Church shopping

A friend of mine recently asked me to pose the following question to the readers of this site:

“I don’t know anyone who goes to church in Ypsilanti. Do you go to church in Ypsilanti? Where? Why?”

This friend and his family live here in Ypsi, but attend a church elsewhere, and now they’re looking for a place closer to home, in the community.

As some of you may recall, I myself have looked in the past. A few years ago, I visited a post-denominational mega-church in Plymouth and a Unitarian church in Ann Arbor. I admittedly wasn’t expecting to find a good fit at the mega-church, but I thought that maybe I’d feel at home with the Unitarians. As it turned out, while I liked the Unitarians quite a bit, I didn’t find a good fit there either. I’d planned to visit the Quakers, and a few other denominations in the area, but I slowly started to lose my motivation. It wasn’t that I stopped being interested in finding a community of faith of which I could be a part. I just gave up on the idea that I might find a perfect fit here in the area, where choices are somewhat limited… Anyway, now it’s probably time for me to start thinking about it again as well. So, if you have suggestions, please leave a comment.

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63 Comments

  1. Posted May 18, 2009 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    And I forgot to mention that, in addition to visiting Northridge and the Unitarian church, I also sat close enough to the Satanist meeting at Cafe Luwak once to hear what they were discussing. (Does anyone know if the Satanists still meet there?)

  2. Brackinald Achery
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    As a good place to start, what does your friend want to get out of going to an established church that he can’t get anywhere else?

  3. dragon
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    ‘Church for the Unchurched’
    For those who have lost thier faith , but still want a “Sunday morning experience” where they could enjoy the fellowship and sense of belonging that comes with church attendance.
    Join the Church of Freethought .
    It has all the social and community structure of conventional churches but devoid of all the “supernatural” or “superstitious” content.
    The COF draws a variety of freethinkers, who identify themselves as skeptics, atheists, agnostics or doubters. In lieu of theology, these churchgoers cherish rationalism, and the motto of their church is “think”. The COF is concerned with issues of justice, honesty, and values, and teaches most of the same concepts of right and wrong as other churches, but they maintain that making the right moral choices has everything to do with rational thought and nothing to do with belief in a higher power.

  4. maryd
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 5:17 am | Permalink

    I attended the Northridge Christmas show and am still in awe. The place is huge and the kids play electric guitars and the altar is a sound stage, looks more like orchestra hall. I admit being curious about Sunday AM services. A far cry from a Catholic Mass I imagine.
    I hike the woods on Sunday AM, God’s cathedral.

  5. Posted May 19, 2009 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    Hopefully, this friend of mine will join us in this discussion. While we’re waiting for him, though, I guess I’ll get the ball rolling, as I think, to some extent he and I are looking for the same thing… I’ll start by saying what I’m not looking for. I’m not looking for a church where there’s no talk of good works. I’m not looking for a church with high production values, where the message seems to be more about self-help, and achieving my financial goals through worship than about creating a community of peace and tolerance. I’d want to find a church more dedicated to rigorous debate on theological issues than on blind acceptance. I’d want to find a church where the parishioners don’t accept that torture has to have a place in our foreign policy… I could go on, but I’m late as it is… More later….

  6. tommy
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    Mark, what you are looking for in a church … ain’t gonna’ be found in any church affiliated with any organized religion that I can think of. When the premise of an omnipotent ‘magic sky wizard is the starting point, what do you expect?

  7. Dirtgrain
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    Maybe he ought to design his ideal church. That would be interesting to read.

  8. Posted May 19, 2009 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Perhaps you should go to a Unitarian church.

  9. Posted May 19, 2009 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Oh forget, you already went. The Church of Satan?

  10. Zach
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Though I don’t attend, the United Church of Christ tends to be a relatively laid back and liberal denomination, especially because of their “open and affirming” policy. There’s one in Ypsilanti:

    First Congregational United Church of Christ of Ypsilanti

  11. Ol' E Cross
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    I know a lot of people in Ypsi, but none that attend church in the area.

    Rather than focusing on what I’m looking for; I’m interested in what folks have found. Since I don’t know anyone who can give me recommendations of places to visit, I was hoping somebody reading might be able to. If there’s anyone who reads this blog that attends in the area, I’d really just like to know what you like, or at least find tolerable, about your church.

