By Jay Risner, Lead Pastor
The term “church shopping” is high on my list of odious phrases. It perfectly describes a consumer approach to church, and suggests that you should not commit to a community of believers until you find the perfect match—kind of like hunting for a spouse on eHarmony. But since perfect matches do not exist in the realm of church any more than they do in the realm of romance this is an endeavor doomed to produce restless, unsatisfied congregants. Which is why “church shoppers” often wind up “church hoppers.”
That said, believers do need to belong to a fellowship. They need to commit to the doctrine, vision, and philosophy of ministry held by a local body. Further, they need to be able to respect and support their leaders, who are “keeping watch over their souls” (Hebrews 13:17). This makes committing to a church much more about affirming the principles and people that guide the congregation, and much less about the external methods being used to carry out ministry.
As you know, we recently welcomed a great group of new members to Faith Bible Church (and are poised to do so again in the Spring). These folks are really happy they found our church and they are looking forward to engaging fully with this body. These people are joining because they closely identify with the expressed values of our ministry. They are also joining because they recognize how important it is to actually commit to a local body, submit to its authority, and engage with its ministry.
So it’s not like these new members came to Faith and concluded, “Oooo…they have all the right programs, this is the perfect match…at least for now.” No. They came here and realized this church isn’t perfect, but we are about the right things, our doctrine is sound, and our leaders seem trustworthy. With those factors in mind a commitment to this church makes sense, even if it may not meet all their preferences.
Again, think about this in terms of a marriage relationship: Focusing on externals. Exalting your individual needs. Getting your way. Taking and not giving…these attitudes doom a marriage, and not so coincidentally they doom a church relationship. But submitting to one another, deferring preferences, committing to the same values, outdoing one another, entrusting yourself to good leadership…these are the attitudes that make a church, and also a marriage covenant, work.
So the best way for all our members (old and new) to be happy at Faith Bible is for your focus to shift away from your own happiness, and for it to be centered on the joy of others and the mission of Jesus. Otherwise, if and when we stop carrying the spiritual goods and services you are looking for, you’ll probably go shopping.