Have you been church shopping lately?
Maybe you are on the edge of initiating a search due to your disappointment, discomfort or disagreement with your current congregation.
Does anyone keep statistics on how many Christ-followers change churches each year? I would love to see them if this were possible to track.
There are many reasons and motives for disciples changing churches. I’ve done it myself. Yet, I recognize that the most frequent answer to the question, “Should I change churches?” is “no.”
Most of the time when we think about leaving, we don’t. On the other hand, so many disciples of Jesus feel very free to take on and take off their relationship with a particular local body of Christ nearly any time.
So, if you happen to find yourself there, considering leaving, here are some considerations to engage before you go:
1. Reflect on what being church with others means to you.
What’s the image, analogy or metaphor guiding your perspective on church?
Is church like family wherein we don’t choose who they are but rather learn to accept them as they are? Or, is church more like brand loyalty – it comes and goes? What does “covenant” have to do with our guiding images for being church?
2. Explore what God is teaching you in this current dilemma, decision or pinch-point.
God’s agenda may be to train you toward becoming more loving in terms of acceptance. It may be that God intended for you to be in and with this particular church to teach you to love people whom you don’t prefer.
Local congregations are like God’s laboratories – experimental schools wherein we learn to love other people while having our rough edges worn off.
3. Imagine you had no other church choice available, yet remained committed to church.
Knowing that you had no other choice, you reinvested in your church, deciding you would do more than just tolerating your church. Then, what might you do to help your church become the robust community of faith you hope it will be?
What creativity does this decision to reinvest bring to your spirit and actions? If you knew you were in this particular church for life, with whom would you need to make peace?
This might be God’s calling for you to learn to love others whom you don’t particularly like. This also might be part of God’s renewal movement for your church: you engaging in deeper, more significant ways.
4. Consider that you may be on the edge of a spiritual breakthrough.
When we grow uncomfortable is often when the Holy Spirit is troubling the waters, so to speak. It may be that you are on the verge of moving out of your comfort zone, growing into greater spirituality than before.
The pathway forward may not include fleeing, but staying. By going through the valley, entering the waters or embracing the situation as it is. This may be God’s way of conforming you to the image of Christ within you.
5. Recognize that nearly every message you receive from culture steers you toward self-centered living.
Our culture plays to the self, largely ignoring the common good. Marketers of every kind encourage you to indulge your wants (through buying what they are selling). We are encouraged to think of ourselves as consumers of goods and services.
So, how much do you bring the consumer perspectives to church? Is it more about what the church does for you, or about what you can do for the church? What does denying yourself and following Jesus have to do with your church participation?
We are all works in progress, this side of heaven. We are all working out our salvation, our spirituality, our faith, through every decision.
Most of the time our calling is to honor the covenant relationship with our local congregation, learning to be the family of God together.
Perhaps the purpose of church is to make us uncomfortable, creating openings in our lives for the Holy Spirit to refine us. May our holy restlessness within our souls lead us to greater engagement with God’s church in every way.
Mark Tidsworth is president of Pinnacle Leadership Associates. A version of this article first appeared on Pinnacle’s blog and is used with permission. His writings can also be found on his personal blog.
Mark Tidsworth is president of Pinnacle Leadership Associates.