We recently sat down to a dinner that included some strangers at our table. Well, they were strangers for about 5 minutes – we quickly clicked with this other young couple and had a very engaging conversation for about 60 minutes. Topics varied, and eventually we accidentally steered the conversation to church and religion. Turns out, we differ in our denominational background – that can always make a conversation a little awkward. They were talking about how difficult it was to find a really good church, and that they’ve felt like they’ve been “shopping around”. They finally settled on attending a solid local house of worship, but felt as if they were just “sitting on the sidelines” and needed to take another step to get more connected. Since I felt the “awkward-religion-conversation” vibes creeping in, I decided to just go for broke and push it all the way over the edge.

“Okay, personal question time”, I said. “In your quest for a great area church, what are the three biggest make-or-break things for you two? What are the most important things that either draw you in or push you away, in the church context?”

I didn’t know what to expect…I thought we had such difference in religion opinion, but I asked anyway, dropping a disclaimer at the end…”If it’s too personal or you’d rather not discuss, just say pass and we’ll move on”. I was pretty shocked at how much I actually agreed with the answer.

Th wife didn’t miss a beat. She paused for maybe 3 seconds, looked off past me as if she was arranging her thoughts in her head, and responded:

First of all, the way the leader/pastor/priest/minister handles the teaching of the Word of God is huge. Do they correctly divide the Word? Do they teach the congregation to do the same? Right doctrine and solid grounding is huge.

Number two would have to be, the presence of the Holy Spirit in the place. Is it alive with a sense of the Spirit? Do I feel different when I walk in and participate in worship?

Finally, I need to know that there’s a sense of belonging…a sense of community. Is this a place for the whole family? Are we impacting the immediate area of our city for the better? Can I engage with like minded peers?

My point is, drop your preconceived ideas about denominations and other beliefs, and just have some conversation. You may agree with more than you thought…and you may learn something. Don’t have this conversation over someone’s Facebook post…get face to face and ask some questions, regardless of whether or not you agree with the answer.

So…what does church mean to you? Do you agree with those top 3 pillars, or would you add or take away anything?

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