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.