Is it ok to occasionally visit other churches?

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LighthouseAttendant

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First time poster here, what a great resource this site is!

I am new to Reformed beliefs as of 5 years ago, when I was 36 and had children ranging in age from 7 to 17. My wife was not a huge fan of this sudden change, though I did work really hard to avoid being cage-stage. We went from charismatic AG to regulative principle of worship talk in a short period of time.

One challenge we've had is that our session seems very particular about some practices in the church that we don't understand. I have made great effort to meet and discuss, over the last 12 months. I am still often confused.

I'm not willing at this time to say it's legalism. Also, I was drawn to the idea of particularities with regards to theology. I am also very particular in this area. And we have no theological disagreements with the session, it's all disagreement about application of theology.

So, I feel drawn to continue to work towards unity and attempt to understand these things, and work through them. I don't yet want to leave.

However, I feel compelled to take my family to visit other churches in our region, even at times driving a fair distance, in order to see how other solid reformed churches operate. Maybe I'm wrong and this all makes sense to everyone but me. Surveying other churches I feel would help my family, who right now are saying things like "shouldn't we be baptist?" and that makes me really sad.

If one Sunday per month I visited other churches, is that ok? Should I tell my elders that I am doing this?
 
Yes, whatever you end up doing, definitely be open with your session and if possible get their encouragement and approval. They are the ones responsible to God for watching over you. I'm very glad you've been able to have discussions with your session.

Personally I'm hard-pressed in seeing the value in visiting other churches regularly (window-shopping, so to speak) unless you truly cannot remain in your current congregation due to sin.
 
First time poster here, what a great resource this site is!

I am new to Reformed beliefs as of 5 years ago, when I was 36 and had children ranging in age from 7 to 17. My wife was not a huge fan of this sudden change, though I did work really hard to avoid being cage-stage. We went from charismatic AG to regulative principle of worship talk in a short period of time.

One challenge we've had is that our session seems very particular about some practices in the church that we don't understand. I have made great effort to meet and discuss, over the last 12 months. I am still often confused.

I'm not willing at this time to say it's legalism. Also, I was drawn to the idea of particularities with regards to theology. I am also very particular in this area. And we have no theological disagreements with the session, it's all disagreement about application of theology.

So, I feel drawn to continue to work towards unity and attempt to understand these things, and work through them. I don't yet want to leave.

However, I feel compelled to take my family to visit other churches in our region, even at times driving a fair distance, in order to see how other solid reformed churches operate. Maybe I'm wrong and this all makes sense to everyone but me. Surveying other churches I feel would help my family, who right now are saying things like "shouldn't we be baptist?" and that makes me really sad.

If one Sunday per month I visited other churches, is that ok? Should I tell my elders that I am doing this?
Let me speak as a pastor and an elder, though I'm not serving as such at this time.

You owe your own congregation of covenanted brethren the bulk of your religiously dedicated time and resources.

Depending on the size of your home church and the busy-ness of your pastor and elders, you might or you might not burden them with your occasional visits elsewhere. If you recognize you will quickly be missed, or your regular absences will be noted easily, it is probably wise to be informative. But in a larger congregation, there is so much on a session's plate, not-seeing one family once a month is not likely to phase them.

You are not sinning by visiting other congregations of like precious faith. We are all ONE church in Christ. You happen to have a particular set of elders who have special concern for YOU. Love them and esteem them highly in the Lord for their labors sake. And don't feel like they are your micromanagers, which could quickly lead to unnecessary resentment.
 
If it has to do with worship and practices, I would probably try to study some more and figure things out more before making a move. This may just be attributed to a need to become more familiar with reformed theology.

If there is any kind of spiritual abuse or control or anything like that going on, then yes you're definitely going to want to get out. But that doesn't sound like your issue.

But ultimately you are completely free to pursue the church that best fits you and your family, without feeling any sort of shame or guilt. I would actually encourage that so long as you do everything in a godly and loving way.
 
Yes, whatever you end up doing, definitely be open with your session and if possible get their encouragement and approval. They are the ones responsible to God for watching over you. I'm very glad you've been able to have discussions with your session.

