I totally got called out last week for not posting the third and final installment of this series I started back in May.
There's really only one honest answer, and I'll give it to you:
Going back and hashing through all of that information I shared with you in Part 1 and Part 2 was really emotionally draining for me! It was kinda like I had a little counseling session with myself and I needed some time to step away from the topic.
But, now I've had a month to think about it and re-energize myself to write the post, so here goes!
I want to be perfectly clear, too, that this post in no way is saying that I think the "traditional" church is better than other churches. Not in any way. I have just found that this is where we were led and that now I see why God led us to this place.
I have gone back and forth about how to approach this topic and while I could give you a list of all the particular things I love about the traditional church, that's not the way I want to go. I have realized that changing church "styles" was more about finding myself than finding a church. I have learned so much about myself in the past few years that it is pretty painful to think about! Lots of stretching & growing over the past decade! I am not the same person I was at 19 or 20 and coming to terms with who I am as an adult is really what solidified our decision to move. So, instead of giving you a run-down of what I like about the traditional church, I'm going to give you a list of what I have learned about myself and how the church we call "home" has fit those needs.
1. I thrive on structure.
This is not a secret. I like routine, organization, planning, structure. I just do. I can't help it. I have learned over the years (especially after having a little one!) to be flexible. But, at the end of the day, I need structure. Many of the churches I attended in the past struggled with structure and organization mostly because they were new. They were still getting started out and trying to find what worked best for their congregation. For me, it was too much change too often.
2. I need accountability.
This is a slightly touchy subject, but in my experience, non-traditional churches are a little more "open minded" and "grace filled" and not as apt to call you out on your sin. I'm very grateful to attend a church where our pastor isn't afraid to "go there" and where my friends are willing to step up and question me when I might be making an unwise decision. Discipline is often something we shy away from, but it is an aspect of God's character and His love for us that must not be overlooked.
3. I love tradition.
I just do. Call me old-fashioned, call me sentimental. It's not the traditions themselves, it's the symbolism and purpose behind them. For instance, hymns are "traditions" to me. When we sing some of the older hymns (without changing them up to make them sound "modern"), I feel connected to a body of Christ larger than the one I'm currently singing with. I'm reminded of the generations of people who sang those songs before me, worshipping God to the same tune and words as I am in 2014. I just love that.
4. I am conservative.
I am a compassionate conservative, but I am still very much morally conservative. (I'm not talking about politics, here. You should all know me better than that!) I have very "straight-laced" values and beliefs and I want to attend a church that is willing to stand up for Biblical principles. I do think we need to continually work on standing up for the Bible with grace, but we're all working on it.
5. I like a big church.
I have been a member of churches of all sizes. From tiny twelve-member country churches to a mega-church. I've experienced it all. And what I find is that I really prefer a larger church. Not as large as a mega-church (with multiple campuses), but I like a church that is large enough to have the resources and people to help make the church run smoothly week in and week out. In some of the smaller churches, I ended up feeling burned out because I like to be an active member of the church and I felt obligated to "fill a need" anytime it was needed. In the mega-church, I often didn't feel needed because there were just so many people. At our current church, I am able to be involved in several different ministries, but I don't feel pressured to be a part of every single thing that's going on. But I do occasionally get calls to help fill in when we are short-handed, and I am usually happy to help! Being an involved member of your church is imperative - if you aren't serving, why not!? And you know... when you start to serve in your church and get involved, it doesn't seem so big anymore!
6. I enjoy being around people of all ages and stages.
Some of the non-traditional churches I attended were made up of one large demographic: young families. And while that's all well and good, I really see the value in attending a multi-generational church. We have a lot to learn from our elders and from those who are in different stages than us. Becoming a mother and embracing my new role in life was made simpler by the wisdom of those who had been through it before.
7. I like to sing.
Surprise, surprise! While I led worship at a few different churches for many years, I honestly really prefer to be in a choir. I enjoy singing lead, but I am more comfortable singing harmony. It's just where I fit! The style music is not a big deal for me. I worship God just the same no matter if we are singing a song from the 1970's or from 2014. (Also, "Shout to the Lord" will never go out of style in my book. I just HAD to mention it.)
That's about it! I could go on, but I'll stop there. :)
What I've learned from the years is that there is truly no perfect church. No one church has it ALL together. They may be good at particular aspects or have a certain mission they pursue, but there are gaps everywhere in every church because they're comprised of sinful humans. And, trust me, I know that people think the "traditional church" is full of stuffy Republican "Sunday Christians". What I can tell you is that, yes, that's true. There are those people. But there are even more who I think are genuinely seeking to honor Christ with their lives. False Christians are everywhere - in every church, in every denomination.
If you are not an active member of a church, I urge you to find a church home ASAP! Don't be afraid to branch out of your comfort zone. Hello - I went to VERY non-traditional churches for over ten years and swore I would never be a Baptist! But that is what I wanted for my life. I feel like I have finally heeded God's calling to me to return to the traditional church and I'm so grateful I did. You will be too once you find where God is calling you. Keep looking, keep searching, keep praying for your own church home!