Lateral Growth Chronicles: I get Around

Have you ever driven by a church before and decided that simply based on appearances, the place looked interesting? Somewhere in the recesses of your busy mind, you thought, “Someday, I’d like to see what that congregation is all about.” I’ve done this. I did it for years, but never really believed I’d have the chance to visit any of them. Once I made up my mind that it was time to move on from the only church I’d ever known, these were my first stops.

Somebody might tell you that assessing a church by its building is the same as judging a book by its cover. They may be right, but they could also be incredibly wrong. Many authors aren’t visually talented enough to create their own art, so someone else gets to do it. Churches, on the other hand live wherever they can until they get enough money to purchase or construct a building. Once they have their own space though, their priorities become clear. Church architecture once was considered an opportunity for extravagant worship, but now, congregations can live in ugly stadiums and warehouses as long as they have the right technology or space to house what they value within those four walls.

After making an appearance at, and searching for Jesus in a few of the places I’d always wanted to hit up, I realized that the cool buildings were furnished with everything I didn’t want- primarily vanity and ecclesiastical debt and/or financial irresponsibility. One pastor elaborated on the cost of their building in relation to the tithes they were receiving while I was there, which might sound like a horrible thing to experience, but I was actually grateful for the openness about their fiscal commitments. I will say that a big fat pastor with his big fat building seemed to be lacking self control, so I moved on, regardless of their transparency. It was then that I knew I’d have to start looking based on other criteria.

Location was a bad idea. I live in a flat, white town in Idaho. If you’re not from the Gem State, you’re probably thinking that all of Idaho is Caucasian and you would be mostly correct, but we do have some diversity here. There were areas I wasn’t keen on traveling to because believe it or not, there are places less diverse than Meridian. I didn’t mind semi-long drives to get to church, it always meant more hang time with the Almighty while I traveled, so I started examining denominations. I think the battle between denominational churches and their wily counterparts might be a post to itself, but I had to consider the structure of the church I wanted to be a part of. Denominations have responsibilities and guidelines that the non-denoms don’t- I wanted accountability and hierarchy at whatever church I landed at.

In all of my ecclesiastical promiscuity, I visited a lot of churches. I mean, I really got around. Boise has a variety of congregations, old and new, conservative and liberal, we even have a multitude of ethnic churches around the valley. I’ve been to a handful of them- and stuck out like a white guy at a Nepali church ought to. When I was introduced to Jesus eight years ago, I didn’t know what to look for in a congregation. I simply participated at the church where I met God. It’s so much easier going into something like this blind, without opinions or expectations but to remain naive is irresponsible. Sometimes, I hate caring about how things go-yes, I grow weary of having such strong opinions about everything. Oh well, it’s exactly those vehement values that gave my search meaning, even if they did complicate the process.

Filed under: church, Oh Jake.....

  1. Did you just write a whole post about being a church whore?! lol I know what you mean. When I left the church I grew up in my faith in, I was pretty picky about the next one. I wanted a church that had a vision beyond its four walls, at had a dream to grow and challenged its people in their faith and in their calling. I found it pretty quickly - and come this Friday, I will start working there as a communications associate. I'm pumped. It's important to have criteria and thoughts and opinions when looking for a church. Otherwise you might walk into a bad situation without even knowing it.
    • jake
      Jason, thank you very much for putting it in words that I only choose to say, not necessarily write. I hate being picky, it truly does complicate things. BUT, if my stay at whatever place I land at has any longevity at all, it needs to be the right place. Also, I'm beyond excited for you. You've been praying for a new job for quite some time now, and I'm stoked that you're in a place that you truly care about!
  2. Since you're up for a long drive to church, you might as well drive here and come to ours! Pack a lunch though... it's a long drive. I grew up in denominational churches. For me that's the one thing that I was looking to get away from. The hierarchy can lend itself to abuse. Some of the big ones that controlled the smaller churches through loans etc. were so controlling and legalistic it didn't surprise me when some of them went bankrupt back in the 80's. Money does strange things... The denominational churches exercise control similar to the way a franchise operates and that type of structure tends to take God out of the equation and replace it with the false sense of power of men. There's my two cents that may only be worth an aluminum can after inflation...
    • jake
      Floyd, I've never heard that before, but my only experience so far has been with one nondenominational church. It's fascinating to hear-- I wonder about the structures and even how money flows through some of these denominations. I will say that I believe (this may have no merit outside of my own mind) that I believe that denominations have developed as they have in order to prevent power or money hungry men from doing whatever they please. Of course, elders or deacons at a church could help with that, but it's amazing how often men can get carried away in their attempts to honor authority and blah blah blah. I'm all about honoring our God-appointed leaders, by the way, but sometimes it's more honorable to call someone out on something than to allow them to get away with it. I don't think that's taught in Christianity though... bah. Anyway, thanks for the insight! Maybe I'll make it down to Arizona again one of these days! (I keep daydreaming about Mexico.... so it must happen again, right?)
      • Maybe we'll get closer than a couple hundred feet this time!
  3. […] congregations they’d visited and decided not to join, knowing their pain. I remembered my own Ecclesiastical Promiscuity after I’d left the church I got saved in for various reasons. I also told them what at one […]
  4. […] about my experiences in trying to find a church after leaving the only church I’d ever known. The Lateral Growth Chronicles are still fresh in my mind, even though I’ve been committed to a wonderful church for 2 1/2 […]