When Barb and I lived in St. Louis, we lived across the street from a small, family-run grocery store. This store served its community and neighborhood very well.
In fact, once, our nearly three-year-old son decided to wander off from our apartment into the store. The grocer, knowing us, and knowing him, brought him home to us.
Most churches are like that family grocery. They are small, neighborhood things. Their selections are basic and minimal. They serve their communities well.
Most churches, that is, are not Walmart.
When people expect their churches to provide all their needs, Walmart like, then those expectations are going to be severely frustrated.
We may find in a church good teaching and we may find adequate music. We may find encouraging fellowship and people who will pray for and with us. We may find occasional glimpses of the glories of the kingdom, nestled among the hum-drum of everyday service.
But we may not find all the friends we or our children want. We may not find fellow birders or boaters or builders. We may not find others passionate about that niche ministry to ex-punk-rockers that floats our boat.
At Walmart I can take care of all of my shopping needs. I can buy my bread and my DVD and my tent and my Tylenol all in one place. There are churches like that. But they are rare.
Greater contentment would be found if we were to accept our churches for what they are, and not criticize (or leave) them for what they are not.
It may mean that for some needs we look elsewhere while retaining our commitment to and support for the local body of which we are a part.
It might be easier to find Christian philatelists at a local club than to find Christian philatelists at a local church.
So, stay in the church and join the club. Later, bring members of the club to your church.
Few will be the Walmart churches. But perhaps God brings us now and then to a neighborhood grocery store in order to start that missing sports department or electronics aisle. Perhaps our passions show us how we are to invest our lives in the church. Perhaps our longing is also our leading.
Rev. Randy Greenwald, senior pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church, 4455 30th St. E., Bradenton, writes a blog at somberanddull.blogspot.com. For more information about the church, visit www.gohope.net. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Herald, written by local clergy members.