September 21, 2020

Changing Churches

I live in a city where changing churches is an art form. Those who have been in their same church for ten or more years are as rare as an Oklahoman who doesn’t like football (which is the unofficial state religion). They are as rare as an Arkansan with a full set of teeth. When I meet someone I haven’t seen in, oh, say, six months or more, and they ask, “Are you still going to ____?”, and I say Yes I am, they’re shocked. Not because it is a bad church, and not because I am a serial church-hopper. But because so many others in Tulsa are.

I have been at my church for more than twelve years now, ever since I moved back to Tulsa from southwest Ohio in 1998. It’s not a perfect church. (How could it be with me in attendance?) It’s not a large church by Tulsa standards. We have maybe 650 who come for one of two Sunday morning services, and that includes kids of all ages. The largest church in Tulsa has that many parking attendants. My church is my family. They know me and still accept me. As far as I’m concerned I’ll make this my home for as long as I live in Tulsa.

(Full disclosure time: iMonk writers Adam Palmer and Joe Spann also attend this church with me. But they usually don’t sit with me—I think it has to do with the fact that I may be the worst singer in the universe.)

Yet I am a rarity among churchgoers in this part of our land. Most pastors will tell you it is common to have a person or family stay for an average of only two years. What happens to cause people to change churches after such a relatively short period of time?

One of the most common things I hear is, “I wasn’t being fed at my church.” Not being fed, or not being fed what you want to eat? If a person has eaten cake and cookies and ice cream every day, a plate of vegetables is not going to be very appealing. Drinking chocolate milkshakes every meal is more fun than suffering through liver and onions. Could it be that you are growing past the milk stage and now need to learn to chew meat? “Not being fed”  is code spoken by those who just want to swallow spiritual pablum. These people will jump from church to church, finding one more person to spoonfeed them strained apricots and pureed plums rather than growing up and learning to cut up and eat a steak.

Another common excuse centers around the music. If a church hires a new music leader, it can expect a significant turnover. Musical style and presentation in the church is one of the biggest factors for choosing a church in the first place. And when that changes, even slightly, we feel we have an excuse for leaving. I love our music leader. Great guy, great life story. He spent three stints in prison in his 20s before he surrendered his life to the King of Kings. But I don’t like the songs he chooses on most Sundays. I don’t want to sing about me and how blessed I am. I want hymns, the richness of lyrics that have been handed down for hundreds of years. But should I leave my church just because our song leader doesn’t choose songs I like? Is it really all that important what I think about the music selection? Can God not receive praise even if I think the lyrics are trite and bland?

I had dinner recently with the head of a large denomination, and I asked him why he thinks people find it so easy to change churches. He blames it partially on the “seeker” movement of the 1990s.

“We told people when then came to church they didn’t have to do anything,” he said. “They could just listen to others sing. They didn’t have to give. They didn’t have to respond to the message in any way. And now we wonder why they aren’t committed to the church. It’s because we trained them not to be.”

He has a good point. So many church services are nothing more than variety shows put on the entertainment of the audience. Put on a good enough show week to week, and you’ll attract a big audience. And draw a big enough audience, and chances are you’ll bring in a good-size offering. Then you can afford to put on an even better show in an even bigger theater. Just don’t go messing things up by asking for audience participation. That is the kiss of death for attracting a large crowd.

Another factor leading to an exodus from one’s church is dissatisfaction with the pastor. People get dissatisfied with the way he preaches, how long he preaches, what he preaches about, what he doesn’t preach about. They don’t like him being too abstract, or too concrete, or too practical. They don’t agree with his theology. They don’t understand his theology. And of course, we open up a huge can of worms if we substitute the pronoun “he” with “she.”

So the pastor can no long simply prepare an expository message from Scripture. He (or she) must take his crowd into consideration and know how to entertain them—without offending any, without asking them to do anything. Forget seminary. The successful pastor of today needs to hire a drama coach.

Are there any good reasons to change churches? I believe there are. A life-change may bring about a need to change. For instance, if you get married, and your spouse had gone to a different church than you, well, I would think you would both want to worship in the same church, so one—or both—are going to need to make a switch. Likewise, if you go through a divorce, I doubt you will want to stay in the same church as your ex. Awkward.

I suppose if there is a huge doctrinal shift in your church or in your denomination that you just cannot abide, you may feel the need to make a change. But even there I would be very cautious. Just what church is going to have perfect doctrine, at least your version of “perfect”?

Is it important to stay in the same church for a long period of time? Or is church-swapping a right all Americans have? Now that I mention it, is this a unique problem for American churches, or do people in other countries change their church allegiance as frequently as Americans do?

Perhaps I am just old-fashioned. Perhaps I am hopelessly out-of-date. I do realize that at times God is going to come on some and lead them to another church. I have a very dear friend who left her Protestant upbringing to join the Catholic church in obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit. God can and does lead some to do things we might question. But I think these are the exceptions. (And if God is in the leading, it is an exception you must follow.) For the most part, I think we imperfect people need to select an imperfect church and stay there.

 

 

Comments

  1. I disagree with the “I’m not being fed” being code for unwillingness to grow spiritually. Sometimes it actually means that one is sick of the feel-good sermons that are being preached at times- the ones that don’t look at all to Christ but sound more like something out of a self-help book. But still- I stay at my church- I’ve grown up there and serve there- it’s my family. They keep me accountable, they’ve seen me grow and are still helping me grow.

    But at the same time- I can see how one would want to change churches. I see people who have never felt at home in this church, and are there because their kids (not yet past the adult landmark of 18) have found a place to serve and grow. I think that it’s a right- but should be exercised sparingly. And that the reasons need to be more than music or disagreeing with the pastor at times. Because if music was truly an issue- it’s difficult to form a multigenerational community of faith who agrees completely on music. Children grow up with different music than their parents. And their grandparents.

    • Granted. Sometimes “not being fed” means you really do long for meat and are tired of cotton candy week after week. But most of those I hear say this are still longing for the candy.

    • I would argue that it is not the pastor or church’s responsibility to “feed” you. In today’s society, there should be no excuse for staying “hungary”. There are books, podcasts, etc.

      • Of course it is the pastor’s responsibilitiy to feed you. Jesus did not say to Peter after the resurrection, “Bring in a kickin’ band” or “Preach feel-good sermons.” What He said was, “Feed my sheep,” “Feed my lambs,” and “Feed my sheep.” Can’t get much more direct than that.

        It is not the shepherd’s responsibility to make new sheep, however. Only sheep can do that.

      • Actually, the pastor’s job is to train you to feed yourself and to equip you for service (Eph. 4:11-13). And offering pablum week after week, or preaching sermons that are little more than lead-ins to the weekly altar call (whatever happened to the concept of a beliver’s meeting?) just doesn’t cut it.

    • Good article.
      For me and many I know, we want sermons and church to challenge, change, or convict. When myself or someone else I know says they are not beeing fed, more often its for this reason. The reaction I see from someone that is uncomfortable with what they hear is something different than complaining about hunger.

    • When I told a pastor I wasn’t being fed, it was in reference to being burned out by the million volunteer hours I was being asked to put in. At some point it is not about spending the hours of your life making the God machine run.

  2. Another Mary says

    Thank you for your thoughts. I so agree. It seems that the concepts of spiritual formation and maturing in a church setting are considered out dated at this time. But, I believe the Holy Spirit can turn this around. The fact that this website and conversation goes on seems to demonstrate that many believers want to grow and connect.
    My husband and I changed churches 8 years ago when the church we had attended for 17 years began growing in a direction we felt was really empty and unacceptable for us – that week after week seeker friendly service – and we felt we needed more. We spoke up but with no effect. Our new church family is not perfect (which one is?) and I sometimes wonder why the Lord would plant us there , but, it’s home and it’s our family. Our part is to faithfully give our best, to share worship, encourage others and grow in Christ.

  3. I am with you – I need a compelling reason to change church. For me, changing churches has only happened because of moving to a new location entirely. That said, I can think of an issue that bears discussion: access.

    Access is a huge issue. The really obvious kind is wheelchair access. Upon moving to a new home after my marriage, I was seeking a church. For many, even if I could roll in the door there were no usable bathroom facilities (a big problem for the incontinent), and I also encoutered buildings where taking communion would be impossible for me as well as anyone stuck in the row next to me. The people were friendly, they loved Jesus, but we just couldn’t worship together. Side activities aren’t a deal breaker (I’ve been stuck out of my home church’s big fellowship/food area for 2 years now, including sunday school for whole semesters), but if the basic mechanics of the service don’t work, I’d be better off at home.

    The hidden access issue, and the one I think responsible for more generational complaints than it gets credit for, is HEARING access. Many, many people are hard of hearing, and almost everyone gets that way to some degree as they age. Modern praise music seems to be led by the same people that think a prayer is the right time to play “meditative” music. That isn’t always true, obviously, but it is often enough to give those of use with hearing loss get-that-new-music-off-my-front-lawn grumps. While it is great to see the passion that is also associated with this stereotypical worship person, you can’t amen a prayer you couldn’t hear a word of over the “background” music. Yet at every opportunity outside the sermon, loud piano or guitar or whatever overwhelms the speech or even the proper moments of silence. Take it one step further with those crazy flowing colorful powerpoint presentations and even the most devout soul will find it hard to concentrate on the character of God! Modern music also tends to lack musical scores, making it difficult for someone who’s hearing is going to learn to sing the tune.

