'Where do you go to church?'

James Phillips
Posted 5/1/16

When moving into an area, there are a handful of questions that come up fairly often.

“Have you found a house?”

“What schools are your kids in?”

In the South, the one question you get more than most is, “Where do you go to …

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'Where do you go to church?'

Posted

When moving into an area, there are a handful of questions that come up fairly often.

“Have you found a house?”

“What schools are your kids in?”

In the South, the one question you get more than most is, “Where do you go to church?”

Since I am from the area, many folks in Walker County will even remember me by my church upbringing. I have heard from several people who still think of me as the little tike who grew up at Dilworth Church of God. Others in the area have mentioned they remember me as the young man who got married in the courtyard of Dora First Baptist Church. A few probably even think of me as that crazy guy with a “liberal theology” who went to a strange United Methodist Church affiliate in McCalla called InnerChange.

All of those memories, added with some attendance at a megachurch in north Jefferson County and a few years at a nondenominational church in downtown Birmingham, make up a good portion of the church-going experiences in my life.

Over the last three years, we have visited many different churches in central Mississippi. A nondenominational church that was racially mixed was our favorite church to attend, while we also spent many Sundays at the First United Methodist Church in Kosciusko and in recent months had started attending University Baptist Church, a member of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Over the last week or so, I have had many people ask where we had planned on attending church now that we are back in Walker County. I have jokingly said, “Any of them.”

Andrea and I have discussed where we might attend services after moving back, and our thoughts have been pretty clear — anywhere we are invited.

Our spiritual journey is an important aspect of our family. We are followers of Jesus, and we have a very simple faith. We believe Jesus was who he said he was, and we believe in the things he taught and try to apply those teachings to our everyday lives.

There are more than 200 churches in Walker County. If you would like for us to visit your church, please send us an invitation (either call or email to the contact information below). If we are invited, we will attend. We do not care about denominational affiliation. Snakes and strychnine are about the only things that we hope to not experience during a church visit.

As we talked about the idea of visiting only fellowships that invited us, I had the thought that visiting a different church each Sunday for a year might be a neat social experiment; an experiment maybe even worthy of turning it into a book. For the most part, Christians believe basically the same thing, but tiny disagreements over the years have led to a multitude of fractures in the body, which either became denominations or just splintered individual churches. I think a visit to many different denominations or individual independent churches could provide a glimpse at how we could all work together by using our similar beliefs to reach common goals. Personally, I think we should also be able to celebrate our differences and let them help us learn and grow as humans and believers.

While we have decided to visit as many area places of worship as possible, we would like to also find a tribe that we can call our own. That may happen through our visits, but I am a little more confident that it will happen easier and more organically through relationships that we have already cultivated over the years.

A rigidly structured fellowship does not seem to be where our family strives spiritually speaking, but living life with others through natural community is a little more in our ballpark. Once we actually move into a home in Jasper, we hope to be able to build community in that way — community that includes people of any faith, race or orientation. We basically want to be a family that is life-giving to those around us. If an informal gathering that lacks structure but could possibly provide personal growth for all involved sounds like your cup of tea, contact me as well.

Our family is looking forward to worshiping and fellowshipping with many of our readers over the coming months.

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite authors:

“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”

<*R><$f"LucidaGrande">? C.S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity”

James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at 205-221-2840 or james.phillips@mountaineagle.com.