    Thanks.

  12. Becks
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    There are quite a few churches for sale in town, I say buy one and start an Ypsilanti Church of Brunch.

  13. Paw
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Seriously, does no one in the Mark Maynard Dot Com audience attend church? What is it about us? Are we lazy? Are we non-believers? Are we loners by nature? Do we just think too much? Or, could it be that we’re just too busy masturbating?

  14. Ol' E Cross
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Becks,

    The First Congregational Church of Christ is for sale? Anybody know if they’re moving or closing?

  15. Peri Stone-Palmquist
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    My family does attend church and have visited a lot in the area. This is such a personal decision, but we were looking for a community that REALLY cares about people, particularly people in need. We wanted a place where there was true diversity. We wanted to see people of other races, ages, singles and families. And we really hoped to find something in Ypsi.

    We are attending First United Methodist Church of Ypsilanti and have been impressed. They truly care about the community and about the people in the congregation. We just had a baby and they delivered meals to us for a week — even though none of the people knew us. They have given grants to area nonprofits and have done amazing things for individuals in need who don’t even go to the church. While diversity could always be improved, this is a congregation with a lot of different kinds of people — young and old, black, white and brown.

    Anyway, I don’t know if that helps. I think there are a lot of cool churches here — but it all depends what you’re looking for. Big, small. Traditional or not. Liberal or conservative. Etc.

  16. Meta
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    “I’ve never really been to church, does it suck as much as the Simpsons leads me to believe?”

    http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/8llt0/ive_never_really_been_to_church_does_it_suck_as/

  17. roots
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    A friend of mine attend’s St. Luke’s on Huron…seems to really like it…

  18. roots
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    ARGH. No apostrophe in “attends”!

  19. Posted May 19, 2009 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    I go to Temple Beth Emeth (not as much as I should!!!) and really like it. It’s Reform Judaism, which is quite liberal.

  20. Posted May 19, 2009 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    My wife, daughter, and I don’t attend church now because our daughter has a hard time sitting still for an hour, but I grew up attending the Dixboro United Methodist Church. I’ve also been to the United Methodist Church in Ypsilanti near downtown, which I was liked a lot.

    Mark, from what you mentioned you were looking for in a church, especially service to others, I’d look into the United Methodist Church. There is a woman pastor at the one in Ypsilanti and I still remember her sermon from when we went there about a year ago. They also offer a service in Spanish. The vibe from both churches is laid back, non-judgemental, open, tolerant, and progressive, yet still traditional. I remember a sermon from the one in Dixboro about how we should accept homosexuality in the church community and how it shouldn’t be considered a sin. The people who go there tend to be good, regular people, and I still consider many of them family.

    I don’t know what else to say other than to do some research on the United Methodist Church. I would like to go to the Methodist church in Ypsilanti when Ella is ready…mostly for the sense of community. Like Maryd said, I prefer a hike in the woods, but I think it would be nice for my daughter to develop a spiritual background in a church. I’m glad I was raised in one, and my experience at Dixboro helped me get to where I am now, even though I have always questioned, searched, and remain sort of an independent to all religions and denominations.

  21. Posted May 19, 2009 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Mark, and OEC of course….(and anyone else)

  22. Ol' E Cross
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Peri/couz, I think First Methodist is next on our list. Thanks for your perspective. And, thanks all. Personally, I’d love to hear more.

  23. Peri Stone-Palmquist
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Another church worth checking out in Ypsi is the Episcopal church on Huron. http://www.stlukesypsi.com/ The rector there is an incredibly smart woman and we found the congregation very inviting. They are very open and affirming. Not a lot of young kids (my son is 2).

    If you don’t mind going to AA for church, http://www.cogsaa.org is very progressive. The people there are incredibly nice and committed to social justice. It is small and very laid back — the service started 30 minutes late when we attended and included a time of open sharing.

    And Vineyard Church in Ann Arbor might be worth checking out if you’re a fan of the Emergent church movement and like bigger churches. The pastor is quite progressive on issues like evolution and the environment. They also have a huge children’s program.

    FUMC of Ypsi also has a great children’s program I should mention. How old is your daughter, OEC?