    • Very good points, Tokah. Pastors, are you listening to this?

      • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

        I’d certainly never have thought of this. We’ve got quite a few older folks at my church, several of whom are in wheelchairs or have similar limited mobility. During Communion, our priest always goes directly to them at their seats before taking his place so that the rest of the congregation can line up. That’s neat to see.

        • Richard Hershberger says

          This is, in my experience, completely standard. I find the idea of not taking communion to those unable to come forward absolutely boggling. At best it suggests that the church doesn’t take communion seriously. At worst it is outright malpractice.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Completely standard at St Boniface, too.

        • I can second these responses, I have always had someone come offer me communion.

          The particular church style I was thinking about had stairs down the side aisles and a very narrow rampy center aisle. As a visitor, I discovered this after I had already gone to the front for communion. I was a complete traffic jam, and there was no way for me to get back to their wheelchair cut outs. But if I hadn’t gone, there wasn’t room for people in my row to walk past me either. The thing was a total traffic jam, and they clearly hadn’t actually had anyone in a wheelchair test out their wheelchair seating!

    • I have just the opposite problem – hyperacusis – extreme sound sensitivity as the result of a chronic illness. I can no longer be in the room when the music is the least bit loud. Add instruments, clapping, etc. and it becomes painful for me. (This coming from a former worship leader who led the band for years.) So I’ve changed churches … but the “safe” churches keep changing, too. New music styles and the propensity for throwing out tradition for what is now politically correct keeps us unconnected and always searching. I have not yet figured out how to work this out. If in good conscience I cannot give my money to support the PC programs of a church, how can I trust them with my soul?

      • The volume at which music is performed is an increasing problem. I know an elderly couple who were elders in our church and had to leave because of this problem. It was not dissatisfaction, but a physical problem. This, too, is something pastors are going to need to address.

        • Hear (Ouch!) Hear!

        • The megachurch my parents have attended for some 20 years is going through this process as well. In recent years, as younger leaders have taken the helm, they have begun to have the worship team sing AFTER the service is over as people are attempting to talk to one another in the sanctuary. Oftentimes the music and singing are so loud people literally cannot hear each other talk.

  4. This article speaks so much from my heart. And, sadly, from my own experience as a pastor of an evangelical church. I’ve heard each and every one of the “why-I’m-leaving-arguments” with my own ear.

    I think this is one of the outward symptoms for a much deeper problem: the spiritual core removal in the evangelical movement, not only in the USA (I’m from Germany). It’s not anymore about what we believe, but rather about how it gets presented. Last month a fellow pastor wrote in a chuch magazine in Germany, that we as evangelical churches are “submitted to the laws of a market”. He wrote that to explain why people change churches.

    I was flabbergasted and asked myself: Doesn’t anyone realise what implications follow out of that conlusion? Anything that just has the look of an orthodoxy that challenges people will get chucked overboard for a “Convenience Church” where everything has to be done to the liking of the audience. I think that pastor has described evangelical reality much more than he originally intended to do.

    Frankly, this is starting to concern me more and more. I want and I need someone who teaches me how to live closer, more joyful and more obedient to God – not just when the music is playing. I want real spiritual leaders, people I can look up to and learn and be encouraged by their example of a walk with God. I don’t need church entertainment – if I want to get entertained, I’ll go to the football stadium.

    I hope that our churches don’t loose the very core they are build upon. If they do that, they will deserve everything they get afterwards.

    • Consumerism is definitely an issue, and the laws of the market have regrettably been absorbed by many Christians, who in Kierkegaard’s analogy, think of worship as if they paid a $100 theater ticket. And televised religion is not just a symptom but the real culprit in commodifying faith. The camera has glorified the revivalist tendency towards privatized belief and packaged into a fantasy world focused on our individual vertical relationship, where we have become conditioned to react to real, physical community as if it can be turned on or off with our hand controller.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        …where we have become conditioned to react to real, physical community as if it can be turned on or off with our hand controller.

        Just like that scene in Mars Attacks. For real.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I think this is one of the outward symptoms for a much deeper problem: the spiritual core removal in the evangelical movement, not only in the USA (I’m from Germany). It’s not anymore about what we believe, but rather about how it gets presented.

      What happenes when the world completely outside the church has a better kick-ass presentation?

    • The more I have reflected on this myself, the only answer I can come to is to go back an connect with what has gone before, the church fathers (east/west), liturgy, the catholicity of the reformers and the lessons learned from the renewal movements of the Holy Spirit. Obviously, not all would agree on everything but I think there is more that is good here than not. We need a sense of being connected with what has gone before to counter the whims of the present. In a word, I am speaking of Godly tradition. I realize why we are gun shy about this word as evangelicals but our modern disregard for it I think is a large part of why we are where we are.

      My prayers are with in Germany! I am not German but I was born there and have links to it through friends in and outside of our church.

  5. From my experiences in Australia and the UK, changing churches is something which happens a lot in other countries other than the US. I think there are a number of factors contributing to the practice. Though there are those who leave because they aren’t liking the ‘food’, the milk/meat thing is regularly overplayed by church leaders. The view that people are leaving due to the availability of teaching calories is a bit of a red herring according to some of the research I’ve been reading over here.

    Church changes tend to have more to do with a continuing feeling of being a guest rather than a part of the family. Most people will ‘give it a year’ to see if they can feel a part of the congregation, then spend the next six months to a year looking for a place in the group where they feel they can contribute. If they can’t find that place, without causing a turf war or feeling redundant, they move on. Often ‘not being fed’ is code for ‘not being allowed in the kitchen’.

    I suspect it is this continuum, rather than the teaching continuum, which the bulk or church turnover comes from, at both extremes (add those who are so over committed that they burn out).

    Consumerism do doubt plays a large part. If there is anything someone doesn’t like about a church the perception is that with so many churches out there at least one of the others must be better. ‘The grass is greener’ perception coupled with a culture of consumerism leads to many a move.

    Once, back in the day, when there may have been only one church in the village, there was no choice but to stay and fight for a place in a congregation. Now, there is a proliferation of churches in each town, many of the same ilk even. If you have not been invited to contribute, or been ignored, or just not been made to feel at home, in one church then you can take a look at the one down the road.

    • “Church changes tend to have more to do with a continuing feeling of being a guest rather than a part of the family. Most people will ‘give it a year’ to see if they can feel a part of the congregation, then spend the next six months to a year looking for a place in the group where they feel they can contribute. If they can’t find that place, without causing a turf war or feeling redundant, they move on. Often ‘not being fed’ is code for ‘not being allowed in the kitchen’. ”

      I agree! I desperately want in the kitchen, not the dining room. When evangelical churches switched from congregational to staff controlled leadership, I can’t find a place to use my spiritual gifts. Part is from my personality and the way I develop relationships, but part is how the church is organized.

  6. Tim the Kiwi says

    Greetings from New Zealand!

    “…is this a unique problem for American churches, or do people in other countries change their church allegiance as frequently as Americans do?”

    Generally, it’s been my experience that “church hopping” or being involved in a “steeple chase” does happen here, but it’s maybe not as prevalent as in the States.

    First and foremost, a disclosure: I have attended different churches in the past, due to a variety of reasons including shifting cities, as well as feeling that God is/has led me to a particular church, or to help a friend recently ordained as a Pastor/Minister. Generally each change has been for a minimum of 6/7 years.

    One major thing that bothers me, and maybe more educated minds than I can supply the answer – should church growth be based (even partially) on church hopping? If a new church is established/planted, there is a corresponding decrease in other churches for a variety of reasons.

    This was one reason why I “church hopped” – a friend of mine got ordained, as I decided to support him in establishing/working in the church. I’m still not sure how much Church growth (as in the universal Church, the Body) should be boosted by people committing to a church from other churches. I also fear that I may have gotten off topic because of this posting, so my apologies…

    Unfortunately some people to be comfortable in a church where it’s enough to sit on a seat in a church, singing “bless me” and forget about the flip side of the coin – being blessed to bless others. If challenged to get out there and “do something” for God, then the comfort level diminishes, and people will leave. If asked to serve, they may get offended that they haven’t been asked to join the Worship team, but rather the tech/AV team at the back of the church and Heaven forbid that they get asked to clean the church once every 3 months or so!!!

    Other reasons some prefer to “steeple chase” include the fact that they are being challenged to become more like Christ – they come seeking “cotton candy”, or candyfloss as it’s called here, instead they get the “meat and 3 veges” meal. The flip side is also true – some seriously want to grow, but there are too many programmes and not enough teaching.

    • Richard Hershberger says

      “…should church growth be based (even partially) on church hopping?”

      I live in a town with a wanna-be megachurch. They come around the house once a year or so. I always politely explain that I already belong to a church and I am very happy there. Sometimes that is the end of the invitation/sales pitch. If so, everything is just dandy. We can share pleasantries and go about our business. Other time this is followed by a sales pitch about how much better their church is, even though I haven’t actually said what church I go to. This displays an unwinsome immodesty. Even were I church shopping, it would put me off.

