Shopping is an art. Experienced consumers know how to appraise every aspect of the object they are considering. Nothing is too small to escape scrutiny: color, design, age, cost. The weight that each of these factors is given depends on the customer. However, this little game of the mind does not only apply to today’s extreme shoppers. Often, the things that are examined in the manner of a customer can’t be bought with money. In the same way, men shop for women. Women shop for men. The average twenty-first century Christian shops for churches.
The process can be different, depending on the person, but church shopping always follows the same major patterns. It can be very difficult and confusing, especially if you are new at this kind of thing. Just remember that feeling comfortable is usually the first priority of church shoppers and you’ll be fine. Not theological accuracy, but comfort.
Before you head out, make sure that you are dressed well. Church is about how you are perceived. After all, it is very important that you impress people. Once you arrive, begin taking mental notes. Is it too drafty inside? Does the building’s design more resemble an ancient cathedral or a hip nightclub? Do the chairs hurt your back? Does the tile in the anteroom remind you of a bad sixties diner? All of it matters. You may begin to get discouraged by all the “flaws” you find, but don’t get too worried just yet. They are not always deciding factors.
Next to consider are the people. You may be more comfortable worshiping and communing with Christians of a similar ethnicity and socio-economic background. After all, people like you will be better able to understand the specific difficulties that you’re facing. The members must be friendly, but not too pushy. Remember, you do not want to go to a church where you are going to be roped into actually doing things. After all, you don’t want to be involved, but you need to feel included.
Normally, the main church service starts at 11 AM. This is when you need to pay attention. Worship time is very important. Most of the complaints that are made about any church are made about the music. “The songs are too old-fashioned,” or “They sing too slowly.” These are all valid objections. You need to find a church with a worship time that really gets you into your spiritual groove. Music is the only way to worship God, so make sure you’re worshiping in your comfort zone. If you’re really feeling the Spirit moving, don’t forget to raise your hands, or the people around you won’t know how spiritual you’re feeling.
After a heartfelt rendition of the latest Chris Tomlin hit, the lights will come up and the speaker will mount the podium. If you forgot your Bible, don’t worry. It’s no longer considered important to bring one. The verses will be up on the screen in the New-International-American-Revised-Standard-Contemporary-Living-maybe-Biblical version.
Now the sermon will begin. This is where you will get very bored. If you’re lucky, the speaker will liven up his sermon with culturally relevant examples and humorous little stories involving his kids. Fortunately, it is very easy to pretend that you’re paying attention; stare vacantly into space and try not to think about how hungry you are. If you accidentally find yourself listening to the sermon, don’t take anything personally. You want a church that makes you feel comfortable. If one doesn’t, you need to find another where you will be encouraged. What you don’t need is an ancient hypocrite in a suit who doesn’t remember what it’s like to be young telling you everything you’re doing wrong.
On reaching home, coolly and objectively analyze all the information that you have absorbed. Sometimes, you may need to make one or two more data-gathering expeditions before you fully form your opinion. Remember, being comfortable is your first priority. You should be accepted by your church for who you are, because you’re perfect already.
You wouldn’t want to be convicted or anything like that. Right?