Dallas, TX – They’ve been looking for approximately 11 years now, but the sad truth is the Evans family has been unable to locate a church home. “I don’t know what it is about us. Sometimes it seems we’re invisible. Other times, people just won’t give us space,” said Davis Evans, 38, husband of Eva, “29ish.” They have been unable to find a satisfactory church, and now with kids Marci age 7, Jamie age 5, and Caster age 3, they are starting to grow concerned.
For example, last week the Evans family visited Thirstonwood Baptist Church, a 3000 member congregation southwest of Dallas. “It was typical of big churches. We walked in, sat down, sang a few hymns, heard the sermon, and left. Not a single person spoke to us,” said Eva. This is an all-too-familiar experience for them at larger churches.
They tend to get the opposite treatment at small churches. “I felt trapped. I wanted the family to load up in the minivan, but we couldn’t get away from Walford Baptist Church,” said Davis. “It was awful. Every single person in the church wanted to speak with us. Everyone was so anxious to tell us just how friendly they were and how wonderfully great their little church family got along. I could hardly breathe.”
Since beginning their search 11 years ago, the Evans claim to faithfully attend a church until it becomes obvious to them that they are not of the same mind. We know scripturally, we are to be of the same mind. Davis cites Philippians 2:2, “make my joy complete by being like-minded.” The Evans also referred to 1 John 3:10. “If people don’t love us, they are children of the devil.” Eva added, “You can’t always see it at first, but if you watch carefully, you will know in your spirit whether the people of the so-called ‘Church’ are children of the devil. I can discern fairly quickly whether they sincerely love us.”
TBNN representatives have no doubt that Eva and Davis are of the same mind. When the family gets in their 2002 Honda Odyssey after church, they immediately whip out the notebooks, jot down some notes, and compare. About 2 years into the search, they developed a check list. They admit to tweaking it through time to give churches a better chance. TBNN reps were able to acquire a copy of the current 1st-hurdle checklist:
1. Bulletin typos: 3 maximum
2. Every family member personally greeted by the pastor
3. Asked all our names: 1 minimum, 3 maximum
4. “We’re so glad you came” statements: 1 minimum, 5 maximum
5. All restrooms are clean and have both papers
6. Praise instruments: 3 minimum, 6 maximum
7. Temperature: 68 minimum, 73 maximum
8. Church does not have “Calvary” in the name
9. Hands raised during worship: 3 minimum, 8 maximum
10. “Lord” or “God” said during closing prayer: 12 maximum
A single mark eliminates the church from further consideration. “It’s a good thing we’ve kept careful notes. During the last 3 years, on more than one occasion, we’ve entered a new church only to discover that we’ve heard this pastor before at a previous church, maybe 7 or 8 years earlier,” said Davis.
If a church meets all 10 basic hurdles, the Evans then separately rate the church on the four dimensions of Compassion, Love, Sincerity, and Cleanliness. “We come to the same conclusion almost every time. Unfortunately we’ve always eventually found something that glaringly stands out as unscriptural,” said Eva.
Marcie and Jamie have become helpful as of late. After years of hearing numerous post-service discussions by their parents, the two older children have apparently also become excellent discerners of church imperfections. “I chuckle every time I think of Marcie’s first experience with church discernment when she was only 4,” said Davis. “We were about to begin our usual van discussion, but before Eva or I could say anything, Marcie spoke up and said “it smells”. We immediately looked at each other and knew we didn’t need to discuss this church further. We still chuckle when we think of that. We’re proud of the deep spiritual discernment our children have developed. We are happy that our family is able to grow spiritually despite the lack of true Biblical churches. We know we’re doing something right.”
“Some days we ask ourselves, ‘maybe we should give that church another chance?’ But we cannot and will not deny the Bible’s teachings of oneness,” said Davis. “God would never expect us to be in a church where we are not of the same mind. Although we don’t attend any Sunday School or Bible Studies, we are able to teach each other on Thursday night. ‘Whether two or three’… and we make two.”