  24. Ranay Brown
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Greetings All!
    My first time here! I just could not resist leaving a comment to this most interesting thread.
    I am an ordained minister, and I live here in Ypsilanti. I moved here 4 years ago and have absolutely fallen in love with the diversity of the people, amazing coffee shops, awesome food co-op, and even found a great tattoo artist! A member of my congregation forwarded me this link, thought I might want to have some input. I do.
    First let me say, that the American church is changing. I can say there are little pockets of people who take being a believer seriously, and who want to love ALL people! The church is coming out of an age of legalism, judgment, and moving away from past hurts. Great things are happening in the Ypsilanti area in regards to the church. For instance did you know that there is a plan to build a church that will house, feed, and educate the homeless in our area? There are also plans to build a working farm, which will teach and train ex-prisoners renewable and sustainable living.
    Of course I could suggest a church…guess who the Pastor is? I certainly don’t want to use this forum to drum up membership. I really wanted to say, that Ypsilanti has a great community of believers who are deeply spiritual. Don’t get discouraged; shop until you find a place where you sense God’s Presence. It does exist in Ypsilanti!

  25. Posted May 19, 2009 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    As to your question about the satanists, I havent seen them in quite a while. They stopped coming in shortly after the article in the Metro Times came out. I seem to remember there was some fallout from that for the father, and I think he lost his job. Our Sundays are a lot busier now that we are serving the breakfast buffet, so I doubt they will be having their meetings here again.

  26. Posted May 19, 2009 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    I love the pentagram pancakes, Jim.

  27. Posted May 19, 2009 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    And, Ranay, thank you for the comments. I’ve taken the liberty of starting a new thread based upon some of what you’ve written. You can find it on the front page.

  28. Posted May 19, 2009 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    And thanks to everyone who has contributed to this thread. I’ve found your comments to be extremely useful, and I’m sure that others have as well.

  29. Posted May 19, 2009 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if it would make sense at some point to have a community event where all the local churches had tables and talked about what they believed, their programs, etc. I think it could be cool to have 20 tables with ministers that people could walk around and talk with.

  30. Brackinald Achery
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if there are any that are neither progressive nor neoconservative. You know… actually scripturally based and not politically biased. Do they make those anymore?

  31. Posted May 20, 2009 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Mark –

    I grew up in St Paul United Church of Christ, in Chelsea. I’ve never been to First Congregational UCC here in town, but if I were looking for a church in town, it’s where I’d start. (UCC is Obama’s church, after all! And, you know, it’s close to my house.) UCC churches have a good amount of freedom, so it’s hard to say how similar this one is to the one I grew up in, but I think the UCC in general has a good core of peace, tolerance, good works, and democracy that you or OEC wouldn’t find offensive.

    To OEC, The First Congregational Church of Christ is for sale? Anybody know if they’re moving or closing? – having talked to the broker a while back, I believe they’re downsizing, as their membership has declined over the years. It sounded like their preferred option was either to divide/condo the property and sell the larger historic part, keeping the newer, smaller annex, or else sell the whole thing and lease back the annex.

  32. Ol' E Cross
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Peri, She’s five.

    Ranay, I don’t think you should feel shy about plugging your church here. I’d love to hear plugs from a lot of area priests and pastors.

    Murph, Interesting. Personally, I’d never buy a church with a dwindling membership. I’d just get enough friends to become members so we were the voting majority and then proceed with a hostile takeover. Hmmm…

    Mark, the table thing isn’t a bad idea, the only problem with it is, when visiting a church, the “vibe” I get from the congregation is at least as important as what comes from the lectern (for example, note Peri didn’t mention the pastor but focused more on the people). And, it’d be helpful to know how many people were actually looking for a church (or if only three folks would show up).

  33. Peri Stone-Palmquist
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    OEC – Your daughter might like the children’s Sunday School at FUMC. They sit in the service for awhile and then head back before the sermon.

    Brackinald Achery:
    “I wonder if there are any that are neither progressive nor neoconservative. You know… actually scripturally based and not politically biased. Do they make those anymore?”

