There are many reasons why Christians leave their church to find another church in the same community. Some good and some bad, I suppose. Some churches are merely existing, slowly drowning in the sea of traditionalism. Other churches have exchanged the gospel they were entrusted with for the sake of tolerance and all that. That’s not a church I would want to be a part of, so I understand if that has been your situation and you have left.
Other people leave for other reasons which may seem valid and may not. For instance, a family with young children might choose to find another church that has a stronger children’s and student ministry program. An elderly member living on a fixed income might choose to start attending a church that meets a mile away rather than continue driving a longer distance to church. A person might choose to start attending a new church in town because they have a dynamic teaching/preaching pastor or because their praise and worship gatherings are really exciting and uplifting. A young newly-wed couple might choose to find a brand new church all together that they both can be a part of as they begin their new marriage together.
There are many other reasons why people leave church. While some reasons seem very dubious and consumeristic, other reason seem more noble. I suppose each reason must be evaluated on it’s own.
However, has this ever occurred to us: the reasons for which we leave one church for another is a luxury that only a culture of affluence, division, and denominations can afford! This was a point that Rich Atchley, who preaches for The Hills Church of Christ, made during a class at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
So let’s be honest. Many of the programs that make one church attractive enough for someone to leave their church and join it, are programs fueled more by affluence than the Holy Spirit. When the switch has been one church for another within a denomination, such as leaving the Smith St. Church of Christ for the 1st Church of Christ, there has often been an element of division behind the decision. Even more so, such church changing is increasingly becoming a switch from one denomination to another.
Now I have never said that there is never a good reason for withdrawing from one church community and joining another. But…at least some, probably most, of the reasons do not seem to be grounded in gospel…the working of the Holy Spirit. As Rich Atchley commented, he has many people call him up inquiring about his church but these inquiries never involve Christians asking how they can use their spiritual gifts to help his church fulfill its mission.
It seems to me that this is a problem…a serious problem. Whatever solution there might be, it seems that the root of the problem is ourselves. That is, most decision making when it comes to church is about ourselves rather than God. Instead of selecting a church to join where we can help serve as witnesses of Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:8), we are selecting based on what is best for us.
If that’s the case, we have become duped into a grand illusion by Satan. To draw upon the book of Philippians, we cannot live for Christ (cf. 1:21) and ourselves. We must choose one or the other. We cannot have the mindset of Christ (cf. 2:5ff) and leave one church for another based on what suits us best.
So I’ve done a little thinking out loud on this issue, what are your thoughts now?