Church Tour

Church Tour Conclusion

The Beginning of the End

Even after 8 months of finding my way alone, I truly believed I could find a way to fit back into a church. Now I’m not so sure. I’ve become someone new. Still just as committed to the Gospel, to my friends… but there’s a distance between us now. I know I’ll never be at peace until I find what I’m looking for. But I don’t know if I can do it from the church. This may not be my home anymore. And I don’t know what that means. Or where it will lead me.

From August 2023 – January 2024 I went on a church tour, visiting 25 churches in 24 weeks observing a variety of things. I marked 5 churches for revisits and proceeded to do those revisits from late January to early March 2024. There are both some broad observations as well as revisit notes I should make as the tour officially concludes.

A few general observations from the overall tour:

  • Formats are largely the same from church to church: worship, announcements, giving, message, and close with worship opening evert service.
  • Worship seemed pretty routine in most of the churches – while style varied from 2-3 musicians in a corner to a full band with a rock-and-roll adventure – worship was fairly similar, fairly systematized.
  • Many of the churches had systematized intake: first time visitor, get-to-know us class / lunch, serving and small groups, membership, rinse and repeat. I suppose this is part of rebuilding the church.
  • Most churches are in re-build mode post-covid. There was one though where I’m pretty sure if there as a fire everyone would go straight to heaven, they wouldn’t pass GO or collect $200 – it was that packed – only a tank of wine for communion large enough to put a fire could probably save them.
  • Communion instructions are helpful but not always given – the best was where a parishioner air-tossed me the elements. The funniest was me reaching and grabbing the elements on the table behind me without leaving my seat – the looks on people’s faces were priceless.

A few church-specific observations from the 5 revisits to Hope Church West Nashville, Cornerstone Nashville, Way Church Nashville, Fellowship Nashville, and The Donelson Fellowship.

Hope Church West Nashville was the small community church I visited early-on in the tour. The people there are welcoming and were the ones most willing to engage in deep and detailed conversations both in in person and via email. It’s got the strengths of a small church – engagement, intimacy, and community – which are often lost in the larger church.

Cornerstone Nashville is a large church in Madison. It is currently in a reboot mode with a leadership change. They have been willing to engage in dialogue via email and answered some tough questions on follow-up. Cornerstone is a fairly established church plant although I’d argue with the leadership change it’s got some aspects of a new church plant such as experimentation with the worship style.

Way Church is a new church plant in East Nashville. It’s largely a hipster East Nashville church – I helped run a Hipster East Nashville Church many years ago so I get the vibe. Emails to this church went unanswered. They suffer a bit from the lack of space issue for the number of people coming out which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Way Church has a hipster / young person vibe which brings a level of excitement, with just a few older people with their own vibe.

Fellowship Nashville is a pretty compact church off Nolensville Pk with an older vibe in it’s congregation. They have been willing to dialogue at length via email as well as in person. The first visit was a Sunday service they turned into a prayer meeting, the second service was more traditional and one of the pastors did take the time to dialogue in person. Fellowship Nashville was very focused on it’s congregation with a very caring atmosphere.

The Donelson Fellowship is the church of the slew that really seemed focused on outreach in their atmosphere. They fill my inbox with different outreach opportunities – they seem the least inward focused but my unanswered email would indicate that some inward focus may be helpful. They seem to be the most on-mission of the gaggle of churches but with 4 services dally a touch point could be in order. The Donelson Fellowship however seemed a success in the outreach department.

Overall, the church tour was an amazing success – if there was one common thread / takeaway it was that most every church was rebuilding post-covid in one way or another. The systematic format of each church was somewhat comfortable yet concerning to me however I’m not sure that’s what I’m looking for beyond some kind of clear format for communion. Each church had it’s individual experience however what I wasn’t finding overall was engagement as a first time guest to the level I was expecting overall. There were a few exceptions and I’m speaking tour-wide not the 5 revisits.  

While I do not demand communication or attention, it was good to have some dialogues but I was amazed at the lack of dialogues overall as I did fill out as many first time visitor cards as I could. It was an interesting season.

For me at least in this season I may stay parked sowing my time and energy into a weekly outreach as opposed to regular church membership. In my epilogue I’ll discuss a little further what it is I think I’m looking for – or at least what I’m not looking for.