Personally I'm hard-pressed in seeing the value in visiting other churches regularly (window-shopping, so to speak) unless you truly cannot remain in your current congregation due to sin.
I don't think there is sin, but one issue is my children have a very hard time following the sermons. Whereas pulpit supply and other churches we've visited my kids don't have that problem. If I stay do I exasperate them?
 
As one called of God to give account of the souls He has appointed me to be an under-shepherd of, I always want to know the reason someone is absent from public worship. Saints will usually shoot me a text they are ill that day or I generally know if they are out of town, etc, so as others have noted, yes, it's nice to let your elders know when you're going to be absent from public worship. It sounds like you are considering perhaps finding a different church home to join. Can you speak to your session about the matters you are bringing up here, i.e. sermons being hard to follow? I'm sure they'd like to know if you or your family are struggling in this area.
 
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As one called of God to give account of the souls He has appointed me to be an under-shepherd of, I always want to know the reason someone is absent from public worship. Saints will usually shoot me a text they are ill that day or I generally know if they are out of town, etc, so as others have noted, yes, it's nice to let your elders know when you're going to be absent from public worship. It sounds like you are considering perhaps finding a different church home to join. Can you speak to your session about the matters you are bringing up here, i.e. sermons being hard to follow? I'm sure they'd like to know if you or your family are struggling in this area.
Yes sir, I have indeed brought to the session every challenge we have been having.

I don't get the feeling that they are wanting to change the sermon style, and I don't begrudge them for making what they believe is the best decision for the church. I simply worry about my children's faith if they have a hard time being fed. The sermons are excellent by the way, it's certainly not a quality issue.

Let me speak as a pastor and an elder, though I'm not serving as such at this time.

You owe your own congregation of covenanted brethren the bulk of your religiously dedicated time and resources.

Depending on the size of your home church and the busy-ness of your pastor and elders, you might or you might not burden them with your occasional visits elsewhere. If you recognize you will quickly be missed, or your regular absences will be noted easily, it is probably wise to be informative. But in a larger congregation, there is so much on a session's plate, not-seeing one family once a month is not likely to phase them.

You are not sinning by visiting other congregations of like precious faith. We are all ONE church in Christ. You happen to have a particular set of elders who have special concern for YOU. Love them and esteem them highly in the Lord for their labors sake. And don't feel like they are your micromanagers, which could quickly lead to unnecessary resentment.
Thank you this is very helpful. We are a small church, so I will notify my pastor to let him know what I plan to do.

And I do spend the bulk of my religious time and resources (second to family) on this particular church. I have in fact spent many hours assisting with special projects.

Yes, whatever you end up doing, definitely be open with your session and if possible get their encouragement and approval. They are the ones responsible to God for watching over you. I'm very glad you've been able to have discussions with your session.

Personally I'm hard-pressed in seeing the value in visiting other churches regularly (window-shopping, so to speak) unless you truly cannot remain in your current congregation due to sin.
Thank you. I don't want it to be window shopping because I desire to stay. But if it gives my kids a break to have a sermon they can understand better I tend to think of that as being justified rationale.
 
Yes sir, I have indeed brought to the session every challenge we have been having.

I don't get the feeling that they are wanting to change the sermon style, and I don't begrudge them for making what they believe is the best decision for the church. I simply worry about my children's faith if they have a hard time being fed. The sermons are excellent by the way, it's certainly not a quality issue.
Hard to assess via an online forum - could be things the minister could tweak - could be things you could work with your children. I can say that the elders should be 100% committed to helping your children be discipled though (not saying they aren't). But if you're being fed at other biblical churches, perhaps you should prayerfully consider if the Lord is leading you and your household to transfer to another church.
 
Hard to assess via an online forum - could be things the minister could tweak - could be things you could work with your children. I can say that the elders should be 100% committed to helping your children be discipled though (not saying they aren't). But if you're being fed at other biblical churches, perhaps you should prayerfully consider if the Lord is leading you and your household to transfer to another church.
Thank you, I will prayerfully consider if this is the Lord's desire. I truly do not wish to leave, because the alternative danger in my mind is possible instability for my children in changing churches yet again.
 
Thank you, I will prayerfully consider if this is the Lord's desire. I truly do not wish to leave, because the alternative danger in my mind is possible instability for my children in changing churches yet again.
Yes this is true. Is there any kind of youth group or a place for your kids to be fed on their level? At our church up to 6 years old the kids are able to go to their own room during sermon time. Which it sounds like your kids are a bit older. But maybe if throughout the week they have opportunities to be fed that would be helpful.
 
We almost invariably visit a different church the first Sunday of DST and the last week of each pregnancy.

Some Reformers considered "occasional hearing" to be a sin, but within the parameters others have so artfully defined in this thread, I don't see a problem with it.
 
I will, of course, defer to those in this thread who can best address the shepherding issues. May I make a more generalized and admittedly anecdotal observation? In my decades in the faith, I've not seen a single family move "for the children" and have the situation end well. At best, the families have been set adrift and at worse, they have had their children walk away from the faith.

You are being vague about the issues involved which is admirable if you are trying to avoid unduly discrediting your church, but it's difficult for outsiders to discern how appropriate it is to visit other churches.
 
The Lord has given us daily family worship for this purpose.
Indeed, we do this faithfully. However, my kids are aged 12 to 16 and even my wife has difficulty understanding the sermons. If my children were single digit age I would require them to sit through the sermon anyway, and utilize Sunday School and home study for age appropriate lessons.

I will, of course, defer to those in this thread who can best address the shepherding issues. May I make a more generalized and admittedly anecdotal observation? In my decades in the faith, I've not seen a single family move "for the children" and have the situation end well. At best, the families have been set adrift and at worse, they have had their children walk away from the faith.

You are being vague about the issues involved which is admirable if you are trying to avoid unduly discrediting your church, but it's difficult for outsiders to discern how appropriate it is to visit other churches.
Thank you, I worry about my children's faith. I have no current plans to leave. Maybe we'll visit these other churches and we'll realize these are just the particulars of a reformed church.

It is so difficult to go from charismatic to reformed with teenage children.
 
I will, of course, defer to those in this thread who can best address the shepherding issues. May I make a more generalized and admittedly anecdotal observation? In my decades in the faith, I've not seen a single family move "for the children" and have the situation end well. At best, the families have been set adrift and at worse, they have had their children walk away from the faith.
100% this. While I can definitely see issues with talking way over people's heads, even beyond a well-educated congregation, taking a least common denominator approach or even lesser common denominator approach doesn't typically stop at just one notch down. The better way I'd highly recommend is to try to build up.

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Re: sermons, one thing my church does is include in the bulletin a series of questions for family or Sunday school discussion. For the recent sermon on Revelation 21:9-21, I've attached the small group questions they put together for it as an example. Perhaps something like this is something you could consider working with your pastor on to benefit your family and other families as well.

It's a little bit trickier and there is the risk of pre-loading the cannon with criticism of the pastor's points if it's a controversial text, but something that could be very profitable to your family is to study the passage the Friday or Saturday before in a pretty serious scope like you would for a Bible study and discuss it before Sunday morning and then afterwards. That way as you're preparing your hearts for worship, you're also bolstering your minds to know what potential things to look for in the text or clear cross-references.

I know some pastors who intentionally call out "students" and "children/kids" at various spots in the sermon with simpler or more "eye-level" points to ensure he's engaging with them while not dumbing down his sermons in the slightest. One thing I do miss from my Lutheran days is the pastor preaching to the children of the congregation before preaching to the congregation as a whole (and the kids stayed in the service for both). There were times it helped grease the skids for the "grown-up" sermon point.

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Re: the question of visiting elsewhere, it's really not a good idea to miss the main worship services regularly for "better" or "different" teaching. Visiting a friend's church to see their kid get baptized or perhaps visiting a church that has an annual conference is a very different example from regularly sampling other pulpits. Even for my current situation where my church does not have an evening service or church Bible studies on Sunday nights, once I found where I wish to attend on Sunday evenings, I don't sample. It's my membership church in the morning and then the same evening service (and the AM church knows I attend Sunday evenings and vice versa for the evening knowing about my membership) most of the time in a similar fashion to the morning attendance.
 

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It is just possible that the sermon content is worth bearing with the style of delivery and the newer manners of the worship scene. Some (admittedly, not all) challenges call for us to rise to meet them, rather than looking for an easier course. Perhaps your children actually need to learn to absorb that which Christ has for the present chosen to give your family as his gift (Eph.4:11) to you, even a pastor after his own heart aiming to feed you with knowledge and understanding, Jer.3:15.

A recommendation: do a sermon-review in the afternoon or evening when you have come home from worshipping. Encourage interaction with the participants, maybe by asking questions, soliciting repeat of the sermon's main points, considering the pastor's or some added application. Lively engagement in this exercise might require some minimal note-taking by your children; which isn't a bad habit to get into anyway.

The sort of worship that becomes familiar and valued especially when people are young will be like a lode stone that draws them trained thereby back to the old paths if in the future they look themselves for a faithful pattern of worship and instruction. Already your family members have a sense of this draw, reflected in comments like, "Shouldn't we be....?" something other than that which we have begun to settle into. Attraction to the temporary service provider should not be a catalyst to reject what is objectively better. Perhaps a sermon review of the alternatives, when they are encountered, will show those deficiencies if compared to the quality received regularly.

I am not suggesting there is NO WAY you would be better off with a move--that may indeed be the needful thing for keeping your children in the faith and well-grounded. But I have heard more than a few sermons with nifty alliteration and other memory-aids that were barely connected to the text. Nice to listen to, but it was more listening-to-a-man giving a religious talk, and not hearing-the-word lifted (as it were) right from the mind of God. You want your children to value the latter and care less about the former.
 
Are your children learning the smaller catechism? Memorizing this (along with you parents, it will be fun and a blessing!) and going through the Westminster CoF together should help if there are theological issues with understanding.
 
Are your children learning the smaller catechism? Memorizing this (along with you parents, it will be fun and a blessing!) and going through the Westminster CoF together should help if there are theological issues with understanding.
Yes ma'am, we are doing WSC.

It is just possible that the sermon content is worth bearing with the style of delivery and the newer manners of the worship scene. Some (admittedly, not all) challenges call for us to rise to meet them, rather than looking for an easier course. Perhaps your children actually need to learn to absorb that which Christ has for the present chosen to give your family as his gift (Eph.4:11) to you, even a pastor after his own heart aiming to feed you with knowledge and understanding, Jer.3:15.

A recommendation: do a sermon-review in the afternoon or evening when you have come home from worshipping. Encourage interaction with the participants, maybe by asking questions, soliciting repeat of the sermon's main points, considering the pastor's or some added application. Lively engagement in this exercise might require some minimal note-taking by your children; which isn't a bad habit to get into anyway.

The sort of worship that becomes familiar and valued especially when people are young will be like a lode stone that draws them trained thereby back to the old paths if in the future they look themselves for a faithful pattern of worship and instruction. Already your family members have a sense of this draw, reflected in comments like, "Shouldn't we be....?" something other than that which we have begun to settle into. Attraction to the temporary service provider should not be a catalyst to reject what is objectively better. Perhaps a sermon review of the alternatives, when they are encountered, will show those deficiencies if compared to the quality received regularly.

I am not suggesting there is NO WAY you would be better off with a move--that may indeed be the needful thing for keeping your children in the faith and well-grounded. But I have heard more than a few sermons with nifty alliteration and other memory-aids that were barely connected to the text. Nice to listen to, but it was more listening-to-a-man giving a religious talk, and not hearing-the-word lifted (as it were) right from the mind of God. You want your children to value the latter and care less about the former.
Thank you for this detailed and edifying reply.

I will clarify that the one church we have already visited, and the other churches we are considering visiting, also take a high view of the Word. These are exegetical, verse-by-verse, theologically conservatives congregations we plan to visit. I won't compromise to sit my children in front of a glorified Ted Talk.
 
Yes this is true. Is there any kind of youth group or a place for your kids to be fed on their level? At our church up to 6 years old the kids are able to go to their own room during sermon time. Which it sounds like your kids are a bit older. But maybe if throughout the week they have opportunities to be fed that would be helpful.
Our pastor is vehemently against youth groups.
 
Our pastor is vehemently against youth groups.
I can get that. Until the last 100 years or so, the church didn't divy itself up by demographics except for those going through a catechism for full membership. I wonder, though, how many churches consciously create the opportunity for the 1 Timothy relationships (across generational lines). Technology and caring for a church's physical plant can help. My youngest (now 18 and 20) benefit from the relationships and conversations that come along while working on all things tech related for our congregation.
 
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