Finding a home: The right church for you
Most Jamaicans grew up in the church, attending Sunday school religiously at the behest of our parents. As we get older, we make the choice and some continue in 'the fold' while others take different paths.
As Christians, one of the most fundamental aspects is finding a place of worship. With so many denominations, sects and groups around there seems to be something for everyone. A place where they can worship and find a community with like-minded believers. But with so many options and so many different styles, for some, it is difficult to find that 'home'.
Kelly Jones* grew up in a Brethren church where she had a close relationship with the elders, officials and other members. But as she got older, it no longer felt like home.
After leaving to attend her mother's church, she was even more disheartened. She found that the members had little to no relationship with the young people of the congregation, and this was not something she could settle for. Now, Jones struggles to find a church that is 'right' for her.
Behavioural coach and Christian, Trevor Smith, notes that there are a number of things to consider when choosing a congregation to worship with, the most important of which should be ensuring that the church is following the spiritual guidelines set out in the Bible.
"The church is the place of God for those who are saved, those who want salvation, and it is important for them to be within the right church so that they are not led astray. Also, the church has a responsibility to serve, support and retain those who are saved. With that said, the church is supposed to reach out and address the needs of its believers," he stated.
Evangelist of the St Andrew Church of Christ, Alphonso Grennell concurs that the church's practices should be justified in scriptures. It is also critical for leadership to go out of their way to build relationships with its members.
"The scriptures outline that the church should be welcoming, and with that, the church should be willing to make sacrifices for their members. When you become a member of a church, you should become part of a family. The church you choose to be part of should be caring and forgiving to everyone - regardless of their financial and emotional stability. They should also be able to love, accept and encourage you," Grennell emphasised.
He notes that 'bouncing' from church to church may never result in you finding the place that's 'right' for you. But depending on the Word of God to lead you to a place of worship is the best solution. He also pointed out that if there are attributes that your 'home' church is lacking, you should demonstrate it so that members can see the good in it and follow.
Flair spoke to some Christians who shared how they found the 'right' congregation to call home.
"I had previously attended a church where I could not have felt more like an outsider. I was judged and I just never felt 'Christian' enough for them. It got to the point where I just dragged myself to church late and left as it was over, so that no one would speak to me afterwards.
"After a while, it seemed to be changing me, so I decided to leave to find somewhere that felt like home, and I did. While I left because I was uncomfortable, I really did not know the importance of a church that felt like home until now. The fellowship at my current church is great. If I am absent one week they notice. They are genuine Christian people who encourage you even when you feel down, and pick you up when you have fallen. So now I am part of a family for four years with many moms and dads and siblings."
- Yolanda Linton*
"Though I have been part of my church since I was a baby, I know it is the right church for me because it pushes me to know God for myself. I grew up seeing my mother involved in activities of the church, and they ensured that my talent was used for the right reasons. Also, attending Sunday school from a child until now, I have built very good relationships with the members and officials in the church. This is how I know I have found the church that's right for me."
- Shanell Bunting
"When I dedicated my life to God, that was when I was convinced that His way was the only way to go. It's like checking for fake money - you don't look for all the things that make it fake; you find out what the real money should look like, then deduce from that which money is real. For example, Jesus said his disciples must "have love among themselves", and that is what I feel in my congregation - making it real for me."
- Samantha Cummings*
"I grew up in a church, but after being embarrassed when I lost my faith, I headed to another denomination. Though I wasn't very comfortable with their practices, I stayed there for over 10 years.
"After the birth of my child, I believed that I should be in a church whose values I admire and would want my child to learn from. As a result, I moved back to church of God and have been back for seven years now. Choosing the right church is not easy, and should not be based solely on your feelings, but on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. That is how I know I had found the right church for me."
- Dwight Eastwood
* Names changed