As I went through our Visitor Connect Cards following a recent Sunday Service, it was somewhat surprising to read this statement, but at least they were telling the truth.
We also have an area someone can select “looking for a church,” but that wasn't selected because they were just “church hopping.”
What sounds like an exciting venture in checking out what other churches are doing can soon become a lonely endeavor as each and every church is critiqued (and criticized) as not being entirely up to par for a long-term relationship.
The Bible tells us in Hebrews 10:25 (NKJV) 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
What are a few good reasons for finding a local church and becoming faithful to it?
I would imagine you've never seen an article start with that headline!
Please take a few moments to hear me out on this and then you will see the significance behind a question like that….
FINDING THE PERFECT MARRIAGE FIT
Most of us who are married remember those days of “finding the perfect fit” for our lives. While we knew there would be a process involved in dating, courting, engagement and finally that wonderful wedding day, we were willing to put up with some of the heartache and heartbreak that came along with it. The reason is that we knew if we were patient and of course, as a Christian, prayed for God's will and purpose that we would soon find the “perfect fit” for our lives to live “happily ever after.”
Perhaps there are those who are reading this that have been married for a long time, and you are still on your honeymoon. That's wonderful! For the most part, people conclude that they, in fact, married someone who “changed” within a few years following the wedding. The butterflies have flown away it seems, and the “hard work” we were told about regarding marriage has set in. Those who truly love the Lord and their spouse have a decision to make, and it's to answer this question in their hearts: “Is it worth it to work through some of the situations together, or should I just throw it all away and try again with someone else?”
Yet, there's something else that happens which is just as damaging as throwing it all away, and that's to have a “girlfriend or boyfriend” on the side. You know, someone who requires nothing and in fact, would never tell you to pick up your dirty socks off the floor or take out the trash, or change the oil in the car, or lift a finger to help “around the house.” Some feel they've found the perfect arrangement… all the butterflies without the expectations!
We know that ultimately, such an arrangement causes permanent damage to the marriage relationship unless it's dealt with and cut off immediately.
FINDING THE PERFECT CHURCH FIT
So, keep that introduction in your mind as I relate the story to the Church and a growing trend I see today in the Church world and the reason I posed the question in the first place.
Let's just start with an example that may often be a reality in the life of a family moving into a community. They could even have been part of a community for some time, but for the sake of this illustration, let's say they just moved in.
THE DATING PROCESS (The Church Search)
You begin the search for a church that will be a “perfect fit” for your family. Perhaps you sit down as a family and make the checklist of what you are looking for in a church.
Great Children's Ministry.
Worship that you like to participate in (Yet, remembering it's about Christ)
A perfect opening and closing time
Not asking for money all the time
and the list goes on and on.
A list of things that are ALL about your needs with barely a thought of how you will be a blessing to the church through giving of your time, talent and treasure.
Finally, after the search is complete, you find a church that fits “most” of the items on your list and begin to settle in for a series of services. In other words, you've decided to “date them more than once, ” and before long, you move to:
THE ENGAGEMENT (The Commitment to Become a Member)
After visiting for some time and getting to know a few of the people and listening to the Pastor's messages for a period, you decide that this is going to be the church you plant your family in. You begin to notice a few things here and there, but as far as you can tell, things sure look great, and you feel the love and are committed to making it happen, and by “it” we are referring to:
THE WEDDING (Becoming a Member)
The announcement is made from the pulpit, and the date has been set for Membership Classes (pre-marital counseling), and following this intense time of getting to know you, the decision is made to make that commitment to becoming a member of the church. It's been explained to you that there are indeed responsibilities that go along with that Membership such as faithful church attendance, giving, and even at times sacrificial giving. Being available for service in the church in some way whether through teaching, ushering, greeting or taking out the trash!
The “wedding day” has arrived. Membership is happening, and perhaps you, and a few others are part of a “mass marriage” for the day as you come on board as a full voting member and participant of that church. You are looking forward to the community and yes, even the world being changed for the better as a result of you joining this particular local church.
THE MARRIAGE (Time of long-term Commitment begins)
Finally! After the search and commitment and ultimately, the “wedding,” this “marriage” begins, and you are looking forward to the real “benefits” that will come your way as a result of becoming a full voting member of the church body.