    All of the churches we visited in the past year were scripturally based. But to me, Scripture-based IS or should be progressive. I personally can’t attend a church where say women can’t serve in leadership roles, where the pastor is speaking out against gay marriage, where the focus is not on true service and loving your neighbor, where there is no commitment to caring for the earth. Labels aren’t that helpful, I know, so I apologize.

    Anyway, thanks for the good thread. This is an issue that our family struggled with a lot this year. We kept wishing there was a Web site where we could enter and prioritize certain values and then, voila, a church name would pop up as a recommendation. No such luck ….

  34. Brackinald Achery
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Funny, the neocons say the same thing.

  35. EOS
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Peri,

    On what basis do you believe scripture is progressive? Is there a reference in the Bible that suggests that it is? The scriptures I read say women shouldn’t be placed in authority over men, that marriage is between a man and a woman, that salvation is the priority and then works follow, and that man has dominion over the earth. Do you believe that God is O.K. if everyone decides for themselves?

    It’s very popular today to reject narrow, judgemental views. But the Bible has a very different message. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matt 7:13-14

    He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” Luke 13:24

    How does one evolve beyond the standards that God has written about in His Word and decide for yourself? Doesn’t the Bible also say that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever?

  36. Dirtgrain
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    EOS, what church do you attend, how would you characterize it, and what is the typical experience like there?

  37. Posted May 20, 2009 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    EoS of course stupidly indicates to us that the Bible is to be taken literally, then provides us with her own stupid, human interpretation of a vague analogy involving gates.

  38. kjc
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    karen armstrong notes that before the scientific revolution, no one interpreted the bible literally. maybe we could get a time machine.

  39. rodneyn
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Come visit the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (941 S. Grove Rd.). Visitors are always welcome! Our services start at 9:00 am. “shop” online for more information at:

    http://www.mormon.org/mormonorg/eng/worship-with-us/what-to-expect, and
    http://www.providentliving.org

  40. Lisele
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    I have been attending the AA Friends Meeting (Quakers) for about 4 years. I was looking for a church with women in leadership roles that is heavily involved in justice issues. There have been female leaders among Quakers for about 300 years, which I appreciate. I also really went for the Quaker flat hierarchy style — there is no minister; instead the position of Clerk rotates. (It’s more complex than that, but space does not permit.) Far and away the most important thing to me is that members “walk their talk,” or at least many of them do, very involved in all kinds of justice work. Also, I really like the Meeting for Worship for Business. All decisions of the congregation are made by consensus. This Meeting practices “unprogrammed worship,” which means sitting in silence, waiting for Spirit to speak, perhaps only to individuals or maybe to the entire group.

    In general, the Quakers are a strange mix of spiritual and businesslike, which turns out to really appeal to me. I like my spirituality to be part of my “everyday sacred” and Quakers are like that. The self-evident testimonies which guide behavior among Friends include Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Earthcare. They are also very relaxed — now — about queers in their midst. They were a bit more freaked out by my earth-based spirituality, however they are OK with it now (Quaker roots are in Christianity). Friends do not accept dogma; instead, they believe in continuing revelation — God is still speaking — so Quakers get to change their minds. I like that.

    I am active on the Environment & Social Concerns committee and the Quaker House Committee (the residential community attached to the Meetinghouse). I am still an “attender,” not a member.

  41. Posted May 20, 2009 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Peri –

    Lucky for you, there’s the Belief-O-Matic!

    However, I think almost all of the churches mentioned here (UCC, FUM, St Lukes) would fall into the “Mainline / Liberal Protestant Christian” category.

  42. Lisele
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    O no! According to the Belief-o-Matic, apparently I’m more Unitarian than either Quaker *or* pagan. Uh oh. What’ll I do on Sunday?

  43. Peri Stone-Palmquist
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    Oh, yeah, the Belief-O-Matic! I have done that! But what I was looking for was a Local Church O Matic, I guess.

    Just to second what Lisele said, I have many friends who attend Quaker meeting and really love it.

    EOS, I won’t be able to win a theological debate right now. With a 3-week-old infant, I’m just not operating with enough sleep. Suffice it to say, I don’t read the Bible “literally” (not that anyone really does) but try to understand it in its historic context. I see a lot of important themes in the Bible about loving others in a radical way, being a steward of the earth, and voting for Democrats. (Kidding!) There are also plenty of examples of women being put in leadership roles that were pretty radical for the time.

