Posted by: pastortomvabeach | June 12, 2008

Thought For The Week June 15, 2008

I have been thinking a lot the last couple of weeks about something that is very common in Christian circles in the United States today – the increasing trend of believers moving from one congregation to another according to their felt needs or preferences. A Leadership Journal article entitled iChurch: All We Like Sheep, by Skye Jethani, likened the idea of moving church to church to choosing one’s particular type of coffee at Starbucks. We have so many options available to us today and we become consumers of churches because they fit our personal desires.

  • With this consumer mindset, “Christians become customers and church leaders function as religious salesmen, supplying spiritual goods for people to choose based on their preferences. Our concern becomes not whether people are growing, but whether they are satisfied. An unhappy member, like an unhappy customer, will find satisfaction elsewhere.”

  • Anyway, I have been thinking about this and really wondering what the Bible would say to us about this cultural trend. So far I can’t find a whole lot that would justify me moving to another church just because I was dissatisfied with where I am. LifeWay conducted a study that found that nearly half (48%) of those who move to another church do so because “their needs weren’t being met.” Neither can I find any examples of someone moving to another church because they felt led by the Holy Spirit, which is common in Pentecostal circles.

  • Before I go on, let me clarify what mean about moving church to church. Betsy Hart in her July 7, 2005, Scripps Howard article, “Church Hopping” another “All About Me Trend”, defined what I am thinking very well. She said, “I’m not talking about someone who moves into a new community, or first decides to start attending church and then visits churches until becoming a member of one” nor “about leaving a church after finding unaddressed scandal in it’s leadership, or when one’s conscience becomes persuaded that something foundational to the belief system of that church is very wrong.” She said, “I am talking about the growing tendency in evangelical churches to decide, after one has officially joined a church, that ‘Oh, that other pastor is a little more high-energy than mine,’ or ‘The music here isn’t really meeting my needs,’ or ‘I’m not satisfied with our children’s church director.’ So they just up and leave, and go to a new church in their community.” And they stay there “until they hop from that one.”

  • In thinking about these things, I am deeply concerned about what is biblical and what is not biblical about moving so casually from church to church. Is this something we can find support for in the Bible? If it is, what are the biblical justifications for moving? If casual moves are not biblical, are any moves? And if casual church changing is not biblical, what harm may we be bringing to our churches and ourselves by this practice.

  • I admit that I have not yet fully explored this idea, so I will very likely write about it for a couple of weeks. Let me give you some preliminary thoughts that I have pondered from the Scripture and then I’ll try to put it together in subsequent weeks. The first thought I would like to present is the continual urging of both Jesus and the writers of the Epistles to faithfulness and stability on the part of believers. James warns against being double minded in James 1:8 saying that a “double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” The context is discussing “faith and doubt” but being double minded applies to other areas of life as well. Jesus gave great value to being faithful with what God has given you, commending the faithful servant in Matthew 25:23. Is it possible that our faithfulness could be measured to some extent by our commitment to use our gifts in a reliable manner in a local church?

  • Another thought I pondered is the one taught in Ephesians 4. The saints are to be “equipped for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature.” (Ephesians 4:12-13) If God intends to build, bring unity, and maturity to the church, how could He accomplish that if He is continually “leading” people to leave the place where they are being “built” to go to another place where they will have to start over? Wouldn’t all this “leading” be counterproductive? Also He goes on to say that one end goal is that “we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” Ephesians 4:14 I am wondering if casual and frequent moving church to church isn’t at least part of what God had in mind in this verse. Finally, He says that “the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:16) What effect does it have when “ligaments” pull themselves free from where they are helping to hold the body together and go somewhere else and try to find a place to fit in? How does any church really “grow and build itself up in love” if the parts are continually bouncing around leaving empty holes?

  • These are just some preliminary thoughts I have been pondering. I have not made any final decisions on this yet, still asking questions. I write these thoughts with great concern knowing that there are people in our church who have come from other churches in this area. In no way do I intend to pass judgment on anyone who came here from another or who has left here for another church. I am sincerely just trying to find some real biblical guidance to help me and us as a church from this point onward. I would like to be able to rightly counsel those who may think of moving on and those who come from someplace else. If you have any insights into this question please pass them on to me.

  • This is of so much concern to me because it is so prevalent in our country and culture. But just because it is prevalent does that make it right? Just a thought


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