Things are going great until the leadership notices how faithful you've been to the house of God, especially on Sundays and they ask if you would enjoy being a greeter at the door to welcome both regular attendees and visitors. You say yes, and start serving in this area, but the problem is that the butterflies aren't flying as they used to and you realize if you commit to something like this, that you won't be able to sleep in like you did before.
Long story short, and not to bore you with endless illustrations; you realize that becoming a member of a church or at least a faithful attendee is beginning to require something of YOU, and you didn't count on that when you started that particular church in the first place!
Things that were easily overlooked in the “dating process” are now magnified in the “marriage.”
The preacher is “always asking for money,” and the “music is too loud,” and people aren't friendly like they were when you first “started dating.” Also the services go longer than you remembered in the “dating process” when in fact, they are about the same length. It's just that the “infatuation phase” has moved into the “commitment phase,” and you're not really ready for all that.
THE GIRLFRIEND/BOYFRIEND PROBLEM
For the unfaithful husband or wife, they begin to allow their eyes to wander and perhaps they have someone called a “work wife” or “work husband.” Might I add, that's just plain stupidity! (That was free). Or, they go out and find a girlfriend or boyfriend to mee their “needs.”
However, to relate this to the church, perhaps, you think the answer is to start the “dating process” all over! Of course, as a family, you are going to do this together, so there's nothing really “wrong” with it, right?
It begins with going to that church down the street or next city over that perhaps you even remember visiting when you were “dating,” but you figure that if you just go there once a month, nobody will notice or even care for that matter, yet before long, it's twice a month. Or for that matter, it's not going to a church anywhere but relaxing at home with the latest and greatest Facebook or online broadcast! You don't even have to get dressed to go to church with this feature!
Oh, you still go to the church you “married” but notice more and more things about that church you didn't notice when you were in the “dating or engagement” process.
The “butterflies” are a thing of the past as you get more and more acquainted with the people in your “marriage church,” and you are noticing blemishes and things that are leading you to feel you made the wrong decision.
You're fine with that because you have your “boyfriend/girlfriend church” who you continue to visit and “be with” who never asks you to “pick up your socks” or “give more.”
In all this, the reality of what is happening is “divided loyalty.”
The Bible says in James 1:8 that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways, and of course, we know that a double-minded woman is in the same fix.
You cannot be truly rooted and grounded in your faith until you realize that the high value of commitment, especially in regards to church attendance. It used to be that faithful attendance meant being in church “every time the doors were open” such as Sunday School, Morning Worship, Evening Worship, Mid-Week Service and all the Revival Services in between.
Tragically, now in people's minds “faithful attendance” means attendance at least twice a month in the church they are are a member of.
Other than that, don't even bring up the “C” word (Commitment).
While families may not realize it for years, but even as the family is profoundly affected by divided loyalties in the parents who may eventually separate and divorce, our families are also affected by our lack of commitment to the church we “married” some time ago.
The similarities can only go so far of course in relating marriage to a church because indeed there are times a family must leave a church for one reason or another, and I trust it's a good reason and not a frivolous one.
This is an article addressing the situation of church attendees moving on to another church, and how it can be done in a way that brings honor to the Lord.
Did you know there's an honorable way to leave a church that is beneficial to both the “leaver”, as well as those connected with the person or family who are leaving to attend elsewhere? Did you know there are ways to leave a church in which God is honored and precious souls are preserved in the entire process?
Pastoring for over 35 years, I have seen the full range of “leavers”, and have observed many different methods people use as they move on. Some of those methods have done more damage to the Kingdom of God than anything I know, while other times, there is such a spirit of Kingdom unity that even though there may have been some hurt involved, that impact was lessened due to this Christ-like attitude.
So, I want to present to you five honorable actions that will go a long way in maintaining unity in the body of Christ, as well as the testimony of the believers involved.
1. Pray About Your Decision
You had to know that would be first right? How often this has not been the case, but decisions were made in the “heat of the moment.” Perhaps in that moment of “intense offense” when you have been treated unkindly, and there's no debate about it. Some of the greatest offenses that have been received have had to do with family members and our natural reaction is to protect them by all means available to us.