    But EOS, you’re right. You can pull out a whole bunch of verses that are not “progressive.” I’m no theologian and I know lots of Christians wouldn’t be down with my interpretation of things. That’s cool. I’m trying to be true to what makes sense to me after many years of study — and I respect that plenty of others will land somewhere else.

  44. Brackinald Achery
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    I think the key to understanding the anti-women-in-authority verses is to understand the goddess Artemis of the Ephesians and what she was like. I think Paul was trying to counter those embedded cultural understandings of gender roles regarding the relative uselessless of men and the superiority of women (Artemis was a chaste hunter, by the way, even though she was regarded as having authority over fertility and child bearing (due to helping her mother give birth to her little brother Apollo)).

    Paul also cites the Genesis story about Eve sinning first, but I think he’s trying to say something other than what we think he’s trying to say. He’s not trying to say women are more evil or gullible or something, rather that God held Adam responsible for the fall of mankind, even though Eve sinned first. So, agree or not, I believe Paul was trying to say that he believed in gender roles that put men as the accountable buck-stops-here authority, symbolic of God who took the full and ultimate punishment for everyone else’s sin, even though he didn’t commit any himself (which is where the symbolism diverges from the Genesis account of the Fall, wherein Adam does sin). That’s what I think Paul was trying to say, agree or not.

    I know no one cares, but I think it’s as airtight a theory in interpreting these verses as I’ve ever come across.

    But I digress.

  45. jean
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    I grew up with religious traditions of the more conservative stripe and in a community that was even more conservative than that, but also very, very service oriented. They created a de-facto social service net that far outstripped the government funded one after Reagan came on duty. So I have a healthy respect for both the value and pitfalls of organized religion. That said, in high school I re-read the bible for a class and found that it was suddenly very clearly a ‘book’ to me with authors… none of whom were God or even Jesus, each with different perspectives and versions of events, even different voices. I just kept looking for direct quotes from Jesus that confirmed that he believed he was the son of God and couldn’t find them, ‘the way’ ok, ‘son of man’ ok. I couldn’t recognize many of my church’ teachings in what the bible said as a narrative. Nobody in my church would have let Mary Magdalene anywhere near them, much less their feet— at least not in public. They would have fed and housed her but not accepted her. Since that time I have been engaged in a struggle with faith. I believe we can not know what more there is and that a fundamental humility is helpful in this life and this culture especially. I believe that faith is the best we can do. I believe moral certitude and religion do not mix naturally, but that moral certitude and human nature do inevitably. Organized religion is a human endeavor; I don’t blame God for its failings.

    I have been to many services that moved me and repelled me at the same time. I was ok with that. I do not believe in editing community, so a tailor made church is not what I have sought. I found one Minister who really spoke to me, Reverend Laverne Gill at Webster Church United Church of Christ near Dexter. There was never an atmosphere of judgment in the room at Webster Church. There was great spirit and rejoicing and impressive commitment to service for such a tiny place. Most importantly for me, Rev. Gill never assumed that everyone in attendance at services were believers, however eager she was to have us feel and believe as she clearly felt and believed. For her a crisis of faith was a rite of passage; even Jesus had one or two. She is unfortunately gone now, and I have yet to find a substitute for her compelling, interpretive sermons and spirit.

    I am looking because I would like to provide my children with a religious education and some understanding of both the capacities and limitations of organized religion— like I had. I do not want them to dismiss religion out of ignorance— or be vulnerable to manipulative pseudo-spiritualism out of neediness. I am still faith-challenged and am looking for a church that can acknowledge the validity of that state. I do believe that a church only concerned with eternal salvation and not earthly charity is misguided. I don’t know how you get from Jesus to judgment from a strict interpretation of the bible. But I have met and liked a lot of fundamentalists and evangelical Christians; this was a pleasant surprise. Christianity contains more complexity and resonance than most give it credit for. It’s worth the journey, at least

  46. EOS
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    Dirtgrain,

    I took Murph’s Belief-o-Matic and scored 100% Mainline / Conservative Protestant Christian, which I guess is how I would describe the churches I attend. I’ve church shopped in the area for a number of years and haven’t found a church that meets all my needs, so I combine a few. I go to that post-denominational mega-church in Plymouth on Saturdays (North Ridge). I agree with Mark’s assessment that it’s pretty shallow – heavy on the entertainment and light on the scripture. But the worship rocks. Loud, with screaming guitar solos, and 3,500 persons in the auditorium joining in singing and clapping and praising God. The talks are short, unusually focused on something relevant for today, and usually some drama or video and always some humor. They have a real professional presentation. They used to have a Wednesday night service that went deeper, and had more music, but they stopped it other than once a month. There’s a real joy in the worship and an enthusiasm that I’ve never experienced in any other church and dress is casual.

