Finding a Church, Part II

A year ago to this date, I wrote the entry Finding a Church, voicing my frustration about the too difficult task of finding a new church family. So what has happened since?

In short: too little. We put paper behind our actions and moved our membership to the Café Church in Copenhagen, after realising that this was the church we were primarily attending, and we got tired of treading water. Being a member hasn’t changed everything, though. Sure, some things have grown to the better, but it’s still not a perfect match. I can still have doubts as to whether this is the right church for me. I still don’t feel fully a part of the fellowship. I still find myself unmoved way too often. And I still have a hard time figuring out what the church is and wants.

So what is wrong? It seems fair to start by blaming myself.

For one, my own personal spiritual life has been somewhat lagging. I know this may be a chicken-and-egg issue, but it certainly plays a part. For this reason or others I have never been fully enthusiastic, and I have maintained a degree of dissociation – just in case. I could probably also have done more on my own part to integrate myself. And I have definitely been too focused on what others should do, and what the church should do, instead of what I could do.

I have tried my hand at some involvement, though. Playing the piano has been one thing that I have helped out with a bit. And more recently, I have taken the initiative to raise the level of fellowship dinners. This project had its debut two weeks ago, and is a great success so far. More than anything else it was started because I see a need for closer integration between church members. Eating together could help.

My own failures may be the greatest. However, there are also points where I have not been impressed with the church. Some may be a matter of match – things that work out fine for others. If so, then by all means carry on. I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all churches. But here are my observations.

It has been surprisingly difficult to break into the social side of being church, i.e., making friends. Especially surprising since I knew a lot of people beforehand. There are one or two exceptions, but most of our meaningful relationships are with people we know from elsewhere and happen to meet at church. There are a lot of cliques in the Café Church, and most people seem content to be with their own.

I have grown increasingly indifferent to the worship. Some of this may be personal taste or lack of spiritual engagement on my part. But it’s very rare that I’m actually moved by anything that goes on in church. Which is kind of sad.

Finally, for all its merits and entrepreneurial achievements, this church still doesn’t have a clue what it wants. Sure, some individuals, even within the leadership, may have ideas and visions. But there’s no common goal. No shared vision. No long-term planning. Why does the church exist? To some it seems like the raison d’être of the Café Church is the fact that it’s different. It may be less explicit than previously, but there is still somehow a prevalent sense of “we’re better than the others because we’re different”. Wake-up call: you’re not all that different. At least not to merit this kind of separation. So what’s the point? Why are you here?

Frankly, I’m tired of having to choose between Café Church and traditional church. At least in the Copenhagen area the options are divided to a degree that doesn’t make sense. I feel at home in both settings, but would like to see someone aiming for the middle ground. Who will lead into a Third Way?

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Author: Kenneth Mollerup Birch

Living north of Copenhagen, Denmark. MA in Information Science. Interests include communication, internet, sociology, language, politics, religion, theology, travel, music, and food.

9 thoughts on “Finding a Church, Part II”

  1. I can relate to all the personal stuff/thoughts/feelings mentioned above (except for the church direction-thing, which has to do with the specifik church I attend right now). Especially I find it strange with the not-being-moved-thing while being an integrated part of the (best) worship team (ever), which get so much feed back from large numbers of people in the congregation telling how moved they are when worshipping.

    Having never experienced better and more modern local churches (spiritually/organisational) than the one I’m in right now, I still call it traditional and look for another way (what you describe as the third way).

    I think I should really be talking som more (as in: some at all) to Th. Willer and/or H. Holmgaard again and visit what ever they may be involved in at the moment. If only I didn’t live in Skanderborg and had so much work to do, a family to take care of and lots of other excuses…

  2. Amen to a lot of the things, and thank you for sharing.

    How do we reach a shared vision for our church? I thought the Cafékirken went through a lot of discussions in the spring about the church’s identity and consequently raison d’être, did no shared vision appear during all those meetings? Should we have a classic vision-mision-strategy session where everybody, not just the leadership team participates?

    Sometimes being at church feels like waiting at football stadium surrounded by fans where the teams never show up. A lot of people feeling like spectators, not players, and that is a depressing game for sure.

    I think you took the first step today, being honest about your experiences, in that way it is easier to address and change something. What is the smallest thing we could do, to make Cafékirken more like a spiritual home and less like a waiting room at train station?

    I such a fan of your food initiative! Don’t ever stop:-)

  3. Thanks a lot for your comments. Once again, this proves to be a subject that many of you can relate to 🙂

    @Willer: Intriguing. Perhaps I should get serious about visiting regen sometime soon…

    @Tvesok: Re. not being moved – maybe we’re just getting old… scary thought! 😉

    @Kamilla: If they did, I think I missed a lot of it. I still don’t see a shared vision. Then again, there are people more invovled than I am – maybe they do. A VMS session might be worthwile, I guess – but it could also be moot.
    “What is the smallest thing we could do…?” I don’t know, really – off the top of my head: stop trying to perform – on stage as well as off – and just be ourselves. And I know – we’ve heard that lots of times before.

  4. Tak Kenneth…godt indlæg.

    Kan genkende det du skriver og er helt enig. For mig tror jeg at det nu må handle om at komme ud af kirken igen, altså forstået på den måde, at vi skal til at leve livet som kristne igen og ikke bare “spille” det..måske lidt groft sagt, men alligevel.

    Hvis kirke ikke handler om andet end at komme i kirken, så er det i virkeligheden slet ikke kirke, men bare hyggeklub for folk der mener, at der findes en gud. Livet med gud udfolder sig ikke, hvis vi ikke er ude blandt mennesker og tjener dem, med det vi har og kan.

    Nå vil ikke skrive for meget her, men som sagt bare sige, at jeg synes det er et super godt og præcist indlæg, håber mange læser eller har læst det.

  5. @Kenneth: I didn’t want to bring it up, so I waited and hoped someone else would mention it. Then Line came into the room and read what both you and I had written, agreed with both of us and then suggested, what you now also say: We’re all getting old. I’m not sure, I’m ready to accept this link yet, though. 🙂

    @Daniel: Godt sagt 🙂

  6. Hi Kenneth, I have no idea how I ended up at this site. I’ve been in and out of SDA’ism all my life. Like yourself, am eternally intrigued by this ‘division’ of christianity. In short, and for what it’s worth – we cannot and should not rely on others to take us to where we want to be. It is a balancing act between personal growth involving yourself and the Lord and also checking out the world at large for messages by leaders/mentors/ministers/teachers/friends/family that resonate with you. There is no one leader out there, or, sorry to say, one way to worship. There is plenty to learn from many. Select appropriately and you will find yourself buzzing with enlightenment – which I guess can be attributed to the Lord working through your quest for a lasting passion. You then need to share this passion with all whom you meet – take this to the worships/meetings and enjoy the compounded results where others do likewise. The sum is greater than the parts. If you feel it is lacking, introduce your fire and help out as and when you feel you can. Everyone has the capability to shine like a beacon and demonstrate God’s greatness. Perhaps best not to look outside for reasons why things may not gel, focus inside – it can save you years and offer you that immediate ‘fix’ you may seem to be looking for in a church or through worship. Interesting dialogue above – bottom line, everyone who commented seems to have plenty to offer! Now there’s hope for everyone! 🙂

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