How Do We Look For the Theology of A Church? Part I

Emily and I are back from our 2 week vacation in the Midwest.  We had a lovely time seeing family in Friends in Ohio, and Nashville.  And we thoroughly enjoyed our anniversary which we spent in Ludington Michigan at a great Bed and Breakfast called Cartier Mansion.  I will post pictures soon.  While we were in Ohio we spent some time with Emily’s parents who recently moved to Toledo, Ohio and they are in the middle of looking for a new home church.  We went with them on Sunday to visit a local church and when we pulled up I started trying to exegete that church’s theology.

This post is written for anyone in the middle of church shopping where you may only have one week at a church (of course more time will always help you discover a better picture of where the church has been and where it’s going).  Can you know something about their theology in that time, I think so and here are some tips for doing it.

Questions to Ask Upon Arrival

What kinds of vehicles are people driving?  Are they brand new cars?  Are they used?  Are they big trucks, hybrids, or Harleys?  What is the general representation of the values found in the parking lot?  Cars can say a lot about us, our values, and the things we believe about God.

Are there bumper stickers on these cars?  Many people where their political ideas on their rear bumpers – you may find a big ‘W’ with an american flag, a sticker about Jesus being a carpenter, or a sticker about Jesus and peace.  All these things give us a little glimpse into what’s going on in the theology of a local community.

Do a quick survey of the building.  Is it brand new, old and beat -up, small or is it the size of a shopping mall?  This will tell you something of how the finances are understood at the church.  You may also want to ask how is the building being used?  Is it strictly a meeting place for Sunday mornings or do you see gyms, playgrounds, libraries, classrooms, or even a Starbucks?  All of this gives clues into how the church building is valued, how the money is handled, and what some of the aims of the church are.

Finally consider the location of the church.  Does it reflect it’s neighborhood? Is it accessible to people or hard to find?  Is it in the town center or on the out-skirts?  This can give you some insight into the mission of the church and where it sees itself in relationship to it’s local community.

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*Disclamer: I do not mean to make any value judgement on any of this as much as just say what to look for and how it might connect to a local theology.  It is also important to point out that churches can have people from all over the theological grid so you are looking for common threads, not that one maverick who is the black sheep of the group.

The next post will discuss what to look at once you’re inside.

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