April 16, 2013

“So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.”   Acts 16:5

shoes 001I got new running shoes over the weekend.

My wife has been battling shin-splints and other leg injuries.  All the advice starts with, “get a pair of quality, fitted, running shoes.”  However, the variety of running shoe choices is a little mind-boggling.  We decided that we needed to go to a running store and have a professional fit us for running shoes.

We were both a little apprehensive about going and being fitted.  We were not thrilled with the idea of getting up on a treadmill and running in front of  a real runner.  I thought I could figure out the right shoe for me with a little research.  I did a little research and found that the shoe industry has made the selection of footwear as complicated as flight.  We decided that it would be better to pay someone else to do it.

Over the weekend, my wife and I sucked up our pride and headed into the city to get our fitting over with.  My sister-in-law, who is a runner, recommended a store.  It is a small retail store tucked away in a strip-mall, specializing in running and the associated paraphernalia.  I almost drove away when I saw how small the store front was.  There was not going to be any place to hide in this store.  As we entered the store, my fears were realized.  The store was not abandoned, they had other customers and all the activity was centered around the treadmill.

To my relief, we were welcomed by Holly, who was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt.  I had spied out Brad whose appearance was working overtime to communicate to the world that he was serious about running.  He wore shorts to expose the compression sleeves on his calves.  I was glad that Holly was helping us; too much pressure with Brad.

Holly brought out a variety of shoes for my wife and me to try.  She explained that they were all quality running shoes and that any would be a good base shoe but that we need to find the right fit.  I laced up the racy specimen that she handed me, pulled up my pant legs, and mounted the treadmill.  I was off to no-where; running under the watchful eye of Brad as he leaned against a display at the front of the treadmill.  He commented that I had a very efficient stride but that I pounded my foot-plants.  I was not sure if I should thank him or apologize.

After my little exhibition, I joined Holly and my wife in the viewing of my running video at the end of the treadmill.  To my relief, the video displayed just my ankles.

That was it.  I discovered that I am a neutral runner and proceeded onto selecting a shoe that felt the right.  We went through a variety of shoes and finally settled on the pair that felt the best.  Brad told me that he was not allowed to show a brand bias but since I picked the right one, he could now tell me I had picked the right one.  What a relief.

I’m excited about my new of shoes.  They just make me want to go for a run.

Church DoorsFinding the right fit in a pair of running shoes was not as bad as I thought.  I wish finding the right fit in a church was just as easy.  The variety of church options can be mind boggling.  The early Christians had an advantage in there being only one church option.  I wish you could just walk through the doors of a church, know exactly the quality of the teaching and doctrine, check out the specific support that is available for your special needs, and then be done.  You have found the perfect fit of a church.

That has not been my experience and I don’t think it is the experience of most.  About a year ago, we decided to stop the church plant that my family and I had participated in.  We then had the difficult task of finding a new church to join.  The church plant that we left just felt right and we very much wanted to find that same sort of place.

There is a lot of very good advice on how to find a good church.  I don’t have anything new to add.  However, I will share some of what I have learned from our church selection in the context of my shoe buying experience.

Get a Recommendation – don’t flip open the telephone directory, close your eyes, and let the Spirit direct your finger.  You might end up at a hardware store.  It is worthwhile to ask some mature believers who you trust for advice.  They probably can narrow the list down for you

Don’t be Scared away by a Small Store Front – the tendency is to seek out the large church bodies so that you can just blend in without being noticed.  If you are serious about getting involved in a local church, the smaller church bodies will be much easier and efficient to get to know them.  Just because they are small does not mean that they don’t know what they are doing.

Don’t be Scared away by Brad – every church has a Brad.  Some have more Brads than others.  This is the guy (it usually is a guy) who works very hard to get the word “eschatology” into a conversation.  He has very strong opinions about theology and wants you know that he is a theologian.  Ignore the Brads and seek out the Hollys; the Hollys are the individuals who are not there to impress you but are there to help.  They are mature believers who have been part of the church for a long time and want to try and help you decide if their church is a good fit.

Start with Quality – make sure the core of the church is solid.  Just like there is a lot variety in the quality of running shoes, there is a lot of variety in the quality churches.  You need to know how to determine whether you are dealing with a Saucony type of church that is Biblically solid and will not injure you or whether you are dealing with a knock-off, no-name, brand, that looks good from the outside, but is going to cause you all sorts of pain.  You have to start with Biblical quality.

 Test the Fit –  make sure that the church can meet your special needs if you have them.  I know that some will argue that we should not treat the church as a consumer.  I agree with that.  However, I think that it is fine to evaluate a church body’s gifting and decide if one is a better fit to you and your family.  If you have a passel of young kids and the church that you have visited doesn’t have anyone under the age of 60, then it probably is going to be more difficult for a young mother to fit-in and feel support in that sort of body.  If you have a background of addiction and one church has a dynamic addiction program, then that church might be a very good fit for your gifting and background.  If you are struggling and really need to be discipled and one church has an active small group program, then that body might be the best place to provide you the support that you need.  If you are pretty neutral, then you probably can fit into most any church body and you should be looking for a place where you can readily serve.

