By Deacon Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
We do not "shop" for a church; the Church invites us to be a part of the Body of Christ on earth.
It was the last part of a Saturday morning "relaxation" ritual, reading the local newspaper.
The process always began with pouring a casual cup of coffee, reading through the front section, local news and then to the entertainment section called "The Daily Break". The entire front page of that section was devoted on this particular day to a feature article entitled "Church Shopping: Finding the perfect place to worship is answer to prayers for many."
I decided to read the article- after first dismissing it cavalierly. My first negative reaction was to the subtitle. I recalled the words of an old Pentecostal preacher I met when I was as a teenager, right before I came home to my Catholic faith. "Son, if you ever find the perfect church, don't join it" he opined, "it won't be perfect anymore."
I immediately reacted against the very premise of the main title of the article -- that we actually can "shop" for the Body of Christ. As if the primary identification of eternal life and the very existential purpose in our present life could be reduced to one more consumer selection among many in the contemporary smorgasbord of our modern life-ugh!
As I read the article however, I realized just how important the topic truly was. It revealed a fundamental human experience, the “search” for God and for a home in Him.
We all identify with the search to belong. Ultimately, we were made for God, and as St. Augustine said so well "our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee." We were all born to be "born again" into the Church through the font of Baptism. The modern seeker movement and this notion of "church shopping" is symptomatic of a deeper longing.
However, there is much more to be learned from this article. Not necessarily in the way the author intended, but at a deeper level. It reveals something shallow about the mentality of some contemporary versions of Christianity. I was struck by how far we have wandered from the ancient Christian faith.
Perhaps what was most disturbing and challenging to me personally, as a Catholic Christian and clergyman, were the comments in the article from one of the interviewees named "Mark." He was portrayed as a "life-long Catholic" who moved from Buffalo, New York to study journalism at Regent University. He had apparently joined this roving band of those searching for a "perfect" church by visiting more than a dozen congregations looking for "friends" and "soulful music." He started down the path after being encouraged by his classmates.
Well if Mark or someone like him is “searching” for a church and reading this article, I have some good news. The Church they “search” for has been searching for them and there is a special place reserved for them.
I have always found it a great honor to help people like Mark, who do not yet grasp the depth of what they already have in their Catholic Christian faith. I have found that to be the case with many practicing or “former” Catholics.
Over the years I have also worked closely with inquirers from other Christian communities seeking to understand the depth of the Catholic view of the Church. Many have been drawn to the profound truth of the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist and beauty of the worship at the sacred liturgy. Others, tired of novelty, long to hear the Word of God, as it has been guarded and beautifully exposed by the teaching office of a two thousand year old Church.
Though I understood Mark's hunger for something more like what he "left at home," he among all those featured in the article, should have understood that the Church is not something you “shop” for.
After all, he was a Catholic Christian. He should have known that it is actually the Church which, in carrying on the redemptive work of the Master, seeks us out---not the other way around.
"You did not choose me but I chose you…" (See, John 15:16).
I admire Regent University and its mission of "training Christian leaders to change the world." I have had a long and varied relationship with the University and with its parent organization, the Christian Broadcast network. I have respected their efforts to insure that the "Christian" in its mission truly included all Christians, including Catholic and Orthodox Christians, even though it is an Evangelical Protestant institution.
I remember when I first moved to Southeastern Virginia in 1991. It was at the invitation of Pat Robertson, to head the "American Center for Law and Justice," a pro-life, religious freedom public ...
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