    • cermak_rd says

      I guess I was surprised by asking regular members to clean the church. In my temple, tasks like that are used as a form of gleaning. So if a member is on hard times, they will be offered to clean or do landscaping etc. for cash. I was amused to see that my mother’s old independent Baptist church did the same thing. So when her my mom’s neighor was out of work, she cleaned the church and mowed the lawn for some much needed cash.

      But I think you may have bit on a reason for some of the church hopping. I’ve heard preachers (on the radio) say that if someone is attending this church for more than a year and not involved in a small group, ministry… whatever the fad au jour is, then they are not welcome. Well, what are people supposed to do? Maybe they don’t have the time or interest in such a thing, but clearly the church doesn’t want them otherwise, so time to leave.

      • Tim the Kiwi says

        Wasn’t so much talking about gleaning, or doing work for the church for pay, but more the fact that there are some aspects of service that are more “glamourous” for the congregation – like worship leading, than the background work – technical/sound etc.

        I’m sure in some churches there is an unwritten requirement of being in a small group/ministry etc.

        The only time I was “forced” into doing something unwillingly was at a megachurch I attended as a visitor where I was told “we don’t care about the fact you are a visitor, today is the offering for the church building, so you need to go up there and make a donation” by one of the ushers…. left a bad taste in my mouth.

        Apart from that I certainly haven’t come across a situation where I have been forced against my will to do anything for a church I have attended, just more making a note that some people use church service as a reason for church hopping.

  7. I love your analysis of the not being fed scenario. I’ve seen too many people leave a church because it didn’t give them cookies and candy week after week. When they were told to “eat their vegetables,” (i.e., they didn’t get constant reassurance that everything they were doing in their lives was totally okay all the time), they took offense and left.

    It reminds me of the G.K. Chesterton quote [substitute the word “church” for “religion”]:

    “We do not really want a religion that is right where we are right. What we want is a religion that is right where we are wrong.”

  8. I once read someone who said that if a church they were part of ever allowed a woman to preach, they would have to leave that church as they said that they would no longer be able to trust the leadership to hold to the bible’s teaching.

    I disagree with this belief, and that it is a valid reason to leave a church, but I do have a little sympathy for this position – for me it would be the equivalent of leaving becuase a church started engaging in racist rhetoric.

  9. We were members of a church for 15 years. The last four years were increasingly difficult. If it were only the music that changed, we would still be there. But the music was indicative of something else — the complete embrace of “relevance” to attract “seekers.” So it became performance art and movie clips instead of sermons, dancers circling around maypoles, serious music and even contemporary music junked for mindless repetitions on the Jumbotron (including one memorable “hymn” consisting entirely of the congregation singing “Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na”), and Bible study replaced by discussions of popular books. And this was an evangelical church in an evangelical denomination. It took four years of questioning, probing, pleading, praying, being told we weren’t “team players,” denial — and then we left. It was very, very hard to make that decision and harder still to leave.

    The church had been one of the largest in the community, and it nearly collapsed, spiritually and financially.

    Two years after we left, the (new) pastor and (new) elders sought out the hundreds of families who had left or been driven out and asked for forgiveness. So while I, too, despair at “church-hopping,” sometimes there are legitimate reasons for it.

    • Glynn

      I would be willing to bet that as an early part of this process, your church transitioned to a staff/CEO led model instead of a church council/congregational type of model. The pastor decided on performance art, movie clips, music….. He told the church this is the path to take, and anyone who dissented aren’t team players or are “bitter” people. Even though I have never been to your church, there is not doubt in my mind the pastor/staff went this way without full buy in from any kind of board of elders/church council/congregation.

      This is the biggest problem in evangelical churches, we have been taken over by pragmatic dictators (I think Michael used to use this term).

      • +1

      • Isn’t it ironic that so many of the churches that have gone to a business model fail so badly in their human resources department?

        • Not so ironic. Most businesses fail in their human resources department. That’s why there are wages. Most people wouldn’t stick around in their jobs for the sheer joy/community of it.

          • You’ve hit on an interesting comparison. Not having statistics handy, I am only guessing that average job duration in the US is not much longer. Seems what they may have in common is that many people are looking for better compensation and benefits.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          How many businesses fail in general?

          Especially startups?

          Run a church as a business and you come under the rules and dynamics of business. Including Dilbert and Catbert and The Boss.

        • They usually fail at the business model because they disregard it when it’s inconvenient or nonchurchy, and that leaves those churches in an awkward business-church model that does not work at all.

      • That’s almost exactly what happened. The pastor wasn’t quite willing to move into the CEO role, but the elders functioned like a very strong board of directors, with one or two occupying the CEO role instead ot he pastor.

  10. I think Ronald Reagan used to say “I didn’t leave the Democratic party, the Democratic Party left me”.

    That is the way I see it “I didn’t leave the Southern Baptist Convention, the SBC left me”

  11. As some have already touched on, the “not being fed” issue is a big one, and may be a big result of seeker services. Many have “outgrown” the fluff teaching of churches and seek something more solid, perhaps in both Word and sacrament. The “seeker” service was new and exciting, but as they grew in the faith they hit that plateau, and realized there was supposed to be more to church. Yes, some needed to not just rely on Sunday mornings for their full meal, but many saw that Sundays were to be more than entertainment, self-help seminars, and behavior modification lectures.

    I think Willow Creek’s Reveal study showed that “plateau” problem. Please are going to find more nutritious food.

  12. Jeff, Perhaps we should think about this in a different way. Maybe the goal should be to send people: “Go” rather than, “Come”.

    • Excellent point! Todd Hunter talks about this mindset in “Giving Church Another Chance”…how we should treat Sunday worship not as the main event, but as a launching pad….a practice that prepares us to participate in the game the rest of the week.

  13. I agree that this phenomenon is the result of the “seeker-friendly” movement, with a cultural twist. We’re a consumer-driven society…Eugene Peterson talks about this in his book “Practice Resurrection”, about how we as consumers can be convinced by a 15 second commercial that we desperately need something that frankly, we never even thought about before that moment.

    The seeker-friendly movement was done with the consumer mentality in mind…give people what they want…whether it’s a music style, multiple programs, etc…and they will come. Never mind that most of those things lack long-term appeal. Just a few years back, there were two churches in my local community, just about one mile apart, that were simultaneously offering programs offering courses on the “5 Love Languages” and “Way of the Master” on their signs. They were taking out newspaper ads, handing out flyers in the community…it was a competition to see which church could capture the attention of the consumer. The same two churches offered showings of “Facing the Giants” just one weekend apart not long after that. I wish that more Christians really did want to be “fed”, rather than filling up on the cotton candy fluff that manychurches use as a main course.

    As far as people leaving churches because “I wasn’t being fed”…I’ve found that statement to have several different translations in the Greek…It could mean “I didn’t like the pastor’s preaching”; “The pastor wouldn’t let me do something I wanted to do”; “The pastor wouldn’t do something I wanted him to do”; “I caught my daughter making out with a guy behind the church when they were supposed to be in youth group”; “The youth pastor has a hairstyle I don’t like”; “My lifestyle wasn’t compatible with the Gospel message, and the sermons kept reminding me of it”; “They won’t let my wife sing solos”; “We actually only attended once every couple of months”; “I was having an affair with (pastor’s, music leader’s, Sunday School teacher’s, deacon’s, etc.) wife and got caught”…and the list goes on and on. Language is such a complex thing. Rarely have I found someone who legitimately left a church because they weren’t getting good teaching. There’s almost always an underlying issue.

    • Geez, I think I just fell under conviction for reason I’ve left churches in the past. Darn that Holy Spirit…

  14. A few thoughts:

    1. Shallow, management-oriented leaders – The church growth movement led to the CEO and board member mentality of leadership. In many churches, the leaders are better at running a business than they are at modeling any spiritual depth. When the leaders are not deep in the Lord, people will complain about the lack of spiritual meat. What kind of deep spiritual life do our leaders have? Are they loaded down with church to-do list items that interfere with their spiritual lives?

    2. Lack of vision – Being close to God means picking up on His vision for the church. Again, if the leaders are not spiritually deep people, then there will be no compelling vision. We see this in church leaders who are always gazing longingly at what some other church is doing rather than finding out from God what a vision for their own church might be. You can’t transmit what you don’t receive.

    3. Friends leaving – Church is still a social function and always will be. When enough friends leave a church (often merely through attrition, such as job moves), the church starts to feel foreign. Ours is a mobile society and we do not see our church families as a priority, even as we have left our extended families behind.

    4. “Rabblerousers” & Gossips – Every church contains people who see themselves as self-appointed change agents. Too often these people have no true direction from God to push the church off its stable base. There is a difference between a prophet and a rabblerouser, and too few people know the difference. The rabblerousers end up shaking up too many things or are always questioning the way things are done. People pick up on dissent and it starts pushing them toward the exits. Gossips also create an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty, and dissent. Not enough people give credit to these two groups for thinning out the base of solid people in a church who simply do not want to put up with the atmosphere they create.

    5. Faddism – Nothing can create a feeling of wanting to jump ship more than a church leader jumping onto a faddish bandwagon. A pastor who suddenly latches onto a particular “hot” teaching or teacher can become the worst kind of change agent. This is not to say that pastors can’t receive a genuine and helpful correction that steers their ministry into a new and positive direction, but just as many go off course in a “new move.” Either direction will cause people to leave.

    • Thank you for elaborating. The problem is much more complicated than a consumer driven church culture. All the aspects are interrelated.