When we take time to pray and do not react immediately, we are giving time for the Holy Spirit to work in the life of the offending person, and yes, our hearts as well. Yes, He is still able to do that! Many people ruled by their flesh instead of the Spirit are often so quick in entering their self-defense mode that the Holy Spirit has no say in the matter at all. Many do not even take the first step in Matthew 18, let alone the steps after that if step one is met with resistance. Matt. 18:15 If your brother sins against you, go and confront him privately. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.
How much could be avoided in the area of hurt feelings if a private meeting listening to the heart of Christ produced a spirit of reconciliation? I would venture to say a lot. So, in that prayer time asking for God's wisdom, He may indeed direct you to make an appointment, even if it's with your Pastor or another church leader who may have been involved with the situation.
Awkward? Most likely yes. Biblical? Absolutely.
Is God telling you to move on?
If you haven't prayed about it, then how would you know?
If you have decided to move on then why not take the next step?
2. Share Your Decision with Your Pastor
This may come as a result of meeting with your Pastor according to Matthew 18, and perhaps the results were not as you had hoped. You have openly shared your thoughts and concerns with the Pastor in a Christ-like spirit.
Too many people have left a church without even this common courtesy, which by the way has become rather “uncommon.” Hopefully, you have been in a fellowship which has a Shepherd who is willing to meet with the sheep! If not, then at least you have tried to do so, and your hands are clean. (Just don't muddy them up again by broadcasting your offense all over again).
If you have things to share with your Pastor that are concerns, especially in the area of Biblical doctrine, then speak openly and honestly with him. If it's something as mundane as he didn't shake your hand before or after church one Sunday, then I would encourage you to give a little grace to a person who has many hands to shake!
[pullquote align=”normal”]Go further than an impersonal email. Go beyond a phone call. Meet with your Pastor face to face so that each of you can see and feel the emotions the other is sharing. [/pullquote]Go further than an impersonal email. Go beyond a phone call. Meet with your Pastor face to face so that each of you can see and feel the emotions the other is sharing.
By the way, don't absent yourself from the church for 3 or 4 weeks and then complain to others that no one has even contacted you about your absence. Most Pastors I know aren't particularly fond of “hounding” their attendees about missed services in the first place.
Most Pastors spend their ministries doing their best to provide pastoral care to as many people as possible. So often, the very people the Pastor has ministered to in many ways such as weddings, funerals, counseling and even fellowship times are far too quick to walk away at the first (or second) offense that comes along.
Respect him or her to the point of at least attempting to have a “sit down” meeting. Following your time of prayer and meeting, then possibly, it is time to move on.
By the way, be truthful with the Pastor! Far too many times Pastors are told one thing in a meeting, then they begin to hear other reasons from people who have encountered the person leaving the church in the Community.
This brings me to my third honorable action:
3. Respond to Friends/Family/Community with Integrity
Without question, you will be asked a question as you see people in your community and it goes like this: “So why did you leave (NAME OF CHURCH)?
Here's an opportunity to honor God with your response and have His blessing accompany you, or become divisive and vindictive and be swallowed up in bitterness and spiritual decay, which in turn will affect others around you.
Hebrews 12:14 Pursue peace with all men, as well as holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. 15 Be careful that no one falls short of the grace of God, so that no root of bitterness will spring up to cause trouble and defile many.
Isn't it amazing that directly preceding the verse about a “root of bitterness,” the writer of Hebrews implores the reader to “pursue peace with all men.” If there is ever a noble pursuit in the Kingdom of God, it would be the pursuit of peace with all men. While this may not always be possible, at least the pursuit is a worthy one!
The Bible makes it clear as well that a “root of bitterness” if left alone, and unchecked will cause trouble and defile many. Who does it cause trouble for? I believe the one who is impacted negatively the most is the one who has the bitterness in their heart. Who does it defile? The Bible says “many,” so the question would be who in fact is “many”?
Friends, family, and community are all impacted significantly by just one person or family leaving a church. The one without the spirit of Christ would say “good, that's what I want to happen”! The one WITH the spirit of Christ would be on constant prayer watch that their answer to the “why did you leave question” would reflect honesty, yet with no intent to hurt those left behind.
A scripture many of us learned in Sunday School would come in handy, and it goes like this; Psalm 19:14 – Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
[pullquote align=”normal”]Nowadays, we could also say “let the words typed from my fingers, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight.” Whether our words come out of our fingers or our mouths they all originate in the heart, so keep your heart pure. [/pullquote]Nowadays, we could also say “let the words typed from my fingers, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight.” Whether our words come out of our fingers or our mouths they all originate in the heart, so keep your heart pure.
