One of the things most of us are concerned about when it comes to our church is whether or not we've found a 'good' one. This question may resurface when our church, for whatever reason, changes - when we move to a new town and have to find a new place of worship, when a new pastor comes into our pulpit, when life just happens.
You'll hear a lot of opinions on this question, usually centered around sermons, music, or service. You've found a 'good' church, they say, when you've found one whose preaching is agreeable to you or whose sermons push you to grow in your faith. You've found a 'good' church, they say, when the style of music really resonates with you and you are able to worship. You've found a 'good' church, they say, when you find one that's got a lot of community programs and is really doing a good work in its world.
But nobody is talking about the heart of the church in any of this because the heart of the church is not the sermon. The heart of the church is not the music. The heart of the church is not the mission. The heart of the church is the ministry, and the ministry is found in the liturgy.
Liturgy is a word that we don't talk about much in most of the "non-denominational Christian" movement. For those denominations that use a liturgy, their understanding is not exactly what I'm talking about here, either. I'm not just talking about a reading schedule or the way that we work our way through the Scriptures around the calendar, hitting all of the holy seasons at just the right time.
I'm talking about a liturgy that creates holy seasons, the kind of liturgy that is simply the sacred rhythm of the way that we do church.
And every church has this kind of liturgy.
For some churches, the liturgy is very bare-bones: we sing, then we sermon, then we fellowship. For others, it's very involved, including altar calls, benedictions, the Lord's Supper, baptismals, etc. For still others, it's somewhere in the middle. Still others change their liturgy with the season, incorporating more, perhaps, around Christmas or Easter and less on summer break.
However we do it, we have to be aware that each church has its own sacred rhythms. Each church has its own liturgy. And what we need to be looking for when we're looking for a 'good' church is one that invites us into its sacred rhythms that resonate with the pulse of our own faith-heart.
Maybe you don't need a lot of pomp around your worship service. That's fine. The sing, sermon, fellowship approach may work great for you. Maybe you need more structure to your heart. That's fine, too. One of the more traditionally liturgical churches may be right up your alley. Me? I need a church that celebrates the Lord's Supper every week. That's part of the heartbeat of my faith. Without it, I feel like a stranger in a strange land.
It's not really that one church is 'good' and one is not. Or that one church is better than another. That's really the wrong question. The question is which church nourishes us, and when you find a church whose sacred rhythms pulse in harmony with yours, then that is a good place for you to be (as long, of course, as it is a church whose teaching is Scriptural and whose heart is for God). It doesn't matter what the sign on the building says, whether it's "just" a "church," or Lutheran or United Methodist or Catholic or Presbyterian or whatever. If that is the place where your soul sings, then you have found a 'good' church.