    On Sundays, I go to a fundamental Baptist Church. First, there’s a 45 minute Bible study, led by one of the men in the congregation. It starts with announcements about church member’s concerns of the week and then brief prayers. We usually cover a chapter or book of the Bible over a several month period. Then there’s a 15 minute break for coffee, donuts and socializing. The morning service starts with a few hymns, then there’s announcements and prayer, and then special music like a solo or duet or instrumental. Then the pastor reads a scripture passage, prays, and then preaches about that passage for about an hour or so. We study the Word sentence by sentence. The pastor explains the historical background, the etymology of the original words, and explains other passages that relate to those we’re studying. He opens up our understanding of the passage by pointing out significant aspects. Then he’ll relate it to us today – if there’s a command to follow, a promise to claim, etc. The service closes with another hymn and then we socialize. Sunday evening service is usually another hour and a half Bible study led by the pastor. Once a month there’s communion and usually around once a month there’s a potluck or a barbecue or desserts to share after the service. The church has about 100 regular attendees and there’s a real fellowship and accountability among members. This church has a very formal dress code, and no worldly music or movies (even contemporary Christian music is worldly), no dancing, clapping, drinking, or smoking. They take their faith very seriously and I doubt any of them would ever read a blog like this one. They sponsor a lot of missionaries overseas, but isolate their families from the culture in their own community.

    I listen to John Piper’s sermon podcasts during the week – Desiring God’s Ministry. He’s a Presbyterian from Minnesota. I also listen to Hank Hannegraf’s Bible Answer Man podcasts when I can. Monday night there’s 24 hour prayer at a local Assembly of God church, Wednesday is a prayer meeting at the Baptist church, and Saturday morning is a one hour prayer meeting at a local Lutheran church. In short, I follow a schizophrenic assortment of conflicting denominations but I read the Bible daily and read through the entire Bible each year. I was an atheist for 25 years and have a lot of lost time to make up for. I’d love to find a church that goes deep in the study of scripture but also has a wide open worship style and isn’t rigid or legalistic.

    Jean – I appreciate your comments and honesty. I’ve been taught that salvation is of primary importance and then works and charity follow as a natural consequence. It’s just a matter of putting the horse before the cart. It’s better to save a man’s soul for eternity than to give him a meal for the day.

  47. Posted May 20, 2009 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Obviously, none of it has worked for you. You’re still an asshole.

  48. jean
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate your willingness to subject your beliefs to the rigors of this audience, EOS, but have to wonder why charity/evangelism is an either/or proposition for you. You may buy some time in selling a man on eternity if you feed him a meal. As for the gate whose narrowness you read as meaning only the righteous (‘narrow-minded’) will be allowed in, I read it as the way is not so obvious as it may seem. It is challenging and hard to see, even harder to achieve. Few will do the work to get there. There are false paths that are compelling and seem obvious but will not get you through, will not get you anywhere but miserable. This corresponds to other religions’ views on enlightenment. I have no problem with that.

  49. EOS
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Jean,

    It’s not an either/or proposition for me. Salvation is a gift of God and that’s the only way a person can enter heaven. Works are directed by the Spirit and earn rewards in heaven – maybe a bigger mansion or whatever. Works are motivated by our gratitude for what God has already accomplished. Churches that focus on charity as their primary emphasis can be dangerous to those who might think that by being a “good person” and helping their neighbor that God will appreciate their efforts and let them into heaven as a result. The Bible says that all our good works are like filthy rags. An omnipotent God doesn’t need us to do anything. Unlike any other religion, Christianity is all about what God has already done for us, not what we do for Him. Believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins on the cross, repent of your sinful ways and turn away from them, and accept Jesus as your personal Savior. There are many paths that seem right to men but the only true path is to follow Jesus.

