My Church (Part 3)

So what can churches do to stop cannibalizing each other?

First, we need to get over “our” church. Yes, the different segments of the church are different as far as personality and method, but it’s still one kingdom.  The kingdom of God isn’t about building our own little empires.  It’s about expanding His kingdom.  When we start recruiting people from other churches to come to “our” church, we make the kingdom of God about us.  And it ain’t about us.

Second, we need to make it difficult for believers to jump from one church to another. A lot of you may disagree with this, but my experience has taught me that church hoppers have no clue about how big of a pain they are.  In my experience, church hoppers complain louder and demand more of your time than people who are connected, and yet they give the least of their time, talent, and treasure.  They can easily derail a church from its mission. They need to be dealt with.

I don’t know what system you have in your church for trying to integrate new people into your church.  But make the system you have work so it is easier to spot church hoppers and harder for them to infect your church.  Ask hard questions:

  • Why did you leave your last church?
  • Did you leave in good faith?
  • Did you leave any broken relationships behind with staff or others?
  • Did you leave a ministry scrambling to fill your position?
  • Is your former church prepared to lose your financial contributions?  By the way, did you contribute generously with your finances?
  • May we contact your former church (if they say no, that’s a red flag)?
  • Come up with your own…

Because of the mobile and litigious society we live in, behaviors that the Bible says are subject to church discipline have been ignored and tolerated for fear of rocking the boat and fear of lawsuits.  Because of that, people are jumping from church to church and making it very difficult for churches to stay on mission because of the wasted man hours spent on pacifying whiny believers who need to shut up and grow up.  I’ve met so many naive church staff who assume that people coming from other churches will just settle in with their church and get what they need, and stop their church hopping ways.  Is it possible?  Sure.  Is it likely?  Nope.

Third, churches need to demonstrate a kingdom mindset by creatively interacting with other churches. If we don’t work together, the kingdom will not expand exponentially.  Some of us will have a tough time working together with churches who differ in certain doctrinal areas.  Fine.  Stop pointing fingers at those you’re not in agreement with and spend your energy working with those you do agree with to take back your geography for the kingdom.  My family currently meets with two (soon to be three) other couples here in Greenville on Monday nights.  They’re all on staff at other churches.  We’re simply getting together to be the church without the politics and delays that hamper most churches, and in full knowledge of their church’s leadership.  We’re encouraging each other and looking to help each other accomplish our mission in the churches we’re in.  It’s time to stop thinking solely about our church and start taking back the world for the kingdom of God with those churches that will work together with us.

Those are just a few thoughts.  Heck, they might even seem like a crazed rant.  Maybe they are.  But in the big picture, it’s not about our church.

It’s His church.  We need to start living like it.

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About Aaron

Aaron is a follower of Jesus. He's married to his smokin' hot wife Laura and is the father of three adorable girls. He enjoys a robust cigar, a complex root beer, a good movie, writing, football, thought-provoking books, and rousing discussions about subjects you're not supposed to talk about (like theology and politics). Religious people irritate him (because he once was one). He's on a quest to find the perfect dry rub and sauce for ribs.
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4 Responses to My Church (Part 3)

  1. Michael Morris says:

    I have to admit, when I read your list I thought “You must be kidding”. I understand not wanting to take in troublemakers, but I’m not sure the vetting process you suggest is appropriate.

    For example, what does it mean to “leave in good faith”…? Does that mean that when the church has sufficiently strayed from the scriptures to make agreement on serious theological matters impossible and such departure appears to be doing either more harm than good, or simply making everyone who attends “feel Christian”, then one should leave with their good faith in tact?

    Is the church prepared to lose our financial contributions? Really? When our giving becomes simply the means to keep a building open and staff employed then our giving is no longer to God and the Kingdom in my opinion, but only to feed a machine with God’s name on its lips, not necessarily in its heart.

    Did you contribute generously? Can you define generously for us? Our right hand is not to know what our left hand does in our giving, so a red flag for a potential member would be just these types of questions. If a potential church is more interested in your money than your relationship with Christ and your spiritual growth, run (don’t walk) away.

    Perhaps these “church hoppers” are desperately seeking out a vibrant body of believers who are more engaged in building the Kingdom of God and doing his work, than pretending like Christians on Sundays and the odd Wednesday evening.

