I hate looking for a new church. Several times, my wife and I have packed up our oversized red furniture, stuffed it into a swaying moving truck, and hit the interstate. Several times we’ve unloaded into an unknown community. Several times we’ve begun the process.
Research. Visit. Nitpick. Visit somewhere else.
Here’s the truth: it’s always much, much easier for me to find reasons not to like a church and try another than it is to just settle in for the ride with other imperfect people. I’ve got dozens of reasons to reject a church… and (this is the part that hurts because it’s true) most of them are bad reasons.
That’s why Aaron Loy’s article in Relevant caught my attention. In it, he flips the equation on me and lays out four bad reasons to choose a church:
“Like many in my generation, I’ve done some moving around and with each new move I’ve had to begin the difficult process of searching for a new church home. If you’re like most, a day is coming when you too will be on the search for a new church to call home. When that day comes, you may want to think twice before using these all-too-common reasons for making your choice….”
Here are the justifications that he wants us to reconsider:
1. The Pastor is Really Good
If that’s our reason for picking a church, many of us would probably reject the apostle Paul’s congregation. He likely wasn’t an impressive specimen, and he even came across as a mediocre speaker (2 Corinthians 10:10). Lots of pastors can entertain with their wit and panache, but that doesn’t mean we should take our membership to their churches.
2. The Doctrine is Spot On
According to Loy, while right doctrine is very important, just claiming to have certain beliefs doesn’t mean the church actually lives them out:
“They say they believe in a God who cares about the oppressed? Pay attention to who they advocate for. They say they believe in the great commission? Watch how willing they are to inconvenience themselves to see it fulfilled. They say they believe in grace? Watch how they treat others, particularly those they disagree with.”
3. They Have a Great Kids’ Ministry
I confess to falling victim to this mentality, weighing everything by how solid the kids’ ministry looks. But, as Loy points out, the most important ministry to kids, the place where they truly learn to love Jesus, is the home. All the bounce houses and games and prizes in the world won’t make up for what they see and hear in the four walls of your house.
4. It Meets My Needs
Guilty here as well. Too often I’ve made my church hunt all about what I need. But, Loy says, that’s not how God wants us to operate:
“Why? Because it positions us as a consumer before we even show up. It suggests that the church exists to meet our needs. Anyone see a problem here? Our primary call as a part of Jesus’ church is to contribute, not just to consume. We are to die to self (Mark 8:34–35), to lay down our life for others (1 John 3:16), to consider them more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).”
In a recent blog post on BibleStudyTools.com, Dr. Jeff Robinson hit on this topic of choosing a church—but from a slightly different direction. He explains 9 reasons why you shouldn’t leave and 6 why you should:
“There are certainly legitimate reasons to leave a church and sadly, it sometimes become necessary or even a duty to find a more biblically faithful body. Sometimes churches become theologically or morally bankrupt, leaving a sound believer no choice. But it seems in our self-intoxicated, consumer-driven evangelical culture, what is often referred to as “church hopping” seems to have reached a virtual epidemic. There are a number of reasons for this reality with biblical illiteracy, a loss of a robust ecclesiology, a distaste for authority, the disappearance of church discipline and the decay of meaningful church membership ranking high among them.
“When should you leave a church? I think it is helpful to first think through a number of reasons why not to leave a church. Here are a few illegitimate reasons for leaving a church, reasons I have heard over the years….”
Your turn. Why do you love your church? How did you end up where you are? When should a Christian leave a church? When should they NOT leave a church?