This whole scenario of "church inspection" has become a common feature for those seeking out a local congregation, many of whom, as discovered by the experience of many churches, are families and people local to the area, and who are considering re-entering the church market place.
Toby Hagon recently wrote a fascinating article in the Sydney Morning Herald titled 'Reinventing the Wheels' and the sub-headings seemed very applicable to this new phenomena of checking out churches. (smh.drive.com.au)
A cold engine is a thirstier engine
People seeking a congregation they can call their own 'spiritual family' are more than likely 'cold' to modern church life, unsure of themselves, cautious, and trying as best they can to gauge the climate of the people's theological position and the programs that are offered for the ages for which they are specifically interested. This is no small task when visiting a local church on any given Sunday.
Those leather seats may not be leather
What is seen and perceived on any given Sunday when visiting a local church may not in reality be what is the true spiritual climate of that congregation. Presenting a happy and joyful atmosphere might very likely be facades for issues below the surface that are creating enormous difficulties. This is no easy 'walk in the park' for a visitor to ascertain and pose a good reason to exercise caution.
Oil use in new cars is higher than it was decades ago
Local churches today compete not only over and against other cornerstore churches but today's fast paced world have a thousand and more "other options" that are on offer on any given Sunday. For anyone today to make a bee line for a church have been doing some serious thinking about re-connecting with formal Christianity. Their needs will be greater with much sensitivity on the apart of congregation leaders.
Some cars have secret software tricks
So too with any local congregation, and a new family visiting the local with a view to finding a 'spiritual home' that will meet their ever growing needs won't want to be frightened away and not a little shocked by what they might perceive as being anything less than straight up and down the line. The way a congregation approaches legitimate fund raising is an issue for appraisal.
Your car was probably not made where you think it was
The Christian market place is theologically divergent in so far as someone trained in an Australian seminary may present a philosophy quite different to that of a leader influenced by American deep south evangelicalism or American Pentecostalism. The teaching emphasis is very wide in Australian Christian churches.
Running on regular unleaded can make the car noisier
Thoughtful and considerate messages are often presented in a less entertaining manner than a happy clappy sermon presented with a lot of modern gimmicky.
Modern diesels don't like short trips
Those people and families seeking out a church are more than likely wanting to settle into a congregation for the long haul. At least this would be their initial intention. They will be looking at things in the life of any congregation that might offer comfort to this end.
Radar cruise control systems are banned in some parts of Australian
The people visiting a local church are more than likely up to date with IT issues, especially their young people, and will notice immediately if such basic issues as a good PA system and perhaps even hearing loops, are not satisfactory or not in place at all. Something as simple as this can be the game breaker.
Driving with snow chains means planning ahead
Our society is inundated with news and financial analysis and no one today is unaware of the pressure there is upon every household to prepare in some way for the future, whether that be an eventuality or retirement. Planning therefore is part and parcel of life and it will become very obvious whether a local congregation is 'with-it' in such issues.
Your speedo is probably not telling you the speed your travelling
Ministers and Pastors inevitably present the picture more glossy than it actually is. This is part and parcel of the 'game of life' in churches but some go over board and seem not only quite silly but come across as devious and untrustworthy. An experienced and in-tune Minister or Pastor knows that the fine line should never be crossed.
Your car could send you to gaol
Churches are institutions and every church follows administrative rules and follow specific theological positions. Sadly, there have been church leaders who have abused these trusts, particularly in matters of finances and fidelity.
Some cars know when to keep the rain out
An insightful Minister or Pastor who knows his congregation members and their spiritual situation, will pick up the vibes when something is in mishap and will carefully and sensitively handle such situations.
Your windscreen is anything but plain glass
The Holy Spirit is the key ingredient to how a local church is travelling, the unseen agent in the life and witness of a church. In the same way a local congregation has many facets to it and often the most unlikeliest and unassuming person is the spiritual agent through which many wonderful outcomes have been borne. Telling a book by its cover is never a good idea when visiting a church.
Your car is valuable
The local congregation is valuable beyond comprehension. It is not only a spiritual home, it is also a place of comfort, association and practical aids. It is a place where, for example, loving congregants cook casseroles for other congregation members in need. It is a place where the women and the men might meet occasionally for specific fellowship. It is a place where the young people might meet their life partners. The local congregation is a very valuable place to be treated with care, respect and love. It is a home.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html