Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What I learned in Church: Part I, The Small Traditional Church

I grew up in a small traditional church in Southgate, MI. It was an American Baptist church with about 80 people in attendance each week. (80 is actually the national average by the way.)

My parents went to this church. And my Grandparents went to this church. I suspect that this was probably the case for most of the attenders at this church. We sang hymns while a choir sang and an organist and a pianist played along. The preacher was down-to-earth and low-key, and 30 years later, he is still preaching there today. I attended this church for my entire childhood, until I was 17 years old, and my family moved away from the area.

This church specialized in tradition and family. There were numerous potlucks, musicals, and other social functions which served to strengthen the familial bond of the church family. Evangelism was not a strong priority and moving forward with the "times" was also not a priority.

Looking back, I can appreciate this church now more than I may have back then. Nothing much ever changes at that church. But in some ways, that can be a good thing.

Growing up in that church, my family was about as involved as we could be. This was a good thing sometimes, but other times it was not a good thing. My friends at church were not my friends at school, and my friends at school were not my friends in my neighborhood, and my friends at church were not my friends in my neighborhood. So my life as a child and as a teenager was very compartmentalized:


Ironically, it was my friends in my neighborhood who bore the most influence over me and to this day, they are my closest friends in life. There was never any crossover between these three worlds of mine and I'm convinced that that was never a good thing. Some crossover might have done me some good.

So what did I learn from this church?

1. I learned that your church family is exactly that - a family. You can take the good with the bad. This was a wonderful support group for our family, but as a teen I began to see the hypocrisy in some people at church and it rubbed me the wrong way.

2. While my father had some close relationships with other men who were Godly men, my family really didn't connect with other full-fledged families at the church, and I didn't really connect with any of my peers at the church. These men were great to have around our home (as friends of my father), but I would have been better off if my parents had become closer to other families that would have had a greater impact on me than just a bunch of single guys.

3. A simple church has a lot less problems. Things are easier. They are slower. Budgets are much smaller. Worship is simpler and therefore easier to pull off. And people don't tend to come and go through the front door like it is a revolving door.


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