The shortest they have attended a church is 12 minutes. They knew almost immediately that there was a problem with Marrs Mt. Baptist Church when Jamie was about 1 year old and a nursery worker gave early warning signs. “She seemed annoyed when she had to stop changing one baby to help us with little Jamie,” explained Eva. “This was not the proper respect that we, as first time visitors, deserved. We were also offended by the sign on the door stating, ‘We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.’ It was sacrilegious.”
The longest they have attended a church is 10 consecutive weeks. They just knew they had found a church home in the spring of 2003. “We were properly greeted by the members. The handshakes were true and honest. Not too friendly; neither did they ignore us. The bulletin seemed in order with less than three mistakes (the maximum they will tolerate and still consider themselves of the “same mind”.). There was a mix of hymns with some gentle praise choruses. That first day, the Pastor invited us to eat out at Ryan’s. We received Tuesday night visitation from 3 deacons. We received a well-written letter from the Children’s Minister inviting us to a Saturday afternoon Slip-n-Slide party. We really felt the Spirit so we kept coming back. But after three weeks, things started to change. You could tell this was not a deeply sincere church. It had all been surface. The warm greetings subsided and turned into simple nods on some days. No more personal invites from the Pastor after week seven. The pastor obviously had time, but chose to take out other visitors rather than us. By the 9th week, he stopped answering his cell phone on the first ring. Only 2 deacons visited each time after the initial home visitation. We received no more letters, only a monthly newsletter that everybody got. We knew then that we were wasting our time with another insincere group. We no longer felt special. They were like all the rest. I just don’t understand it,” said Davis.
Eva continued the sentiment, “We want to be part of a group of people just like us. We are open, honest, loving, and accepting of true Biblical behavior. We just can’t seem to find people of the same mind. There is so much insincerity out there. Believe me, we’ve tested numerous churches. We long for spiritual maturity in a church. We need to feel the presence of God and His power. We’re just not feeling it anywhere.”
Many church shoppers apparently feel their pain. TBNN researchers did find a recent Lifeway survey showing 98.7% of those who changed churches, did so because (1) they felt like the church was not helping them develop spiritually, (2) they felt like the church was not helping them engage in meaningful work, (3) they felt like the church was not judging them properly, (4) they felt like the church was changing things they didn’t like, (5) they felt like the pastor wasn’t preaching well, (6) they felt like the congregation was not treating them well (7) they felt like they couldn’t feel the Spirit there, (8) they felt like cliques were running the church, (9) they felt like people were hypocritical, and (10) they felt like the pastor was judging them. The remaining 1.3% said they changed churches over disagreements concerning Biblical truths.
The Evans wanted us to ask you, the readers of TBNN, to email TBNN2.firstname.lastname@example.org if you believe there is a Biblical Church that would be of the same mind as the Evans family. They are desperate enough to move to your area if you have sufficient evidence to suggest that your church qualifies.
UPDATE 6PM SATURDAY EVENING
Thanks to Chris, we have located a very likely home church for the Evans family:
I've attached a photograph [below] of a church that I believe to be the perfect church. My assessment of the church is based on the following careful criteria:
1. Adequate parking, sanctuary seating, & classroom space for all ages.
2. The sermons are never too long or too short.
3. Prayers are never too emotional or too monotone.
4. The music is never too traditional or too contemporary; nor is it too loud or too soft, or too fast or too slow.
5. Worship is never too formal or too casual or too Charismatic.
6. The members are never overly friendly or overly standoffish toward visitors. The last time I was there, everyone present knew my whole family by name.
7. No tensions, controversies, disputes or political struggles exist between the pastor, deacons, or any groups or individuals in the church.
8. Bulletins never have any typographical errors or inappropriate announcements, listings, or declarations.
9. No one claims anything as their own - such as pews, classrooms, or parking spaces.
10. Best of all I've never heard the pastor say a single thing I disagreed with - either from the pulpit, at the front door, in his office, or on the street.
Yep, it's the perfect church. BTW, it's located in Birmingham, England. We should all move there.