BESSEMER, MI – As a pastor, I encourage people to visit the churches in their area because different families and people have different personalities, and the churches in communities will appeal to different people for different reasons. As the leader of our family, when we move to a new area, we conduct internet searches and list a number of churches in our area we would like to visit before selecting a church to join. This can be a long process as we would not settle for one visit, but would make multiple visits to churches so we would have more than just a snapshot of their services. We wanted to make an informed decision.
Of course, if we found a church during our shopping we liked, we stopped shopping. There is no need to keep shopping when a fit is found. Hang a shingle and become active in the church. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 4: 1-6, there is one Spirit and one body, so get active and begin lifting others, growing in faith, and lifting the whole body. It is important to become active with the church as each believer has a role within the church. So many have forgotten they belong to something bigger than themselves in the church, instead focusing on themselves while shorting the rest of the body.
Like I said, I support shopping after a move because options exist. But once a fit is identified, make the relationship with the body personal. The problem occurs when people find a church, but elect not to get involved. What I witness happening with people that do not get involved is a problem of shallow faith. Not only is the faith shallow, it frequently also comes with an extra dose of judgment on others. The church hopper frequently recognizes the hopping tendency in their practices without seeing they might be the problem.
The hopper is not shopping for a church to get active in, the hopper is looking for their next reason to leave, and that reason is you or me, but seldom them. Maybe someone is wearing something they do not like, or the church does not play enough hymns, or the church plays too many hymns. The problem is not the church, even when the church has problems; the real issue is the hopper thinks the church exists to please them, instead of glorifying God. This is a terribly sinful way to avoid fellowship and membership in a body. Instead of getting active, bearing one another’s burdens, and being part of something bigger than themselves (Gal 6: 1-10), the hopper leaves for greener pastures.
The church hopper finds reasons to leave, and before long, discovers they have exhausted every church in the community. What the church hopper is missing is the only reason to stay in any church. God took mercy on man and sent Jesus to die in our place. We could not earn or buy our way into heaven and eternal life, so God opened the door through the work of Jesus. In response, we sinfully put ourselves as the reason for the church and ignore the lesson of the nine lepers that did not return to glorify God and worship Jesus (Luke 17: 11-19). One out of ten recognized the mercy of God in his restoration and went to the source. The others focused on themselves, ritual cleanliness, and went in search of a human priest.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ian Minielly is pastor of Catalyst Baptist Church located in Bessemer, MI. He is also a NAMB/BSCM Church Planter to “the farthest northwest reaches of Michigan.”