Again, realize souls are at stake and as a child of God that should matter to you greatly! People who were considering going to church for the first time could hear something that keeps them out of that church you left, and as a matter of fact, ANY church which could negatively affect their eternal destiny.
Psalm 19:14 – Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
4. Just Enjoy the New Church (Without bashing the previous one)
So many people have left a church and have found within 2 Sundays that indeed, they have found the perfect church they've been looking for all their lives! (Smile).
In comparing the new church to their previous one, they declare: the people are friendlier, the songs are more in tune with what you enjoy, the preaching is more relevant and not as long, and the Pastor has taken the time after every service to track you down to let you know how privileged he feels to have you there.
The carpet is prettier, the coffee is better, the seats are softer and the climate is perfect for everyone all the time. It's quite “miraculous,” and you are so thrilled to share your finding with all your friends on social media!
[pullquote align=”normal”]Statements like this: “Wow! I/We started attending (NAME OF CHURCH) a few weeks ago, and let me just say it's amazing! Never been so happy in all my church-going life!” [/pullquote]Statements like this: “Wow! I/We started attending (NAME OF CHURCH) a few weeks ago, and let me just say it's amazing! Never been so happy in all my church-going life!”
I'm sure you have a few statements you could add here.
Why not give it a little time before you begin to write your glowing reviews?
Our church has a Facebook page and every Sunday I check in using the check-in feature, without fail on Monday I get the opportunity to leave a review about my visit. Somewhat similar to my visit to the automotive shop earlier that week.
Anyway, go easy and don't burn any bridges you might want to go back across one day regardless of how ridiculous that might sound at the moment.
5. Pray for God's blessings upon the ministry you left.
Do you want to make sure bitterness doesn't find a home in your heart? (Hopefully, you do).
Hebrews 12:15 (NKJV) 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
One of the best ways I've found in ministry to make sure bitterness doesn't take root is to begin to pray hard for the ministry you left behind. I didn't say “pray against it,” but pray FOR it!
[pullquote align=”normal”]It's difficult to have a growing root of bitterness while praying God's blessings upon a church or individual who hurt you. [/pullquote]It's difficult to have a growing root of bitterness while praying God's blessings upon a church or individual who hurt you.
Pray God will richly bless them! Pray for souls to be saved in the process of that blessing!
You will be amazed how God deals with your own heart in the process and will notice great freedom in your new ministry environment as you move forward. (It also makes it much less awkward when you see people in the Community later on).
These are just a few thoughts. Perhaps you have some you'd like to share below?
One of the greatest deceptions of the enemy in this day is the belief that the local church is not needed for the disciple of Christ to grow, while that same Christian becomes captive to a plethora of voices and opinions via social networking connections, television, radio, the internet, etc.
One can easily see how the enemy enjoys this ploy and how effective it is in this last day, especially in light of a scripture in the Word; Hebrews 10:24-25 (NKJV) 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Verse 24 clearly lets us know the great value of gathering together in a local body of believers as we “consider one another” which in turn stirs up love and good works. This implies accountability.
One has to be spiritually blinded to not see “the Day” approaching. Be careful of those who call Christ Savior, yet do not have a local Bible-believing, Bible-preaching, Christ-centered, God-glorifying, and Holy Spirit-powered Church they call their “home church”.
“Lone Ranger Christians” are easy prey for the enemy, perhaps not with outright apostasy, but with deception leading to certain defeat. 1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV) 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
WANT TO MAKE YOUR PASTOR’S DAY? (GREAT FOR PASTORS APPRECIATION)
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Here are nine quick ways to show your appreciation throughout the entire year… not just Pastors Appreciation Day!
1. Write a note telling the pastor how good a particular sermon was.
2. Invite others to church. Nothing says, “The pastor is doing a great job” louder than asking your friends and business acquaintances to visit. Be sure to introduce them to the pastor after the service.
3. Pray for your pastor and his family daily. Take a few minutes to pray with your pastor whenever he is available during the week. Stop by the church office early enough on Sunday morning to pray briefly before the service. Or make arrangements to come to the pastor’s house and pray for his entire family. Make your visit brief.