Monday, August 11, 2008

"Shopping" for a Church

Okay, I’m coming out swinging today. Brace yourself.

Over the years I’ve heard people say “I’m shopping for a church,” and it kills me every time. I hate hearing it. Christian people who say they are “shopping” for a church might use a better approach, and choice of words.

The church is a FAMILY. Would you “shop” for a family? Would you shop for a father, a brother, or a sister? Would you shop for children? The church is a place where relationships are forged in the journey of life and where you worship together. We are not McDonald's.

Had someone show up yesterday at PCC and he said, “We are shopping for a church.” Are you kidding me? Have you ever considered “praying about” which church God wants you in? Why did you leave your last church? Did you abandon them? Why? What unresolved issue are you running away from?

I’ve had people actually say to me, “We have visited almost every church in the area, and still haven’t found what we are looking for.” All I can think is “uh, oh…..”

I don’t have much tolerance for these church shopping southerners. It’s a cultural way of life for some people down here in the South. It must make God sick. Please do not use the phrase “church shopping." Jesus PURCHASED the church with HIS BLOOD and you are treating other members of God's family like merchandise. Jesus did not die on the cross so you could sample churches like a party platter. The Church is the body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, and the family of God - NOT Walmart. Grow up.

When people tell me they are “shopping” for a church they often say so in such a way that (appears to me) they want me to be happy about the possibility of catching this big fish, and I should enthusiastically attempt to convince them to join us. Not interested.

First of all, I’m more concerned about reaching lost people than I am church people.

Second, we do not want some mossy-back church-legalist who has been involved in half a dozen church fights in previous churches, to cause trouble in our church.

Third, when people communicate their long list of expectations we have to meet in order to gain their approval, I know this is a person who cannot be satisfied and will not remain content for very long. If they were easy to please and easy to get along with, they probably would not have left their previous church. If their pre
vious pastor could not keep them happy, I can’t either. I am not superman.

Fourth, if and when believers decide to join us I want it to be because GOD has LED them to our family.

I am tired of the consumer Christian who can never be satisfied. They take up your time, your focus, drain your resources, and in the end do what they did at their last church – leave.

I have always had my greatest problems from “church people” – those who came from another church because they got unhappy about something over there. It is just a matter of time before they get unhappy with us:

  • The music is too loud
  • The music is not loud enough
  • The services are too long
  • The services are not long enough
  • There is too much prayer
  • There is not enough prayer
  • The dress code is too formal
  • The dress code is too casual
  • There is too much emphasis on the Holy Spirit
  • There is not enough emphasis on the Holy Spirit
  • The preaching is too hard
  • There preaching is not hard enough
  • The teaching is too shallow
  • Too much emphasis on reaching lost people
  • I want to be an elder
  • I want to be on the church board
  • This is not the way we did it in my last church
  • Blah! Blah! Blah!

Recreational church shoppers, who flit from church to church, usually gain entrance into the pastor’s heart by generating large amounts of enthusiasm and goodwill. “This church is so wonderful; it’s everything I have been looking for” they gush. Sometimes they will jump into a ministry, get the pastor and church resources committed to the program, and then suddenly disappear, (like a deadbeat dad), leaving the core of the church to pick up the pieces.

Furthermore, any pastor who caters to those kinds of people is actually reinforcing the consumer mentality among these "shopping sheep" by enabling them with escapism from their previous church. Consumer sheep are in it only for themselves. These folk need to be challenged to grow up and dig in to a local church somewhere and work their way through their wanderlust. They might even need to be challenged to go back to their previous church and work through the issues they are RUNNING from!

Please, if you have included PCC on your “shopping list” keep moving on. Leave the seats (you would occupy) open for those people who are far from God or for those who are really interested in helping us fulfill the Great Commission.

If you are currently looking for a church home, that’s okay. There is a legitimate difference between looking for a church home and “church shopping.” This is an important decision that takes time. Instead of looking for a church that will protect your pet doctrine or sing your favorite song, how about ADJUSTING YOUR ATTITUDE for selecting a church BASED UPON the WILL OF GOD for you and your family.

If God sends you to PCC, roll up your sleeves, get under the heavy end of the log, plug in as a volunteer, give financially, and help us impact our city for Christ.

Otherwise, we need your seat.