  15. RyanEdward says

    I just had a friend of mine read this article. She’s lived in Tulsa before and started laughing after she read the opening paragraphs. She attested to the truth of the statements.

    I guess what I fail to see in all the church-changing is the unity…or maybe, more so, the lack there of. How would you explain to a new believer all the differing churches and different doctrinal teachings that come along with them? It all seems too confusing.

    • Exactly. Unity does not come simply by believing the same things (often those we are united with don’t believe all that we believe), but by living together, walking together through life. And that takes time–years, a lifetime.

      Give your friend greetings from a fellow Tulsan…

  16. Here’s my honest comment for the day:

    When I read this…….I felt like a total dill weed!

    Thank you. And goodbye 😉

    • What? Explain, please, Rebekah.

      • Jeff, I don’t know if I can! I’m not even in a church, so why would a post about changing them make me feel like such a dill weed???? I’m sure it is much more convoluted than I probably even know!

        I come from a very fundamental and legalistic family and I grew up attending the same type of church and school. Since surrendering my life over to Christ in late 2007, church never intrigued me (the thought of it actually turned me off and still can). I knew full well that if I started “shopping around”, I’d remember all too well that horrific taste in my mouth in the first one I tried and never go back. I did end up attempting it, early last year, it lasted less then 4 months. There has been no conviction, pull or anything of the like to get me “shopping around” again.

        I have been experiencing Jesus in ways I never knew was even possible! Just this morning for instance, and I simply wept! Wept through disbelief, minsconception, awe, humility and gratitude! This Jesus who loves me. ME! Of all the screwed up, jacked up, losers……He loves me! Astounding! But, I digress.

        I have no community. Other than here at IMonk and those regular commentors on my own blog, I have no face to face community with other believers. I crave it, I long for it…..I reject it. Maybe that’s why this post made me feel the way it did.

        I know no one is perfect and that the church building is filled with imperfect people. When I read of others positive, loving and welcoming experiences in church I am incredibly envious! But when I read of those who have similar and worse yet experiences to mine, I am reminded that which I bailed from all those years ago is not something I wish to return to! I am not in the least bit interested in having someone tell me all the things I’m doing wrong, should be doing, ought to do and shouldn’t have ever done. I want some encouragement, some reinforcement, etc. The post by DLE below is similar to the “tone” I’m accustomed to and I don’t care for it.

        Jeff, in all honesty, it comes down to trust! I don’t trust another human being to, as DLE put it, “When someone says we may need to improve in some area of our life, if we do not agree, then no amount of cajoling will get us to change our perspective—no matter how much it, and our failing, need to come around to the right side. That’s pride, pure and simple.”

        It was my very own father that preached from the pulpit and then left our family for another woman in the church. I don’t know about anyone else, but that isn’t pride! That’s distrust in it’s earliest, rawest form! Do I have pride? You betcha! Does the Holy Spirit bring conviction and change in my life? Yup! I am learning to trust God after decades of presuming He was just like my earthly father. And thus far, I haven’t learned to trust a person to tell me I need to improve and then jump on their bandwagon, full of agreement and submission only to be back handed by their lies and hypocrisy.

        I don’t know if I answered your question Jeff, but I’m glad to be “workin’ it out” here.

        • Cunnudda says

          And yet….we are definitely called to be in a Christian community of some sort, not just hermits. The congregational nihilism reflected in your 2nd to last paragraph defies statistics: there must be a community somewhere for you, even if it’s a support group for people in your circumstance.

          • And yet…it’s responses like yours that make me want to bang my head against the wall!!

            I am very aware that we are called to be in a Christian community. Thank you for stating the obvious and ignoring the painful. How typical!

          • Rebekah, Cunnudda may have been echoing a phrase by John Wesley, that a solitary Christian is a contradiction in terms. But he did encourage you to find some form of community, a support group perhaps.

            I don’t agree with Wesley 100%. As long as a person has Jesus, he or she is a Christian; and if the rest of us can’t understand when someone has been badly burned by church and from broken trust, then we’re not following the example of Jesus in compassion.

            I agree with Cunnudda and with Jeff that getting together with others—a group? two or three? —is wise council. I would even narrow it down to one person whom you can trust.

            One concern that I have for you is that the iMonk community, or any internet forum, not be your only contact with believers. I love this blog too, and I’ve learned a tremendous amount here, sometimes more than the seminary courses that the blog has interrupted! And I’d love to meet and talk with a lot of you, go on a hike, a weekend retreat, a round-table discussion, a party, whatever. But I realize that it’s not likely to happen, and it’s frustrating.

            And so this blog is like an unrequited love affair, or non-alcoholic beer, or decaffeinated coffee (I mean, what is the POINT?). But as long as I balance it out with real people to talk with, pour guts out with (occasionally, not every day…) and pray with, I’m OK with a virtual reality forum.

            Please talk to a friend, in a non-church environment. Jesus said “Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” Start with Jesus, but by all means branch out at least a little bit from him alone.

        • Thanks, Rebekah. Your openness and honesty are so refreshing. And I am so very glad you are part of the iMonk community.

          I, too, wish you could find a community where you were accepted, a community where you could begin to develop trust once again. Even if that community were two or three people you met with for breakfast once a week or so.

          You are not alone in what you are expressing. I dare to say there are many here among us who feel the same way.

          Thank you, Rebekah.

          • Thank you Jeff! I’ve learned a lot being here! I suppose that the Lord has been much more interested in laying His foundation in my life and grounding our relationship than He has anything else. Truly. I trust that when the time is right, the people and the place will come. In the meantime He continues to heal my broken places and correct my huge misconceptions of Him (and His people).

            It is a process for sure. And I pray I never come to a place in this process that I presume other people should be in the exact place I am in.

        • Rebekah, about half of your description matches exactly where my wife and I are right now. You are definitely not alone. Peace.

        • Rebekah, my wife and I have lots of community, some with other believers (not in a traditional “church” – we have discovered that church is us and the believers around us with whom are in community), and some with other people. I’ll head on over to your blog to tell you more.

        • Ted, I hear you and I respect your response. My comment didn’t mean that I am a hermit or all alone. I’m not all alone, I have both of my parents to whom I can have many lengthy and deep conversations with about God, what He’s doing, prayer requests, etc. My main thing was I’m not in church or a small group or whatever.

          Without going into all the details here, what is a person to do who lived decades in the prodigal life, walked away from it along with all the people who were a part of it, and hadn’t stepped foot into a church for as many years? Has a plethora of baggage regarding church, pastors, and other Christians?

          Ted, with all due respect, most people I’ve come across want to jump over the issues and make me a clone in their group. I’m not interested, so I won’t be a part of it.

          • Gorgeous Gorgias says

            A lot of Christians make this jump from “you can’t be a Christian by yourself,” to “you have to join a church that meets once a week and sings hymns and stuff.” The irony is that if Christ came back, he’d be out on the streets and cursing the churches.

          • textjunkie says

            Hey Rebekah, I was part of a church community with lots of people who had “lived the prodigal life”, as you put it, and lots of them had baggage about pastors, churches, worship music, you name it. We had some of the richest discussions I’ve ever had about the Bible and walking with God (or dancing, as one dancer put it). Keep looking for that community, online or elsewhere!! I wish you well at it. 🙂

  17. I have left churches because when I get down to the roots of their belief system, I cannot support it.

    I have left because a church was trying to change and the people would not let it. I was on the change side and could not sit quietly and appear to support the status quo. Liewise, I did not want to get in a hassle with members of the church whenever I said what I thought.

    I have also left because the pastor and elected leaders behaved in non Christian ways. Just because you have the power does not make you right.

    I am now in a congregation that is trying to understand different points of view. We try to be open and to listen. Just because you can out shout others does not make you right

    We welcome visitors to our way of worship. It is a family to me and that is important.

  18. donald todd says

    I believe that there is one more consideration which was not mentioned in the primary article. If I am the arbiter of truth, and believe I have found a new truth which is not compatible with what I believed before – and that new truth is either ignored or antagonistic with the current denomination / congregation, then I have no choice but to depart. One of the responses above noted this in a round-about way when it was suggested that the SBC left the individual.

    I am not part of the SBC and never have been, but do believe that the SBC is pretty much the same as it has been historically except for its position on slavery and its recovery on abortion.

    I believe it was the individual who, as arbiter of truth, found the SBC out of the loop because the SBC failed to change with that individual, and that individual is the authority. The SBC has no authority over the individual. A lot of SBCs and their equivalents have no authority over the individual, and therefore cannot exercise that authority. The idea of subjecting an individual to the judgment of the Church is stood on its head. Now the denomination / congregation is subject to the judgment of the individual.

    It is an unintended result of Luther’s position that any man inhabited by the Holy Spirit is capable of understanding and expounding the scriptures. The Yellow Pages under Church are an eloquent display of how that position works out in practice.

    • I have to respectfully disagree. The SBC has changed. Never before the last 20 years had I heard sermons

      “How to have a happy family in 3 easy steps”
      “How to conquer depression”
      “How to live an abundant life”

      It has also changed in its theological diversity. One church accepts divorced deacons, the one next door does not. One accepts baptism as infant, the one next door does not.

