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.
- Good preaching.
- Great Children's Ministry.
- Worship that you like to participate in (Yet, remembering it's about Christ)
- Friendly people
- 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.
Please take the time to read our blog post on “5 Honorable Actions When Leaving a Church“.
Bottom line is this, even in our world of “Online Church” and making things convenient:
Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
Perhaps it's time for a breakup and then, re-connection to where you committed in the first place?