Does it Feel Right –  the right fit will just feel right.  I believe that the Spirit will confirm that a church body is right by settling our spirit.  It just feels right.  Now, that does not mean that a place is wrong if it does not feel right.  There may be a lot of other facts that are associated with unsettled feelings.  However, the best fit is the one that just feels right and makes you want to join in whole heartedly.  That is the best of all fits.

Buy Them – you have to commit.  I had to make a significant investment for my new shoes.  Likewise, we all need to commit to our local church body.  The Church was given to us for a purpose.  It was not intended to sit on the shelf of our lives.  The Church was intended to be a place of growth and encouragement but those are activities that we have to be a part of.  You will never be a part of your church’s purpose until you commit.

I really like my new shoes.  I doubt if they are the perfect shoe.  I don’t know if the perfect shoe exists.

Marahon shoes

Marahon shoes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like my new church.  I know that the perfect church does not exist.  I like the quote by C.H. Spurgeon, “If I had never joined a church till I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all; and the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us.”

We need to stop looking for the perfect church but find the one that is the best fit, commit, and get back in the race..

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for your Church.  Thank you for my freedom to openly gather in your name and worship You with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Forgive me for my own imperfections and unrighteous attitudes that bring I into it.  Forgive me from holding back from your people.  Help me to commit to the local body where you have drawn me.  Father, make it feel right in my heart.  Give me a joy in my local church that motivates me to run hard in the race that You have laid before us.  Amen.


  1. […]  Maybe, it was Cervelo wanting to sponsor some bike gear.  Maybe, it was Mizuno.  I had blogged about getting my running shoes.  I had recently emailed Tim Challies at Challies.com, a big-time […]

  2. I am so glad that you included the section on committment. without that, our goal simply ends with good intentions.

  3. While I agree with part if your premise, I think it’s important that finding a church not be exactly like shoe shopping. You buy shoes to fit you. Having such a view of church is backwards. Church is not about you. It’s about Christ. And, you should change you to fit it. Today, many churches stoop to fit the people they seek to bring in. They sacrifice their theology and convictions on the alter of church attendance.

    This “seeker friendly” movement advertises “come as you are,” and then in order to not offend or run anyone off, they settle at “stay as you are.” When you buy shoes, you want them to be comfortable. But, a good church can (and should) at times make you uncomfortable. Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” The truth of the gospel is offensive. You are a sinner, and you cannot do anything save yourself. The nature of the gospel is that it separates. Like a sword, it cuts off.

    So, my response is, be careful with this analogy.

    • I appreciate your observations. Don’t want to find a church it’s easy to fall asleep in!

  4. Good post. The idea of “a fit” is a profound idea, even more so, when connected with our spirituality, and our community. Thanks,

  5. I agree with everything that you’ve said in your post.

    We changed church nearly two years ago now.

    I remember us worrying about moving to a new church and the effect on the kids etc. However, as soon as we walked through the door, everything felt right and the kids fitted straight in and we have never looked back.


  6. What a fantastic post! Such a great analogy, thank you!

  7. That church of older people may be more supportive of young families than other churches. They aren’t all busy with their own families, they have a wealth of experience to share, and they are concerned about an aging congregation and will be thrilled to have you.

    Sometimes it is hard to be the first young family, but maybe that will open the door for the next young family to come in. So don’t rule that older congregation out. That might be the best place for you after all, and the place where you can have the greatest impact just by being there.

    • Jon – your point is very well taken and the principle can be applied for those who are in a variety of different stages in their life. This particular issue probably would merit a little more investigation, discussion with the church leaders, and realistic expectations from those who are joining. The family that is joining needs to pray about their decision and know what they are committing to. I agree that a young family, joining an older congregation, can be the best place for them to worship and serve. thanks for your comment.
      God Bless!

      • Thanks, JD, good comments.

    • Hello Jon; JD. I agree very much with Jon and had been about to post something similar. I would like to add a reminder about mission; and its implications at a personal level.

      We don’t go into a shoe shop to change something about that shop. It may, however, be that we end up in a particular church because it needs something we bring to it. That may be a young, energetic family whose appearance is attended by something like a breath of fresh air. It may simply be new ideas, or fresh ways of understanding discipleship.

      Either way, going to a new church is only partly about how it fits us. It may be the uncomfortable fit that means that we are called there. Because, wherever we finds ourselves, if we are truly surrendering to the will of God, then we are there because of our calling within the Royal Priesthood of all believers; because we have been given a mission in that place, and to that community. This is what I believe.

  8. Thank you for liking my post on Acceptence. I do like your blog and this post on comparing shoes to churches. May God bless your work.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: