Where does one find fellowship?

I have been journeying with BioLogos - primarily through the podcast - for a couple years now. I really feel my relationship with God has been rejuvenated by realizing this balanced approach to science and religion.

However, the more I listen to your teaching, the more I realize the church I’m in - and really most of the churches I’ve belonged to throughout my life - are not well aligned with what I now see to be a more healthy understanding of God’s word and the intersection of science and faith. I’m really yearning to belong to a community where God’s word is honored, but not misrepresented by anti-intellectual fundamentalism and poor methods of biblical interpretation.

So my question is: does anyone have advice, resources, or another way to help point me in the direction of a local community of believers where I will feel more at home? I am truly at the point where I’m ready to give up, because I’ve tried so many churches but they just all seem to be on either one extreme of the spectrum or the other. Is there no in between?

Anything to point me in the right direction - for example, are there certain denominations or traditions that are more likely to strike a healthy balance of science and faith? - would be so appreciated. I’m desperate for fellowship with like-minded believers, but I fear that if I don’t find something soon, I’ll be utterly disillusioned with the American church for good. Many thanks for anyone who has advice they think may be helpful!

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Welcome! Wow, that’s a tough question. A lot would depend on logistics, too – the population density and how many churches are even available and how far it would be practical to travel.

There is no one in the church that I’ve been attending for the last 11+ years that I have felt comfortable sharing my scientific understandings with other than the pastor, but we have a mutual respect, and that is a good thing. (The way I came to be attending there was an unusual providence – I was invited under a false pretense by the former pastor, and in less than a year there was a church split and he left, taking a sizable proportion of the congregation with him – there had been effectively two congregations meeting as one, and I had no reason to leave. The new pastor, now a good friend, came the following year.)

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I found this moments ago, and I agree with the contents of her first point, certainly, and there is good advice following, as well:

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The answer is literally 99.99% no Casey. In the US as much as in the UK. What you’ll find is any fellowship that is top-down open about that will have a very small clientele, especially in the Bible Belt. Or will concentrate it in centres of excellence like Oasis in the UK. And what goes with that is liberal inclusion that evangelicals can’t tolerate, as in the Episcopalian church. The vast majority of Enlightenment type thinkers have to swim silently, carefully in evangelical waters. Lonely are the brave. Everything comes at a cost.

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Humans work this way.

When you have 99% in common, the 1% seems bigger and bigger everyday and eventually you’ll have this desire to find 99.5% in common thinking it will solve so much but then that remaining .5% starts to seem really big. The likelihood of finding a predominantly evolutionary creationist church is stacked against you. You never read of a perfect body in the Bible. The body is always being admonished for something by a prophet or apostle. What you can try to do is find a church that shares the same core doctrine and righteousness you believe to be true. Find a handful within , if any that congregation, who views the text more like you. Find others from nearby churches that feel the same. Supplement your fellowship with more than just assembling as a congregation but also setting time apart for other likeminded disciples outside of your congregation to be friends with.

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I think you are the “in-between”. But you aren’t alone. Church culture tends to be vulnerable to the same tendency that is seen in our cultures at large: a trend toward ‘purifying’. I suspect it is a power-struggle where each of the two extremes wants to dominate the local congregation in order to keep any of the other’s influences out. That instability doesn’t usually last long (unless there are other even more powerful influences keeping things together … say … a commitment to Christ above all else let’s say … perhaps hypothetically). A pencil doesn’t stay balanced on its point but falls one way or the other to more stable positions. Hence the difficulty (for any of us) of finding a congregation that easily has such different extremes knowingly sharing the pews with each other. Both sides think of the other: “well - we don’t want any of that here.” - and for good reason, because both sides know that the other does not tolerate them easily. So often one or the other them rushes to solidify their community into alignment with their own “correct” side. And even though I put “correct” in scare-quotes there as if this is all neutral and that either side has some sort of equal claim to accuracy and truth; here is the real difficulty in all this: one side often is more correct or accurate or loving about some things than the other. So the real question for any of us (who will always presume ourselves to be the correct ones) - is: can you learn to live with people whom you know to be wrong about important stuff, but who are equally convicted that it is you who are wrong? That takes effort. Like Paul and Barnabas - maybe parting company with each other over John Mark is the way it just has to fall out sometimes. But note that the difference did not keep them apart in the end, and there must have been behind-the-scenes spiritual forces at work that eventually brought Paul back around again. So that disagreement did not have the last word about their working relationships. I think we should hope and pray the same for our largely now “sorted” church communities.

