There is a growing epidemic in the United States concerning church hopping. More churches’ membership numbers fluctuate not due to new converts but due to revolving membership doors. When someone becomes upset with music styles, church programs, carpet color, differences with another member, frustration with a staff member, or any other reason, people move their church memberships like they would a country club membership. When the place is no longer meeting someone’s needs, that person will find a place that can. What’s really sad is that many churches turn their advertising to lure other church members away. Many Christians jump on the occasion at a disgruntled church member to try to them to switch roles to a new congregation. Rarely does someone encourage an upset church member to do the biblical thing: reconciliation.
The problem is that the church is not a club, it’s a family. And families stick together. Imagine a family of four loading up the minivan for a family trip. As they begin to get comfy in their seats, the teenage son puts in a CD for traveling music. The rap music on that CD is not the mother’s taste at all and so she turns the radio dial to her favorite country station. After four different styles of music are attempted unsuccessfully at achieving musical harmony, the family decides to get out of the van, forsaking the trip because they just can’t function together anymore. After the altercation, they just decide not to be a family anymore.
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Yet that happens at a greater level in churches.
You may be thinking but family is different than church. Understand this: you are a physical family due to special bonds, but you are a church due to the blood of Jesus. That is actually more significant! So when we leave churches due to insignificant things, it brings a bad name to the church of Jesus. While the reasons may seem significant to the person at that time, most of the times they are insignificant. When was the last time you heard someone leaving a church because the gospel wasn’t going out to enough people or people had become complacent and weren’t obeying Scripture anymore? It rarely happens.
What’s devastating is that most reasons why people leave a church are not only unbiblical they are anti-biblical. We are not supposed to leave a church due to preferences, we are supposed to hold others‘ preferences as more important than our own (Phil. 2:3-4). If someone hurts us in a church body, we are called to confront that person (Matt. 18:15-20) and do it before we even go to worship the next Sunday (Matt. 5:24); it doesn’t matter who started it, you are called to address it. Instead of publicly berating a pastor for differences, we are called to obey and submit ourselves to those whom God has appointed for our spiritual care (Heb. 13:17).
This verse is key: “Let us do good to all people, especially to those of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). We are called to work out differences among our local church. We are called to forgive. We are called to edify one another. We are never called to take our ball and go home when things don’t go our way. Decide today that your church is your family and families stick together. Relentlessly address conflict and move towards being the church that God has called you to be.
[This article was written for an upcoming LifeWay curriculum piece on Galatians due out in July 2011.]