      • The Guy from Knoxville says

        Allen, you are so spot on in this reply as well as the previous one above…….. It definitley left me in many ways to the point I couldn’t stand it any longer. I’m a traditional church musician – organist which, by definition, finishes me off in most SBC churches these days but it was even more than the music changes – all you have mentioned in your responses are just spot on – seeker, purpose driven, theology, doctrine, shallow, showy and more akin to a concert at the local civic center. No, I’ve pretty much washed my hands of the SBC and would not be at all bothered if I never set foot in the door of one again! They can have it!

      • Josh in FW says

        “infant baptism” in the SBC? I thought “believer’s baptism” by full immersion was one of the defining characteristics of what made a church Baptist.

    • One more Mike says

      What Allen said plus: Purpose-Driven in one church, Innerrancy (read that as YEC) down the street, 5- point Calvinism across town, KJV only in the suburbs. Whichever one you go to, there will be test and if you fail the test, just leave a tithe and carry your heretical carcass down the road.

      • donald todd says

        I stand corrected. It appears as if the SBC holds to everything, anything, and even perhaps nothing at all, as it moves in its by congregation by disjointed congregation movement to whatever it is moving to. Even with all the changes above (or perhaps because of them), I am still not interested in visiting the SBC, let alone tithing or joining.

        I would note that Dr Warren of Saddleback Church who wrote the purpose driven life is an SBC pastor and that Saddleback, while not touting its roots, is presumably an SBC congregation – if I understand this correctly.

        dt

  19. I read this kind of article with a serious amount of trepidation. On one hand, I’ve seen people leave because they felt “their gifts weren’t being used” (read: “God has called me to leadership and you won’t put me in charge of anything” — most memorable example the leavers took a fair number of members with them, and the nursery curtains too!) or because they refused to reconcile conflicts or admit sin. But I’ve been accused of church-hopping, too. Due to some pretty complicated circumstances in my life real, stable fellowship would require discernment and some bearing of burdens on the part of others. Sadly, my experiences have ranged from well-meaning neglect to outright hostility. Does leaving a church when the pastor intimates that you must be abusing drugs or asks you point-blank if your child would be better off in foster care when you open up about an illness giving up too soon? or another church where the pastor accuses you outright of being manipulative and “using your illness” (not sure exactly what for) and counsels you to memorize more scripture in the face of debilitating physical/cognitive problems? How do we discern when a person has left because their experience is actually harmful, the barriers unable to be breached from one side alone, v.s. the one who refuses to grow up, submit, commit? Both those who have “outgrown” shallow teaching and fellowship and those vulnerable ones who find those things actively damaging may have reason to walk away … the latter perhaps more than the former.

  20. TexasGael says

    Jeff,

    I really appreciate your words.

    I’m 28 and have been in the same church since I was 7 months old. The church is 2-3 years older than myself, incidentally.

    Of late I’ve been having a bit of a crisis. Not of faith per se, but of conviction. I’ve also been coming to the realization that I’m not Called to pastoral ministry (whereas I thought I was for 10 years). Factor in some painful lessons on humility and it’s been a rough time. To make matters worse, I’ve been seriously considering moving my family from our church (my wife joined when she married me 3 years ago). In fact, I even made the decision to tell a pastor that we would start looking elsewhere. After discussions with pastors, close friends and family members we have decided to stick it out. Our doctrinal disagreements remain, but none of them are big enough to warrant a change.

    As I’ve been struggling with all of it, I’ve realized that I’ve a unique view that not many do: I’ve gotten to grow in parallel with the church. In being here for almost three decades, through many of life’s phases I’ve gotten to experience good time and bad in the church. And through it all I’ve been able to see how faithful Christ is as He continues to keep and love His Church.

    Thanks for letting me share and again thanks for the encouraging post.

  21. Some of this is also due to immaturity on the part of the leaver.

    One of the reasons church communities exist is to round off our sharp edges. None of that feels good at the time.

    But working through community conflict is part of genuine growth. Sadly, when the sandpaper comes out, the people most in need of it leave.

    We Americans lack humility. When someone says we may need to improve in some area of our life, if we do not agree, then no amount of cajoling will get us to change our perspective—no matter how much it, and our failing, need to come around to the right side. That’s pride, pure and simple.

    If more of us practiced genuine discernment and actually considered what a corrector says might be true, perhaps we would grow rather than leave.

    David Wayne of Jolly Blogger once interviewed an Eastern European pastor whose flock stayed together from birth till death and from generation to generation. The concept of church hopping was entirely baffling to this pastor. People did not work out their differences and maintain community? He could not fathom it.

    If more of us had that pastor’s (and his flock’s) attitude, perhaps we would be more well-rounded and gracious people.

    • ‘When someone says we may need to improve in some area of our life, if we do not agree, then no amount of cajoling will get us to change our perspective—no matter how much it, and our failing, need to come around to the right side. That’s pride, pure and simple.’

      This presumes the proffered correction is unquestionably valid. The vast bulk of my observation is, unfortunately, more like this: When someone says we may need to improve in some area of our life, if we do not agree, then no amount of apologetic will get them to change their perspective – no matter how much of it, and their failing, needs to be accepting of diversity within the unity. And this, also, is pride, pure and simple.

      Because of the structures we have put in place in many churches, the power in the relationship between leader and lay is incredibly unequal. Often it is a case of conform to the leader’s will, or leave (even if this perception is incorrect, the perception leads to the same outcome). There is no option to remain non-conformed and stay. If people aren’t forced to conform, they tend not to leave, but often the corrected is not given that third way as a choice in a church.

      We can also be quite prone to ‘burning out’ those who unquestioningly conform and stay for long periods in the one church (pastors included). They are becoming such a rarity that we seem to graft them in as life support for the institution whenever we find them.

      I’d have to say, there is more maturity in recognising a lost cause and moving on than in banging one’s head on a brick wall until consciousness is lost. And that goes for both the situation of the corrector being right but not heeded, and for the corrector being wrong but unmovable.

    • Gorgeous Gorgias says

      Those cradle-to-grave churches sound good, until you run across an intractable conflict. What happens when somebody’s kid grows up to be gay? Then the church has a choice between accepting him (and maybe his / her partner) into the group, or not. Either way people are going to leave. In a lot of churches, the pastor would do a quick mental head-count of how many people are each side, before deciding which to support.

      I’ve seen footage of Eastern Orthodox churches breaking into free-for-all riots when they couldn’t agree on who should be bishop. In the old days they might have shot each other, too.

  22. I had kind of a different perspective on what Jeff is talking about.

    We had been at our old church for around fifteen years. Both my wife and I had committed to the church as college students, and we moved up the ladder as lay-staff. We were always taught there that you should think that the church you were attending was the best church.

    The church was a Southern Baptist in denomination, but legalistic and authoritarian/controlling in temperment. Eventually, we just burned out. We couldn’t take in anymore. We had two kids and we felt as it wasn’t beneficial for any of us to stay. We were unhappy, and while we could be disruptive, we knew that the church wasn’t going to change for us, so after much soul searching we left. It was a relief.

    So, we tried a few churches, and finally we chose one that best met our needs. It’s funny, but reading Jeff’s article , I wonder if he would consider my present church to be one of those “seeker churches”. My new church keeps the front door wide open, but also the back door open. They don’t put pressure and guilt people into become involved. They do encourage church membership and involvement, but not in a pushy way. I confess that I like it. Having come from a church, where you’re spirituality was determined by the number of church events you attended, and where doing more meant you had a good relationship with God, it was refreshing to find a place, where we could heal and be restored and learn to love God again, without the pressure of having to serve.

    Strangely, one issue that we realized in coming to our new church is that with our history, its really hard to share parts of yourself. How do you share about being at another church for fifteen years and then deciding to leave. When you tell people, their eyebrows go up. People just don’t go to a church for fifteen years and then leave. There’s usually a story behind it, but its a story we don’t want to discuss, because it brings up a lot of memories and baggage for us and we don’t want to bad-mouth our old church. So usually, we’ll share that things changed for us, and we’re in different season of our life. All true, but clearly not the whole story.

    • One further comment

      At my old SBC church–the legalist one–when someone left the church, the problem, was never the church, it was always the person who was leaving.

      They were not really serious about the word of God.
      They just wanted a comfortable life
      They did not want to have people interfering in their life
      They did not want to live an uncompromising faith
      They thought that our church was just too intense.
      They didn’t really want to live for Jesus

      it was also put in the context of “we are the true believers” and the person who left just couldn’t handle the truth.

      When someone left that specific church, it was invariably said of them, that they “left the church.”

      Part of what disenchanted me about my old church, was the unwillingness to engage in any introspection or self-examination whatsoever. I think its easy to always blame the people leaving. “They weren’t committed.” “They weren’t interested in the word of God.” “They just wanted entertainment.” But before going too far down that road, I think its important that the question be asked, “why did they really leave and could we have done something differently.”

      When I did leave, I wanted to make it clear that I wasn’t leaving “the church”, but instead I was leaving a church. It as an important distinction for me. I wasn’t leaving Jesus. I hadn’t given up on the idea of church. I had left a single church, that wasn’t meeting my needs and where I felt spiritually dead.

      • DB, I hear you and I understand. Maybe an adult could stick with an authoritarian, group-thinking church by silently preaching the Gospel to himself every week to keep a sense of God’s grace alive, but we can’t ask our children to do that. I myself am leaving a dear church after ten years because I couldn’t stand to have my daughter thinking that what she hears from the pulpit every week is Christianity and not a mixture of ranting and pious, egocentric advice.