  50. kjc
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    “Works are directed by the Spirit and earn rewards in heaven – maybe a bigger mansion or whatever.”

    what if you don’t mind an apt? can you do a few good works without damning yourself?

    (jean, you’re my hero.)

  51. EOS
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    kjc,

    Works are the evidence of salvation. If you do few good works then you probably are not saved. But works are not good ideas thought up by man. Good works are directed by the Holy Spirit and accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit.

  52. jean
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    EOS, you quote the Old Testament, Isaiah I think, calling out for mercy to an angry God. If Christianity provides the redemption Isaiah craved, I do not believe Jesus ever meant you to believe it is as automatic as belief alone, that you get a clean slate so much as relief from guilt and despair— There are false prophets in Christianity too. Not sure how you can dismiss this:
    “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
    36″Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
    37The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
    Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

    Not the Priest, EOS, the samaritan.

  53. EOS
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    I don’t dismiss the good Samaritan. Jesus said that all of the law is fulfilled by these two concepts: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. God first, then your neighbor. If you love God, then you will obey all His commands. Jesus spoke His harshest words against the religious leaders.

  54. jean
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Indeed, EOS! The only two absolutely clear things in the New Testament. Not sure about why an order of action steps is necessary. I hope you can find your way to those precepts, EOS. We are all flawed, sinners, even those who would be admitted to ‘the kingdom’. Jesus faltered too. We can not obey all God’s commands, because we can not know them with certainty—- just do the best we can to understand what we should do. The way may look different to you than it does to others; loving your neighbors entails respecting their paths, not judging them. Humility before God requires that you accept that you can not know. Belief is the best we can do. Most people are doing the best they can.

  55. EOS
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Jean,

    I disagree. Jesus was without sin. This is crucial to understanding propitiation and atonement. Humility before God requires that you accept everything that He has told us, getting off the throne of your life and putting God in the center on the throne. Give up your pride and let God control your life – not you and not any religious authority.

    But we do agree that we are all flawed sinners. I don’t judge – only God judges. I merely attempt to discern the truth using God’s Word as my textbook and His Spirit as my guide and helper. My best is nothing compared to the awesome capabilities that I have in Christ with Him at the helm.

  56. Posted May 21, 2009 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Who are you to speak for God?

    “Faith” doesn’t mean anything. Basically, your view is just a get out of jail free card for bigots (like you, EoS), racists (again, like you, EoS), murderers, rapists, war criminals and everyone else. If you have “faith” then everything you do is justified since “good works” are a result of “faith”. Since “faith” is subjectively determined, “good works” are also subjectively determined.

    Basically, you are saying that you yourself are God, which you are not. You’re just an asshole.

  57. Dirtgrain
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    The cure for hatred is not hatred.

  58. jean
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t say ‘sinned’; I said ‘faltered.’ ‘Why hast thou foresaken me?’ is a falter.

  59. Posted May 21, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    That is a sin. Jesus himself doubted the almighty, totalitarian wisdom of God. Basically, he didn’t keep his mouth shut when he should have.

  60. Posted December 19, 2010 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    If you’re still looking, the pastor of our church (Kingsway) wrote an article recently about choosing the right church. We are a small house church with a big mission. Here is a link to the article:
    http://www.kingswaya2.org/wpress/?p=60

  61. Edward
    Posted December 20, 2010 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Mark, I checked out your site. I didn’t dig very deep yet, but I like what I see. It reminds me of the Onion. I’m particularly struck by the following two headlines.

    “How Glenn Beck Has Inspired Me”

    “Progressive Statism Leads to Pornography”

    I think I know where I’ll be spending my lunch hour. Thank you.

  62. Joseph Fearen
    Posted November 1, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    In Russia, the church shops FOR YOU!

  63. Posted November 1, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    A funny one of those “in Russia” things came to me the other day. Here it is…

    “In Russia, the toilet paper wipes YOU.”

    (It’s funnier if you read it in the voice of Yakoff Smirnoff.)

    Sorry to put that in this nice thread about Ypsi churches. I couldn’t stop myself.

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