of Jesus as Son of God and Savior.

Surrounding Community Involvement
When I got to Fuller I started telling people I met in the surrounding community what school I was attending, most people, Christian or not, would say, “Oh yeah I’ve heard good stuff about that school.??? Or other positive things like that.

I think our churches should first off be known in the community and second off be known with a good reputation. This is done by being out in the community, serving others, and sharing God’s love with our local neighbors. This means it would need to be a community that seeks justice for the disinherited, care for creation, engage its local community in ways that show their faith.

Equality of Humanity
I’d look for a church that seeks to be multiracial, a place where a diversity of styles, thoughts and practices make room for more than one ethnicity to be represented (even if there isn’t).

And secondly, I would no longer go to a church that does not teach the mutuality of man and woman and does not allow for the ordination of women (again it’s not necessary for a woman to be pastor, but the possibility must be there).

Peace church
I’d look for a church that teaches and seeks to live out the peace represented in the Gospels and by the life of Jesus. It’s not necessary for all the people in the church to be pacifists but the church as a whole must represent through it’s teachings and life a non-violent response to the powers of the world.

Tradition Relationship
Though I would choose a mennonite or Quaker church if I could, I would not be limited to a denominational church if the church I found talked about and emphasized the important of traditions, church history, and influences. I wouldn’t go to a church that pretends it came out of now where, that all it’s ideas are original and that every other denomination is wrong.

Move of the Spirit
Finally, I would find a church that talked about and sought to live a life that allowed the Spirit to work in the believer’s life. This church would have to be characterized by prayer as one aspect of allowing the Spirit to move.

There are churches that make room for the Spirit in ways that when you arrive you can’t help but notice God is there. That’s what I want to be a part of.

The fact that Quakers have always made room with silence to listen and wait for the move of the Spirit is so sweet, and one reason why I love Friends so much!

2. The Almost as Important Stuff About a Church
Position to American Politics
I would look for a church that sought to witness to American culture and politics by way of living out the Gospel in love and peace as it’s first priority. In other words, does this church rely on itself or the Government to get the job done? I am voting for a church that is willing to go at it alone if it needs too.

Creativity Oh Yes The Ancient Arts
Quite simply is this church doing something creative? Does it care about the arts? Does it support a secular/sacred divide or does it believe that all of life can be and is beautiful? Having a faith community care about creativity is something thats is really important to me.

Small church
I have a confession. I like small churches. I probably wouldn’t go to a huge church unless it fit my core-values and then (I am just being honest) it would probably still be hard.

Non-hieracrchical Leadership
Is this a one person show? Well if so, I would be a no-show.

Sacramental Life
The sacraments are extremely important in the life of the believer. I would need to go to a church that seeks to live out the sacraments as well as share in them (of course which sacraments and how that’s done is still up for grabs).


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Wess

...is the William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

11 thoughts on “Things I Value in A Church: A Confession of Faith?”

  1. Wess, that does sound like a great Church to be a part of.

    I think I’d add one thing to your list and that is that the Church itself actively seeks the strengthen of it’s own ‘family’. In world of increasing social breakdown, family can be a Christian communities big draw. How did Jesus say that all men might know you we are His disciples. Not by our teaching, preaching, healing, miracles etc. Not even by our community involvement; although I too believe this to be vital. No, He said it was by the way we loved each other.

    Of course, you know what it is said we do to the perfect Church if we were ever to find it….. *smile*

  2. I have enjoyed this series. And I am a subscriber. I hope our paths cross in real life. I’m interested in studying with Ryan Bolger, Mark Branson (and you) at Fuller for a Ph.D. in practical theology. We’ll see what happens.

    All the best,

    andy

    Andy Rowell
    Taylor University
    Department of Biblical Studies and Christian Ministry
    Blog: Church Leadership Conversations

  3. Rob – I am right with you. I think it would be great if the church helped to strengthen its own families though I am not quite sure how to do that yet. It’s sad that there is as much strife in christian families as there is outside the church.

    What have you seen that’s worked well in this area?

  4. Andy – thanks for reading. I am glad to hear you’re interest. Both Bolger and Branson are wonderful people and you would do well to study with them. Let me know if/when you come out here.

  5. Hiya from Tennessee, Wess, truly every church just like every automobile or woman, is a compromise of sorts. Each of the aforementioned areas can have a champion or catalyst in even a small church.

    Your wrote and I say amen: “Everything that this church does and says should be rooted in the life of Jesus Christ. This includes and presupposes an orthodox view of Jesus as Son of God and Savior.”

    May the Lord of hosts direct you to like-minded brethren.

  6. Thanks for your thoughts, Wess! And thanks for the wonderful article in the latest Quaker Life.

    I am with you on several core values. Of course, being a Conservative Friend, I would not go to a church with a paid clergy person or programmed worship but that is certainly adiaphora.

    Please give a bit more clarification on “sacramental life”. I think you are holding to the Christian understanding that the sacraments are not an outward ritual but an inward experience, but I’m not really sure.

    Again, good post bro’!

    -Craig

  7. Hi Craig – thanks for the kind words!

    As far as a sacramental life – I am borrowing first from Quaker’s Elton Trueblood and Richard Foster. So yes – I do mean the inward experience but I also mean the outward experience as well.

    I don’t necessarily mean ritual however, though I do think we ought to practice things in a sacramental way. I.e. we ought to intentaionally talk about how different things we do as the church draw us into GOd’s grace.

    In this way, silence for unprogrammed friends fits into my understanding of a sacrament. It involved both an inner and outer expression.

    A sacramental life then, if a way of saying that we seek to make every part of our lives and everything we do holy and point toward the risen Christ.

    Does that make more or less sense?

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