Choosing A Church

I have been retired just over a year now. It has been an all new experience for me. Unlike my beloved wife who refuses to let go of the reigns of her profession as an educator (she recently substituted in her favorite school 11 days in a row!), I have intentionally shifted the gears of my daily schedule to more mentoring meetings with friends, increased time with family, and yes, some travel far and near. I do continue to serve on a chaplain team in a retirement center, and occasionally do pulpit supply for nearby congregations, but I have slowed down. In short, I am enjoying this time of my life. Our eldest son recently described this new chapter by saying, "Dad, it's like you and mom are on a sabbatical! You guys have earned it! You are free to travel, meet new friends and to visit new churches! Enjoy it!" I like what he described and we are trying to grow into this new phase of our lives.

About the matter of "visiting new churches," we are pioneering this with little experience for what can be a daunting challenge. After serving the same congregation for nearly twenty-seven years as pastor, I am now in new territory. We had to part ways last spring with our home church due to an unpleasant experience and now we are visiting around the county to find a new church family with which to plant our lives. We have been active churchmen and we want to continue this commitment to serve alongside God's people in the mission of advancing God's kingdom here in our community and around the world.
Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey
Normandy, France

We don't carry around a literal check list as we visit various churches. We do see things that we like and some things that fall a little short of our expectations. We are simply looking for a good fit. This process is a little like selecting a life-mate or developing a casual relationship into a full blown friendship. We know that this is a dynamic process and it that doesn't usually happen immediately as in the familiar phrase, "Love at first sight!" That is probably a little too simplistic to be accurate! We especially know that this endeavor is going to take some time, prayer, and practice to reach a satisfying conclusion.

If I were to state some of the things we are looking for, I could put down these expectations on a short list:  authentic worship that is centered on the Word of God, connection with new friends who are real and uncomplicated, and a mission strategy that is committed to extending the gospel by sharing and serving locally and to the ends of the earth. We have already discovered that churches take different approaches to "doing church," but one thing we don't want to sacrifice is a commitment to excellence.

Whatever the approach or style of worship or ministry engagement, it has to be done well! I have seen too many leaders who haven't done their homework and look a little like the good old boy who regularly substituted his lack of preparation with excuses while he closed his eyes just before every Sunday sermon and took his finger and pointed it to the text he thought God wanted him to deliver. It is said that when he opened his eyes, the text was in two parts. The first point was, "and Judas went out to hang himself." And the second point after another "prayerful" exercise said, "go thou and do likewise!" It is a bad joke, but it makes the argument for necessary and diligent preparation. My mentoring pastor, Dr. Archie Brown, often drilled this motto into me, "The call to ministry is a call to preparation!"

While there are numerous verses in the Bible that teach a commitment to excellence. this one has always spoken to me as a church leader, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV).
Let's do our best to do our best!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com

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