I'll see if I can keep this one shorter :)
After the first two churches, I went on down my list to the next church that was close to the house.
3) Visiting pastor -
This is actually a fairly common epidemic for me. The church we wound up going to in IL had a visiting pastor the first time we were there. When we were in Louisville, I think there was a guest preacher on 2 or 3 church visits.
This seems to be a problem for me. Not that there is a guest preacher, but it feels as if it is a "wasted" visit. Because the church I was at in IL would use nice, Godly men who everyone loved, but didn't preach from the Bible per se (they read a couple passages told a BUNCH of stories.) But the pastor at the church was fairly competent at explaining the Bible.
In this case, the music was nice, nobody (apart from the door greater) said anything to me. The music was average. One thing I liked, however, was that they had dedicated prayer time at (what appeared to be) every service. I mean prayer time. Middle of the service, they had counselors up front, and had everyone pray in the pew if you didn't go up. That was refreshing, hadn't seen that in a while.
Got tired of the SBC churches being the same (after visiting 2 or 3) so I branched out. Went to an E-Free church.
It was pretty big. Not sure the door greeter even said anything too me. I could have gotten in and out without anyone hardly making eye contact except they had a time to shake hands, and this nice gentleman behind me actually started talking to me.
Songs were the "Jesus is my boyfriend" type of music. Real light on any meaning.
Sermon time I was hopeful as the preacher referenced Trinity Seminary in his opening remarks. He actually tended to keep going back to the passage at hand (a rare feat). But seemed to miss the main point. He preached on Unity out of Ephesians, and seemed to miss the point that the reason that Christians have unity is because they have Christ and the Spirit. Apparently, this is easy to do, as another church I visited had the same problem.
5) Bible Church -
So now that I wasn't sticking to SBC churches, I thought "why not try the Bible Church on the corner of my neighborhood." It was truly un-remarkable, in that I can barely remember anything that happened in the service. It must not have been too bad, though, because of church #6.
6) Second Bible Church -
Went to a much larger Bible church. The building was nice, and full. I estimated 3 or 400 people there, and it looked like they had an overflow room that was full. Songs seemed better than the boyfriend genre. The interesting point was that they had a rather long drama (about 15 minutes out of an hour or hour fifteen minute service.)
The drama was well done, in that the players obviously knew their lines and roles. They put good energy into it. However, I'm NOT a fan of drama in church. This case was part of the reason why. They went so long on the drama, the sermon itself was 10 -15 minutes. The drama was on the entire OT in 15 minutes. Like I said, they did a good job.
The sermon was on the usefulness of the OT. The pastor made a couple good, albeit brief, points. Mainly that the OT is just as divinely inspired as the NT. And that the OT is what the saints such as Timothy used as their Bible.
Where I thought it was lacking was that I walked out of the service thinking that the OT was primarily there to teach me to be moral. That anyone could pick up the OT, read it, and be a "good person." Furthermore, I felt like he missed the opportunity to talk about how the OT points to Christ. Maybe he didn't really believe that. It's rare to hear a sermon about the OT that shares my view. But it's also disappointing to hear a sermon on the OT without scarcely a mention of Christ.
#7) Reformed SBC? (last one today)
So I headed south to a church that looked to be a bit more reformed than most SBC churches in the area. I was really hoping to find one that was at least partly reformed. But I approached with a bit of trepidation as well. While I am reformed in my understanding of election etc. I'm not a regulative principle kind of guy. Nor am I still fighting the RCC. In deed, I might be blasted by reformed Christians as not really being reformed. I'm sure I'd be blasted by anti-reformed Christians as being too reformed :)
This church actually had someone besides a pastor that came up and talked to me. The songs were the kind that I was looking for. What I mean is songs with a deep meaning, sung by people who meant it. It wasn't dry-boring-hymns. It wasn't upbeat-shallow-choruses. It was some kind of mixture.
The sermon seemed to be pretty good as well. I thought he challenged the congregants to see their sin in ways that they wouldn't have normally.
So I walked out in the entry-way and grabbed a couple of their documents. I passed up the 1689 confession, but grabbed some others. Then on Monday I emailed the pastor asking "how reformed" you have to be. For example, I'm not a sabatarrian in the strictest since, and a lot of reformed baptist are. Also, I'm not at a point where I believe in Limited Atonement as expressed by most "reformed" baptist churches, and I know my family isn't there either.
Problem is, I never heard back from the pastor. Turns out his email bounced back twice. So I called the secretary. (An asside here, I have an aversion to the phone unless I'm really close to you. So right now I talk to my family, and one or two close friends with the phone. It's a long story, and I'm not even sure why. But phone conversations tend to give me more anxiety than even face-to-face.) I asked her my questions about how much of the 1689 do I have to affirm without reservation? She didn't really know, so I asked about sabbatarrianism and limited atonement. She said she'd pass my info to the pastor and took my phone number. Seems that the pastor didn't like email. So he called once (might have left a message, not sure) and I wasn't able to get it because it was the middle of the work day.
It wasn't that I was unsure of these issues. But rather I had made up my mind on them, and was pretty sure they were in opposition to their state beliefs. I still consider this church and it's members of like mind, but we differ over a couple minor points (in my mind, probably not in theirs). It was kind of like the church with a pre-tribulational position in their statement of beliefs...Not sure it's wrong, but I can't affirm it without reservation.