Joni and I began the process of church shopping in Bolivar today. We've really missed our home church, Highland in Waco. While we were in East TN we really enjoyed my sister's church, Fellowship Evangelical Free in Knoxville.
(Aside: In fact, Greg Pinkner, their teaching pastor, is one of the best expositors of Scripture I've ever heard. I've seen him do a much better job with certain difficult passages than other expository guys like Mark Dever and John Piper. He's definitely a hidden gem, and I recommend all my expository-loving friends to check out his current series in 1 Timothy. You will learn something about the historical context of the Scripture passage every single time. I have added a link to their podcasted sermons on the right. With the newborn, we did a lot of house church in East TN and we would either listen to Pinkner or Piper).
So, the question we're basically faced with here is: What flavor of conservative Southern Baptist do you want your church to be? On my first visit to Bolivar I was told of a "contemporary" Baptist church that was doing a radical new thing: projecting the words to the songs on a screen so that you didn't have to hold a hymnal. I chuckled at that upon hearing it, thinking the person was being sarcastic, and ended up probably offending him.
This particular church is also unique in that is has no paid staff; everyone is volunteering and have full-time jobs elsewhere in the community. So, all of your offering goes to the lights, programs, or missions, but not to salary for staff people. And they have organized home groups. That's refreshing. They have other good stories about how God has grown the church.
We visited the church this morning, we happened to pick the one Sunday when most of the elders were on vacation and the service (hopefully) very different than usual.
I've written a lot on this blog about Spirit-led church vs. rationally-acting organized humans. I've also talked a little bit about our general preferences. I'm not sure what we'll find here in Bolivar. I'm thinking about investigating Mennonite beliefs and looking for a contemporary Mennonite fellowship nearby. Seriously. I bought some great inexpensive produce from a very nice Mennonite guy at the farmer's market yesterday.
I can say one thing: Midwestern culture is different than Southern culture, and we've been duly warned by several people about that. People like to keep you at arms distance. One couple we met here who graduated from Baylor told us to "give it a couple years before people warm up to you." A couple of years.
That advice came to mind during the rather stoic greet-your-neighbor segment of church this morning. It's just different. I half expected someone to say "If you're a visitor, welcome, and good luck!"
I'm not sure what we'll find here in Bolivar, but we're definitely going to look for it.