There was a time when a person could be born, grow up, get a job, and die without ever moving far from their home and the community where they were raised. That is not true anymore. The advent of modern transportation has made us a very nomadic society. It is not unusual for one to move away from their home for schooling, to get a job, or get a promotion. Times have changed.
Christians are caught in this cultural shift like everyone else. When they move they carry their faith with them. A new home and a new town mean a new search for a new congregation. There are also those who for a host of reasons leave one church in a community in search of another.
I have been pastoring for a little more than five years. If all those who had visited our church during that time were to show up next Sunday the fire marshal would have a heart attack. I know that our church is not necessarily what some are looking for, I understand that. But many have said they enjoy the worship, the message, and the spirit of our congregation. I have pondered why some have stayed and others have simply moved on still searching.
As with most issues there are at least two perspectives to be considered and this one is no different. On one hand we should give some thought to how churches should present an atmosphere to help those in search of a church home to connect. On the other hand those in search of a church family should consider their attitude and what to expect from a prospective congregation.
The nomadic climate of our culture has created its own set of problems. Probably chief among these is the sense of isolation one feels when immersed in a new community and the loneliness it generates. Our nation has never been more populous, yet many have never felt lonelier. It is the responsibility of the church to maintain an atmosphere that welcomes visitors, offers a safe haven from the world, and a place to connect. This is a concern that the church cannot ignore if we truly care to reach those for whom Christ died.
Another cultural hallmark here in America is the sense of individualism that comes with the liberty we enjoy. We are free to do as we please, so we do. Many Christians in America are infected with this outlook. They hop around from one church to another, and though they admit there is no perfect church they still insist on searching for a church that perfectly suits them.
They do not wish to worship as much as they wish to be entertained. They do not wish to hear a message that will make them contemplate being changed into the image of Christ, but one that will make them feel comfortable where they are. They are not looking for a church where they can serve, but a pew where they can sit. Their search will be filled with frustration and they will render themselves useless insofar as the cause of Christ is concerned, because they are more interested in being served than they are in serving.
This attitude is contrary to that of Christ. In the tenth chapter of Mark and verse forty-five Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” The Son of God considered Himself a servant. If being a Christian means to be like Christ then there are many who need an attitude adjustment.
I have served in many church situations that were less than ideal. I have done so because when I consider all that Christ has done for me, I am compelled by my gratitude to do something in His service.
Several Wednesday nights ago a woman was waiting by our church sign out by the road after the midweek service. One of the elders, my wife and I were the last to leave. This woman had parked her car and was waiting for us to exit. She waved John, the elder, down as we were leaving. I could not hear all their conversation, but did see him point in my direction and heard him say “he’s the pastor.”
As John drove off she sauntered back to me. She never introduced herself. As she puffed on a cigarette she told me “God was leading” her back to church and began to give me a laundry list of what she expected from a church she might attend. “You don’t have a band do you? Because I don’t believe in bands.” I patiently answered her questions. I have not seen her again.
I know this is an extreme example, but it is reflective of many hopper shoppers.
Those who are immature will hop from one church to another and shop for a place to worship; those who are mature in their faith will search for a place to serve. There is a difference. Some will hop and shop; some will have the nerve to serve.