  2. Aaron says:

    Hey Michael,

    Some really good thoughts. Let’s get right to them:

    I understand the thoughts on “leave in good faith.” That could have been worded better. Maybe something like “leave on good terms” or (for the really old school), “leave in good standing.” I’m not talking about minor differences in doctrinal belief. I’m talking about people who walk away from a church and leave behind a wake of damage–damaged relationships, tension, strife, a mess for the staff to clean up. They don’t leave on good terms, or they leave before the discipline process gets too far (for churches with the guts to discipline Christians who claim to be a part of that particular church body). They “pick up their marbles and go home,” with no thought to the damage they’ve left behind, with little knowledge or even care to what God thinks about such people who claim to be Christians, but who do a lot of damage to the body. Go back and read the second full paragraph again–those are the kinds of people I’m describing. There’s a huge difference between someone who moves into town looking for a church, and someone who’s been to every church in town.

    Money certainly is a sore spot. No one wants to talk about it, or its talked about too much. Let’s be real–the average church goer gives way below the good ol’ tithe of 10% (I’m not a tithe guy–heck, I’m not even a weekly offering guy, but that’s a subject for another post). The way the institutional church is set up here in the West, it depends heavily on the financial contributions of its members. And let’s be real–a great deal, if not a majority, of most church’s budgets are dedicated to exactly two things–staff salary and mortgage/rent. Less than 10% of the average church’s budget is designated for foreign missions, little if any is given to small groups/Sunday school outside of curriculum, and in new church work, a TON is spent on marketing or attraction style events (not that there’s anything wrong with those things, and not all new churches do so). And a great majority of churches do miss the financial contributions of people who simply leave–sometimes to the point of staff having to take pay cuts, etc.

    As far as the individuals giving is concerned, church hoppers of the type of described are not committed financially to a church. Even if you don’t ask that type of question in a membership class (and most won’t–I’m not being dogmatic that you would have to) or what have you, you know who has bought into the mission of the church by their giving–not just financially, but also of their time and talent.

    As far as your last paragraph, sometimes that is true. But you can usually tell when someone is seeking to be more engaged, or if they’re a wolf in sheep’s clothing (sometimes such people can be dormant for years). The latter won’t connect anywhere for accountability. If they give financially, they want say over how it is spent over trusting the leadership, but many don’t give. They don’t actively serve. Yet, they will demand time with staff, constantly voice their opinions on how they think things should be run, and (my personal favorite) they’ll start complaining that they’re not being fed, etc. And these folks are always people who claim to have been Christians for years.

    The point of the post is to help us to see that people need to think through a decision to leave their church for another. The body they leave will miss them in many ways. And if the body doesn’t miss them, isn’t it just like they were never there to start with?

    Some great thoughts, Michael. Thanks for the intellectual stretch! Keep it coming!

  3. Michael Morris says:

    Aaron,

    Thanks for entertaining my commentary. I certainly didn’t mean to hijack your post, but appreciate the opportunity. You cut to the heart of the issue on money and service I believe when you said “…they want [a] say over how it is spent over trusting the leadership…”. The key is, do you really “trust” the leadership. I personally believe that people should “date” their church for much longer before getting “married” to it. One can then tell if the leadership is trustworthy (and no, just the fact that they are in a position of leadership / elders / pastors does NOT make them trustworthy).

    As a conscientious Christian, I am charged with being a good steward of ALL Christ provides for my family an myself…not just the 10% some churches like to throw out there. I’m a firm believer that while there is no set percentage (including no minimum), that we are responsible for every dollar spent from our increase. If the church is not spending the money in a way that conforms with scripture, then I am as responsible for that as they are if I continue to contribute to their error. This is (for some) the reason they “want a say”…they want to ensure that their gifts and offerings are truly supporting God’s Kingdom, and not simply filling the coffers of the pastor’s kingdom building (often with his name prominently displayed on “his” ministry, buildings, etc.).

    Like you, my patience runs much thinner in the area of those who “aren’t being fed”. Only babies need to be fed, and there are too many Christians in our churches that have a developmental disorder…they never grow up. My personal opinion is that the overwhelming majority of these simply like to hang out in a Christian atmosphere, and aren’t really Christians at all.

    Oh well, thanks for letting me rant on your blog. Have a blessed day !

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