My beloved Mrs H and I are members at a Baptist church that’s about 35 miles from our home. That’s a long way to go, but it’s also necessary: Finding a church that will make use of the gifts an apologist is hard to do, and actually, it’s hard enough to find one where they know what apologetics is.
There are times, though, when that 70 mile round trip is just not feasible, so we spent some time looking for someplace closer to home where we could go on off weeks. For this, I lowered my standards somewhat: Our regular pastor is very intelligent and well-informed, and doesn’t deliver pap sermons, but we were willing to accept someone less competent for our “closer to home” church home.
Unfortunately, not even with my standards lowered to that level have we found any place suitable. What we did find suggests that we could use a little good old-fashioned persecution of Christians here in America, to help strain out some of the chaff.
Mrs H was raised Southern Baptist, so that’s where we’ve started. The closest SB church was automatically out: The pastor there is one of those “pretty boys” whose appearance and sermons make it clear he thinks Joel Osteen is a suitable pastoral model. I don't imagine that Teflon hair or teeth would have held up well under a Roman whip. Also, I had once gone to this church to hand the education pastor my card, and never heard from him. So strike one.
We then tried the “First Baptist” in a nearby suburb. (The one closest to us is NOT SB; it’s ultra-fundy Baptist, the sort of place where Mrs H would get stared at for not wearing a floweredy hat, and I’d get an Inquisition treatment for my stances on things like hell and eschatology.) That lasted all of two services; the pastor taught on Ezra, and to illustrate how the people of Israel celebrated their joy in the Lord, he had the sound system play Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration”. The whole song. Everyone else was standing up. We didn’t.
We also didn’t come back. Strike two.
Then we tried a tiny little church near us. At first it seemed to be just right. They played the old fashioned hymns Mrs H loves. The sermons were nothing special, but at least they were theologically acceptable. We went 3 weeks and figured this would do it, until after that third service, a woman approached us and said:
“You should come to our Wednesday night meeting. We’re doing Purpose Driven Life again! I’ve been through it twice!!”
Nice to know that the early Christians died so you could do that, lady. Strike three.
That was about 4 months ago, and we haven’t been looking for a “localer” church since then. I don’t know that we will any time soon, and if we do, it may be any denomination that isn’t either Pentecostal or charismatic in orientation. It’s just too exasperating a quest; even with my standards lowered to the point that the pastor could teach sermons that a chimp would understand and we’d still go, it seems that no matter where we attend, we find the place infected with a form of Christianity that would make Peter and Paul lose their lunch.
It’s to the point where you have to wonder if we wouldn’t be better off being persecuted the way they are in places like Saudi Arabia.
Maybe that’d clean the place up a bit.