      • DB,

        Been there… Done that….. Got the t-shirt….. It is called spiritual abuse….. I left our former Ref. Baptist church when I realized I didn’t want my younger daughter who was in high school at the time to turn out like “they” were. Nor did I want her to to end up marrying “one of them”… Today she and my wife thank me for thatr decsion… And yes, towards the end of my 25+ years in that church I also felt like I was near spiritual death.. And it was only in stepping away that I realized how mediocre the preaching really was and how poorly the congregation was really being fed….

        • Hey Bill:

          Thank you for the personal story and for sharing about your wife and daughters present feelings. It’s reassuring to hear about your experience.

          The question that we asked ourselves, and it sounds like you asked as well is this:

          “Would I want my daughters to grow up in this church?”

          It was interesting, because when we were struggling about whether to leave or not, this question ended up being a key motivation for leaving.

          When I used to teach college bible study, and was part of the staff at our church, we used to take a dim view of people who made their decision about church, based partly on the children. We just did not see children as being that important. Now, as a parent, it seems like a total no brainer that my kids should be part of the consideration about where to go to church. Especially, since I would actually like my kids to follow Jesus when they grow up. I guess if I didn’t care, then it wouldn’t really matter.

  23. I am finding it interesting that at this site, where criticism of seeker and some other churches that have taken their eyes off the ball has been plentiful, now has people here today saying that people who leave churches because “they are not being fed” are just using an excuse.

    Do seeker and some other type churches do a poor job of eqipping, or do they not? You can’t say they do, then complain when people say they leave because of lack of being fed.

    • That’s not what I was saying, Rick. The seeker-sensitive model leads to a lack of commitment, making it easy for people to move on for any reason whatsoever. As to not being fed, I made the point that those who use this as an excuse are often saying, “I am not being fed what I want.” When vegetables are offered to one who has always subsisted on junk food, he will often run to someplace he can get his chips and ice cream instead.

      • But for many of these people they have only known the junk food. After some time, they begin to ask if there isn’t supposed to be more. If there is some maturing, do they not see the benefits of vegetables?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        When vegetables are offered to one who has always subsisted on junk food, he will often run to someplace he can get his chips and ice cream instead.

        “We don’t want to learn any big words, Pastor. The only reason you’re here is to Keep Us Comfortable.”

        Not only rejecting the meat, but spitting out the milk for cotton candy.

    • Parachurch organizations also exist, especially figuring prominently on the media, likewise espousing the aim to equip the saints. Many do perform that function, but they remain entrepreneurial ventures, not the ekklesia. There is an inherent confusion when local churches mimic that model, and I think many of those described in the comments do.

  24. That is so true for many. And I felt that way for a long time when I was ministering at a large church for decades.

    But there came a point when I flipped…if you set up church so that it doesn’t require much, then you are, in fact, not feeding sheep. At some point I got tired of being individually responsible for my discipleship. I needed help following Jesus and my church was too busy being awesome. Top of mind was my kids…I looked around and I thought, “Are these the types of Christians that I want my kids to be when they are my age?” The answer was no.

    Step one was to try to implement changes.
    Step two was getting told no too many times.
    Step three was lashing out at the leaders.
    Step four was being excommunicated.
    Step five? Changing churches.

    I’ve learned to have compassion on church changers from all that…they are doing what they were trained to do, even if they are trying to get better training. I made peace with my sheepness. If a pastor doesn’t feed sheep, what use is he?

  25. Cunnudda says

    I’ve always been the loyal sort. When our ELCA congregation blew up a while back, I vowed to stay until the doors closed, no matter which course the congregation took vis-a-vis the ELCA. As it happened, my views prevailed, but I would have stayed either way.

  26. I do have a difficult time with this. A few years ago, I left the evangelical megachurch nondenominational megachurch I had been raised in and spent awhile drifitng from church to church, often staying for a month or two before moving on. Eventually I settled in a very small new evangelical church (part of the Christian Missionary Alliance, but basically independent) pastored by an old friend of mine. I always had some internal tension about going there because I was never entirely happy with it, but I figured I couldn’t be church-hopping forever, right?

    But then I moved to a new city very recently. I’m not sure where I’ll go now. I have a feeling I’ll end up in some sort of conservative mainline church, since that’s what appeals to me most. But then, for all the problems with a typical evangelical low-church, they are good for meeting people and making new friends, which I need in this new town.

  27. David Cornwell says

    Since we favor consumer-centric churches an idea came to me Monday and Tuesday evening. My wife likes to watch “Dancing With the Stars” and sometimes, and I watch bits of it with her. Maybe we need a church that adheres pretty much to this model. A lot of startup money would be needed of course, but we’d get it by faith (pray & claim). Every week have a huge production, with all the lights, noise, and hype we can possibly come up with. Bring in the latest and best Christian celebs to team up with local wannabes. It would all be televised of course using the most expensive equipment available (God wants us to have it). Put on a huge production each week. The celeb pastor could put his little hype pieces in here and there and rev up the audience (worshipers). Maybe he could tell a brief story about the recent trials or hard time one of the celebs has suffered and how he/she endured through it all by harder work and determination (perseverance).

    The best part would be the voting. Everyone would have a vote for each of the devises he/she owned (land line, cell, computer, and whatever one has that will communicate). The audience in the worship center would also vote of course. But the staff would probably reserve the most important votes for themselves.

    Some would possibly go away disheartened. But overall it would elicit a high degree of consumer satisfaction (spiritual comfort) and bring in big returns (more seekers?). Those who come out on top would have a chance for a church career of their own (serving the Kingdom).

    Or maybe we already do all this.

    • Radagast says

      Dancing with the Stars – yes, we have twinkle toes Hines Ward dancing every week – while those faithful in the audience wave their terrible towel, as we impose our subtle indoctrination on the world. Soon you will all be part of Steeler Nation – with Pittsburgh becoming the place of manditory pilgrimage (during football season of course) – cue the cruel maniacal laughter….

      We now rerturn to our regularly scheduled blog already in progess….

    • Gorgeous Gorgias says

      Bob Tilton, meet Mr. Methane! (Britain Has Talent reference)

  28. I would venture to guess that, especially in the Bible Belt, church planting like CVS may have something to do with the consumer mentality regarding churches. When there are 45 churches in a 15 mile radius (I may be exaggerating, but only a little bit), you get the impression that the church you’re at is disposable. Because there’s another just down the street a ways. And another, and another, some right across the street from each other. Making themselves as available and close and as valuable as a gas station.

    It’s a veritable grocery store selection, so it’s no wonder people want to try around before they decide on the brand they prefer. They can afford to be choosy (choosy moms choose JIF).

    • Excellent, excellent observation, Amanda. There is a three mile stretch of road a stone’s throw from where I am sitting right now with eight churches on it. Three of those are side-by-side-by-side. Why? Because someone thinks they can do it better and starts up a new church? Yes, most likely. And that does lead to the feeling that my church is disposable–and that I am too.

      Sigh…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        There is a three mile stretch of road a stone’s throw from where I am sitting right now with eight churches on it.

        Same with the rural area where my writing partner pastors two small rural churches. You’re literally never out of sight of a steeple. And before the big Megachurch in the area started sheep-rustling everybody else, there were always “church planters” coming in from the big city –usually couples with kids who claimed they’d been “led” to plant yet another (and get out of the Big Bad City). They usually didn’t last long.

        • The Guy from Knoxville says

          You know HUG – that last part of your response is so true! here in Knoxville, TN where I live almost every part of town has new church plants going on or planned plus the satelite congregations started by the existing megas from the suburban ring around the downtown area. What is amazing is that a good many of these new church plants are all in the richest (moneywise) sections of our city/county – west Knoxville/Knox County, northwest Knox County, deep southwest Knox County deep northeast Knox County. No, you don’t see them in the inner city (there are a few exceptions – not many though), you don’t see them in east Knox County where I live, you don’t see them in south Knoxville…… not rich enough to support the plant – more rural, simple, traditional (east Knox County and southeast Knox County) lower incomes and lower on the education level – high school grads, GED but very little advanced education such as college or university compared to the other parts of town mentioned above.

          Folks this speaks for itself and they’re from the SBC, TBC, non-demoninational, even the new Anglican churches – both west and I’ve all but pegged for one of them to consider a ligitimate plant of an Anglican church in east Knox……… This is repugnant and un-called for and you wonder why folks have the attitude towards church that they do!

          • The Guy from Knoxville says

            Correction – in my last paragraph in the above post – word should be “begged” insted of “pegged.” Typing to fast….. sorry!

        • I disagree with the idea that megachurches “rustle” people into going to them. People can choose where they want to go. Nobody forces them to go to megachurches, even if said churches went out of their way to woo them.

    • Not just the Bible Belt. I went to college in a Western PA town that, based on a quick Google search, had a population of 8,024 according to the 2000 census. And there were four Presbyterian churches (all fairly theologically conservative) within a 5 minute walk of campus. Not to mention the 2 Presbyterian churches that were a 10-15 minute drive outside of town–much less all the other denominations!

      Granted, some of this density, I’m sure, was due to the college (2300+ students, all mostly Presbyterian). But it’s not just the South.

