One of the things I dislike the most about moving away from one city to another one is finding a church. Someone told me that Louisville is both the northernmost southern city and the southernmost northern city. The fact that there is a church almost on every corner in the city is a testament to the truth of the former description (the scarcity of Cracker Barrel a testament to the latter).
When Ashley and I decided to move to the city to begin at SBTS, we immediately began looking up churches in the area, quickly confirming my suspicion that Louisville would have an abundance of apparently Bible-believing, even openly "Reformed," Baptist churches for us to visit.
I think we're now six weeks into the process and I hate it. It feels cold and wrong, like an audition, but I don't know any other way to do it than the way we are. The importance of active, meaningful membership in a true church demands that we be careful, thoughtful, and prayerful about finding the church that will shepherd us through the formative years of seminary training. I still don't like the process. There are so many churches to visit that it almost requires a double-elimination bracket. Summer Sunday after summer Sunday (when some churches are running a "reduced program schedule"), we Google the address of another church on our list and walk in, and, not knowing anyone, attend the worship service, wondering what the announcements are about and if this particular service is indicative of the regular practice of the church. Are we getting a fair picture of what the church is like on this one visit? Are we getting to know the community, how we can contribute? I doubt it.
Of course, the main priorities (biblical, Christocentric, expository preaching; orthodox doctrine; biblical ecclesiology; missional/evangelistic intentionality; and thoughtful, reverent, and evangelistic worship) are non-negotiable, but what now? We've found some great, biblical churches in our visiting and we've gotten to the point where we'll be making a decision based on secondary criteria like the distance of the church from our home, the size of the church, the diversity of the members, etc. Will we take the advice of some and avoid a church with lots of seminary folks? Will we take advantage of the opportunity to live and worship in a community with believers who are in a similar situation to ours? I'm glad that the Lord has this (and everything else) under His perfect control and will lead us to the local church where we will most glorify Him in worship and service. However, I still don't like the process, and it's definitely been the strangest part of our new "Strange Life."