[Per the discussion in some other thread; we should also acknowledge that somebody can be wrong about important things and still be a true and faithful person. And somebody can be right about everything and still have an untrue or unfaithful spirit, and I further suggest that it is on this front that the Spirit does its most important work on each of us and our pride. If this isn’t currently operative for you, all the right facts in the world will not get you Shalom with God or each other. And during the times you are in true standing, no load of wrongness can keep you out, but will itself get sorted in due time. ]

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The difficult thing about the church this side of eternity is it’s full of people who are flawed. It doesn’t matter which church we go to, we will never be completely happy with it. In fact, we ourselves are flawed - so we also bring imperfections to our church congregation. It’s important to keep this perspective close at hand.

That being said, God is a genius in that He designed His church to be like a body that has many different parts. You are somewhere in the brain, and you don’t like that the foot is so different to you. But where would you be without the foot? You’d be pretty stuck. We actually need each other in the body of Christ and all play a different part.

My husband is an intellectual by nature and has had times where he felt out of place in our church. But that didn’t stop Him from being faithful. He looked for the gaps in the church that he could fill. He started by stacking chairs. His character grew, and He soon became the youth pastor. He then had the opportunity to feed our youth with plenty of good thinking skills. He did apologetics with them. He asked the hard questions with them. And for the most part, those young adults have turned out to be very good thinkers - and they will now go on to influence the next generation of the church.

It may be the case that you need to find a new church, perhaps with a lead pastor who is a reasonable person (not everyone in the congregation will be, no matter where you go). But whether you stay at yours or find a new one, consider approaching your church family (because it is a family) not with the question “what can my church do for me?”, but rather, “what can I do to serve my brothers and sisters in this church?”. What part of the body are you? Your local church needs that part and is lost without it.

For my husband, he joined a forum (similar to this one) that was full of like-minded people, and he was able to make some friends through it. This helped him to get his intellectual needs fulfilled, so he could then go and give himself to his local church without that gaping need.

God had given you a gift to offer to your local church.

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I’d like to add, it is probably worth talking with your pastor about this. Don’t ever leave a church without talking through it with the pastor first (other than in exceptional circumstances). They usually do care about you, and it can really hurt the pastor when people they love leave without even discussing possible solutions first.

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Absolutely! I have talked with my pastor, and while he is definitely YEC, fundamentalist, Brethren background, he admitted to me that at one time, he also felt that the Bible and evolution were compatible. So, he has sat down with me and my 13 year old son (who has lots of questions, like I do) and expressed enjoyment of our “iron sharpening iron.” We attend our church because they are our family, not because of a similar creed in all respects. We also would hate to hurt our pastor, who has really worked hard for encouragement of all of us.

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Not to mention, even if you still end up leaving - pastors will be very interested in knowing what their congregants are thinking - or especially they would want to know what things are such issues so as to cause someone to seek out other fellowship because of it. Sharing that would (in most cases I think) be a minimal loving thing to do. And who knows? After mutual sharing you might end up deciding you can make it work or the pastor may be willing to work with you in constructive ways too.

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Absolutely! Try a mainline church, especially the Episcopal church. You will be pleasantly surprised. A good church will have folks with a variety of outlooks where not everybody thinks and looks like you. Look for diversity, especially among the clergy and ruling board (called different things in different denominations). A female pastor would be a hopeful sign. Remember, you are not obliged to be miserable. God bless you in your search!

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I like the Episcopal church; many of my Roman Catholic partners accept evolution, too.

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Thank you! I really do appreciate the thoughts of everyone who’s commented so far. But I must say… I was becoming discouraged reading through them because it began to feel like most responders preferred to make assumptions about what I am or am not already trying and try to address that, rather than just answer my most direct question. You are the first to attempt to give a direct answer, and for that I thank you! I have noticed the Episcopalian church as a definite candidate. So I’m not surprised to hear your answer. But it’s encouraging and makes sense.

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I appreciate your sharing your experience, and I hear wisdom in your words. Let me clarify though: I am not looking for a “predominantly evolutionary creationist” congregation. And I’m quite certain I am not in a 99% vs 1% situation. I am quite confident that for the place where we’re currently at, we need a new church. So I’m curious, what can you tell me about experience of trying to find a church whose core doctrine you agree with? Which church or types of churches have you found to be most conducive to a healthy worship environment for you? Thanks for the help! I appreciate your post.

That might be pretty dependent on what you’re used to? For instance, I have never attended a church that is formally liturgical, with only a couple of exceptional occasions, like attending a funeral.

Every time I read this thread’s title I want to respond: Elrond’s house. But of course that’s another place and time.

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And even that fellowhip fell apart. : (

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True. I find fellowship happens to varying degrees all the time. Somehow I think I’ve been a solo act too long to reasonably expect much overlap in the specifics very often. But I suppose most fellowship is more about a common pursuit than common ideas.

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Good point, Mark. Clearly, you have been thinking about this matter quite a lot.

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Where do you live, Casey?

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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