  29. I’m not a church hopper but I have been looking in vain for a community to join for over a year now. Before that, we went to three different churches over the 25 years we have lived here. We left each for very specific reasons after large changes were made. In order, they were: the needless spending of a large sum of money on a very large trinket; a very significant theological error (not a peripheral issue) that we couldn’t correct; and the disbanding of our small group and splitting of the church into servcies based on stylistic/generational preferences.

    In looking for a church, it’s the shallowness of both the teaching and the interpersonal connections, as well as the sometimes just flat out weirdness, that have discouraged us. We realize also that part of it is cultural. Neither of us grew up where we now live (I was an MK/third culture kid, and my wife grew up in a very different area) and to some extent we’ve never felt as though we belong completely in this area. That adds to the challenge because most churches are a reflection of local culture, whether they realize it or not.

    So for us, it isnt’ the meatiness of the teaching that keeps us searching, but really the opposite.

    I’ve also heard the assertion elsewhere (not here) that anyone who’s not in a church is where they are because they really just want to sin more. Completely untrue in our case and it drives me nuts when I hear stuff like that. It also doesn’t make it any easier to be honest about our journey when we do visit a church.

  30. MelissaTheRagamuffin says

    I think having theological differences with the pastor is a valid reason to leave a church. I left my last church – which I’d been involved with on and off all of my adult life – when they allowed an evangelist who was blatantly peddling the prosperity and other heresies. If I knew this guy was a heretic why didn’t the pastor? But, money was flowing in, so it was all good. I left.

    At my father’s funeral his pastor (Episcapalian) described the risen Christ as an apparition and a spector. I would never attend a church where that was being taught. The only reason I didn’t get up and walk out was because it was my father’s funeral.

    Also, if I had it all to do again and my son was a child again, he would never attend any Children’s Church function. I had no idea how much they were pushing the prosperity down in Children’s Church and promising young children that if they’d just pray the magic prayer that life would be hearts and flowers and rainbows forever. My son is seriously screwed up spiritually because of it. I should have been paying more attention to what was being taught down there, but I trusted the leadership of my church with my most precious lamb. I failed my son. If I had it to do over again, he would sit on the pew right beside me, and anyone who didn’t like it could kiss my foot.

    My Quaker meeting doesn’t have music as a part of our regular worship services. I don’t think any of the meetings in our Yearly Meeting do. Music is probably the single thing I miss most about attending a traditional church, but in the end I think it’s for the best as we do it. I have been guilty of picking churches based on how much I did or didn’t like the music. Sometimes I look at the music selection in a friend’s church bulletin and I shudder. Then, I think – how silly is that? To possibly miss out on an otherwise exceptional church and loving fellowhisp because of music? I can listen to what I like at home.

  31. Paul Davis says

    Your meddling Jeff.. 🙂

    When I was young I hopped, because I was well… young and stupid.

    Then we settled into the SBC, but eventually that led into the trap of fundamentalism (I’m not equating the SBC with fundamentalism, just saying that it started to become and issue where we were).

    After 15 years I gave up, I couldn’t deal with the KJV only nonsense and all that trappings that came with it, so I walked first. And then my wife walked.

    Then we started searching, but we hopped not based on the service (and there where some bad ones), but based on what they believed. I met with many pastors who expressed surprise and shock, that someone would actually want to know what they believed. Some churches didn’t know, some had very strong doctrinal statements. We made some very interesting discoveries in the process, and went through almost all the protestant denominations.

    We church hopped because most churches don’t even publish their doctrinal statements, and it’s kind of a courtesy that you attend before you hammer the pastor with tough questions about doctrine!

    I want to make sure that you understand that I could have been fed in any of those churches, I did in fact learn a great deal about different doctrines. I found some very shallow, and some very deep, but the thing I was looking for (and didn’t realize it until later) was authenticity. I was without knowing it, on the Ancient-Future path, and finally ended up being Catholic. I’m not saying that the Catholic Church is the answer, it has some pretty big warts you have to get around.

    For us there is both depth, and reverence in the Catholic faith. Even a bad homily cannot detract from the reverence of the Eucharist, and so for us at least. It becomes about worshipping God, and not about the pastor, or the message, or the music, or any other stuff. Catholics do argue about the liturgy, but at the core it’s pretty much the same as it was in the first century, and for us that makes all the difference.

    So Church hopping is not always bad, and in our cause allowed us to figure out where we wanted to land. It wasn’t fun either, there where lots of tears and anger during the process. But it was worth it.

    -Paul-

  32. The Singular Observer says

    It is a problem in South Africa as well. A friend of mine, a Dutch Reformed Minister, called it “The Circulation of the Saints”.

  33. cermak_rd says

    By the way, Jeff,

    Many members of my extended family have lived in Arkansas for long stretches. It has not affected their dentition.

  34. Radagast says

    Sometimes the light bulb comes on after reading a blog on this site….

    In Catholicism, especially in areas where there is a large Catholic community we seldom do a lot of church hopping, and if we do attend another Catholic Church we still consider our church in residence home.

    Reading this article today caused me to look at some recent trends from a different perspective. There have been folks leaving the faith for the last number of years. Many give the exact same reasons as Jeff gives above. I usually attribute it to a couple of reasons:

    – Looking for Church to satisfy them (music/homily/activities)
    – Living a shallow faith and being pulled deeper by outside influences (assembly of God down the road)
    – They don’t like the pastor

    But maybe it goes deeper and addresses the recent human condition – meaning the younger folks today are more restless, have less of an attention span, and are seeking out the “church of perfect conditions”. It seems from this article that many on the evangelical side are doing exactly what is happening on my side of the Tiber, except it is not seen as that because the churches being hopped to are all under the same evangelical umbrella.

    I have been in the same church for almost 20 years. Demographically we are getting closer to the end of the lifecycle – with a larger percentage of the parishioners being over 55 and the younger being luke warm at best (generalizing here). And yet I don’t even entertain leaving. I know many of the parishioners who have been here for years feel the same. Ultimately though I admit it may be a Catholic cultural thing.

  35. sarahmorgan says

    Most of the folks here seem to be blessed to be in good churches, especially if reasons for leaving tend to float around “not being fed” and “the music makes me cringe”…

    When the person with borderline personality disorder, who has convinced herself that she’s the leader of a ministry because everyone else (in an effort to avoid all conflict) has just been letting her have her own way for years, is so threatened by your newly arrived status and participation in the ministry (by invitation of the legitimate leader of said ministry) that she spreads damaging lies about you and hounds the pastors/leaders to have you thrown out of the church so that her former “status” can be reinstated — and the only response from the pastors/leaders is shoulder-shrugging, handwringing and the statement, “Well, she’s been here for 10 years, and, well, you’re kind of new and we don’t know anything about you (except what she told us about you)” — it’s time to leave a church. I wish I had learned all that 2 months instead of 2 years into the process; the whole experience was a huge step backwards for me spiritually, and it has irreparably damaged my views of church….I suspect I may never regularly attend again, because I cannot figure out a God-honoring way of dealing with this kind of situation, which is not limited to a single church in the small town where I now live. 🙁

    I thought I could handle imperfect churches — I’ve done so for decades, having relocated around the country many times and finding (and participating in) new churches every few years. But if the leadership of churches has abdicated its authority and responsibility to protect its congregants from being hurt by other church members, then I don’t want to be part of a congregation/community anymore (after all, I can feed myself via Scripture, podcasts, videos, other resources, etc…right?).

  36. “Now that I mention it, is this a unique problem for American churches, or do people in other countries change their church allegiance as frequently as Americans do?”

    Historically, Ireland has been so majority Catholic that it tends to be when people stop attending a Catholic church (for whatever reason), they tend not to attend any church at all (or recently become the ‘I’m spiritual but not religious’ type) rather than transferring to another denomination (that would pretty much be ‘church hopping’ by our standards). Though there has been a tendency in the past twenty or thirty years for people to switch to the Church of Ireland (which is Anglican) if they leave Catholicism, as well as growth in churches such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons. I think there is also an increase quite recently in American-style Evangelical movements (as distinct from the British Evangelical Revival of the 19th century, which had an effect here also) and of course a whole plethora of New Age and ‘alternative spiritualities’ (for instance, I’m seeing advertised in the local paper someone doing ‘angel readings’, tarot readings and the like).

    Can I ask an ignorant outsider’s question?

    By “church-hopping” and the situation you describe in your home town, does that mean chopping and changing between different churches that are all within the same denomination (or I suppose non-denominational churches), or does it mean trying out different denominations?

    If the second, how do people reconcile moving from a church that practices, say, infant baptism to one that doesn’t (or vice versa), has/hasn’t a creed, does/doesn’t permit women pastors and so on? I can see becoming convinced that doctrinal issue A is important, and moving from one denomination to another on that, but I really can’t fathom spending six months as a Baptist, then trying out the Lutherans, then maybe some form of Calvinist, back to the Methodists, and so on.

    Or does it mean that there are no longer doctrinal distinctives, just a slurry of ‘church-type’ stuff?

    I think my family were ‘church hoppers’ when we were kids, in the form of my mother rotating between taking us all to Mass in one particular church which was the one she and my father had attended as children and growing up, and to another church a couple of miles further away where his and her parents were buried and where friends and relations attended; my father preferred attending a church in town and took us there when it was his turn; and we never attended the ‘mother church’ of the parish we were living in until we moved into town years later. But all were Catholic and all were churches within the parish and we had some connection of community with all of them. So I have a very hard time picturing swapping denominations or even just moving from one non-denominational church to another.

    • Radagast says

      As I mentioned above, I live in a city with a large Catholic population (and historically Irish as well) and for the most part we hop around only when we need to get to a Mass at a time when it fits into the schedule – so for instance if I go to Nativity Church as my home church, I will hop over to Saint Gabriel’s 7:00 PM Mass if I have some appointment on Sunday that precludes me from attending Mass at Nativity. Mostly exception and not the rule. I made an exception to this when our church was flooded by a broken pipe one winter and we had to have Mass in the gym for almost a year – I ended up supplementing with the next nearest Catholic church – since I was missing all the kneeling and such….

    • Martha said, “If the second [trying out different denominations], how do people reconcile moving from a church that practices, say, infant baptism to one that doesn’t (or vice versa), has/hasn’t a creed, does/doesn’t permit women pastors and so on?”

      Where I come from (coastal Maine, on the chillier edge of the frozen chosen of New England), evangelical churches are probably in the minority, so anyone looking for one may have to be less choosy denominationally.

      My church (American Baptist) is within a short walk of three other churches (Roman Catholic, Episcopal and Congregational) but we have almost no interaction with them as churches, although I do have a lot of friends who attend them. But there are several other churches that we do have joint services or other interaction with, some of these 30 to 40 minutes away by car. And these churches are also of differing denominations: Episcopal (but not falling over the edge, like the other one); Congregational (but it’s leaning toward Anglo-Catholicism!); another Congregational one; and a couple of Assembly of God churches (even though we don’t practice the gift of tongues–we ignore it). We have minimum contact with other Baptist churches because they are either main-line liberal or a little too fundy/loose cannon.

      Baptism, whether infant or believer, doesn’t seem to be a huge issue among church-hoppers, and while we do hold to the Apostles’ creed, we rarely recite it–maybe once a year at annual meeting.

      As for women as pastors, this may be more of an issue because, even though our church isn’t fundy we do have a few individuals who are indeed, and they have made it clear that they would object to a woman preaching. So, our pastor is now on a 3-month sabbatical, and pulpit supply has been manned (literally, manned ) by men only, including myself. Women are welcome to speak as missionaries, or with announcements, or appeals for offerings, or testimonies (and they can be lengthy), but it’s unwritten that they shall not deliver the sermon itself. But one of the Assembly of God churches does have a husband/wife team as co-pastors. Go figure. So these issues aren’t carved in stone.

      By the way, one of your Irish kinsmen is hugely responsible for the state of evangelicalism in the USA. John Nelson Darby didn’t get much attention over there and so he brought his dispensationalism over here. And it went wild, like a lot of invasive species.

      • David Cornwell says

        ” Congregational (but it’s leaning toward Anglo-Catholicism!)”

        That sounds intriguing! I can’t help but wonder how that happened.

        • I think it was a dying congo church and the pastor they got was leaning toward anglicanism about the time the episcopal church was (still is) going through turmoil. He has since become ordained anglican, the church has attracted some disgruntled episcopalians who were moving in that direction anyway, but it’s still technically congregational. A very different sort of congo church. Most of them around here are UCC, nearly unitarian.

    • Highwayman says

      “I really can’t fathom spending six months as a Baptist, then trying out the Lutherans, then maybe some form of Calvinist, back to the Methodists, and so on.”

      …but St Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?

      America is obviously significantly different from the UK (and Ireland as well?), because some of Jeff’s comments above, regarding the number of churches per mile and about a congregation of 650 people not being a large church, seem fairly mind-blowing from where I sit.

      I used to be critical of those who church-hopped, or weren’t attached to any particular congregation, as I felt that church membership was a little like marriage – one should be loving and loyal and not walk away when difficulties arose (although if you were kicked out, that would be a different matter).

      However, having got stressed out in the church we were both actively involved in, and effectively having no choice but to jump out of it before we were pushed (having questioned some of what was going on there), my wife and I have found tremendous freedom in being free of such pressures. After more than two years, we have felt under no obligation to join another congregation; we remain part of the one true church and have found more time and opportunity for deeper relationships with each other and with fellow Christians than we have had for a very long time, so my view on the importance of membership of a particular church has changed.

      Having just read Stan Firth’s book, ‘The Remarkable Replacement Army’, I can see a lot of sense in his argument that the days of the traditional church set-up are numbered and that we as Christians will have to learn to serve our King in a very different way than we have done previously – more like an underground resistance movement than a regular army.

      Run a search on the book’s title and download the free PDF version – there’s a lot of food for thought there and it’s very relevant to this topic.

      • Gorgeous Gorgias says

        In a marriage, the other person is supposed to care about you as much as you care about them. A church can’t do that–at the end of the day, you’re just another customer.

  37. I saw a study a number of years ago that interviewed people two years after they had starting attending a church. Those who had developed 7 or more relationships pretty much had all stayed. Those who had developed fewer than 7 relationships had pretty much moved on.

    A number of years ago when running a college and career group, we really focussed on building relationships within our group and with new visitors. We ended up having about an 80% retention rate of visitors because in very short order they felt accepted and welcomed.

    In short, you can overlook an awful lot of shortcomings when you are feeling loved.

    • +1

      “In short, you can overlook an awful lot of shortcomings when you are feeling loved”

      Best line commented today! Thank you Michael!

    • Yes.

      But that it is my problem. A mixture of my introverted personality and churches centered around the music and/or pastor makes it seemingly impossible to develop relationships.

      I am not a musician or singer, so I can’t get involved there.

      If I try to participate in a small group, no one will come unless a pastor or staff member or very extroverted person leads it.

      If i volunteer for children’s ministry, I get left alone with a bunch of kids without adult interaction (that is another thread all to itself).

      Large groups and/or potluck suppers are worthless for my personality.

      Where do I develop all these relationships?

      • My theory, at the heart of most every post-evangelical in the wilderness is a lonely person seeking connected relationships.

        • Gorgeous Gorgias says

          This is a bit like looking for community at a showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show! Sure, there can be a certain cameraderie (just like at Rocky Horror), but it ends when the show’s over.

          No church can provide “connected relationships.” It’s not them, it’s the modern world. We move around, we switch jobs, we get divorced–or if we don’t, half of everybody else does.

          Some people can be counted upon to support one another and stick together no matter what. Often family, sometimes friends and spouses, maybe fellow members of a tightly-knit ethnic community. In the old days, churches were based on these things, now they are more like businesses.

        • This is all the more difficult when you are married with kids. All the similarly situated people are basically just overwhelmed with work and being parents. I sometimes feel like I need to wait until my kids are all in college before I can have any close friendships, but then I will be sixty years old.

          One bit of advice that I once heard, and haven’t had a chance to put into practice yet, is to try joining a newly formed small group. If you join an established small group, with long time church members, the people are pretty much “set” with all their relationships. They don’t have room to add people to their lives. The people who are new to small groups and who are looking for a new small group are looking to establish relationships. It seems practical and it makes sense, but again, its still all theory to me.

          I’ve come to realize that there is no real easy path to relationships. If it was that easy, then we probably wouldn’t all be craving them. Be persistant, don’t lose hope. Pray to God about it.

      • I have liked the “Dinners for eight” idea, where eight random people (combination of couples and/singles) participate in a dinner together. There is no formal program, just eight people getting together, and each time you meet it is a different set of people. It provides a way to get to know people in a non threatening atmosphere, and then you can follow up with people you want to get to know better on your own. Coffee perhaps?

        • Michael, We did the “Dinners for Eight” for years. We organized them for the church we were attending for wherever we were living at the time. We always headed up a group ourselves. Our groups never wanted to meet just once. One group met monthly for nine years – same eight people. Other people wanted to join, so we added groups. For a few years we were leading and part of three groups. Even when people left the church, they wanted to stay in the groups, but usually the groups kept the people tied to the church (some told us it was the main reason they were still attending the church, which says a lot about all the money and effort the church was expending to attract people).

          What we’re doing now actually works better, and includes non church people. There’s not room here to describe it.

    • Gorgeous Gorgias says

      This is what the Moonies do. They call it “love-bombing.”

  38. Frank Lee says

    I think the elephant in the room is that church is boring. Normal church, anyway. (Sure, if they’re TRYING to put on a show, it can be interesting for a couple of weeks, but then that becomes the new routine.) We’re told we have to go, that it’s one of the rules of Christianity, but there’s no real spirituality or community (unless it’s some kind of cult). That’s why five people chatting over pizza feels more satisfying than a hundred singing hymns and introducing themselves to one another during the break. (Okay that, and the pizza–but now some church will get the idea of serving pizza, and the effect just won’t be the same.)

    • I agree Frank In addition to my comment about relationships above, I think that if people are excited about church (for whatever reason) they will look for reasons to stay, and if they are not excited about church (for whatever reason) they will be looking for reasons to leave.

    • Radagast says

      Frank,

      I am going to politely disagree….

      My church is highly liturgical – and so darn predictable every Sunday that if you looked up the word boring inthe dictionary its synonym would be Mass (at least that’s what the kids under 20 tell me). And yet it is extremely satisfying. And the only way I can describe it is that it feels Holy – I am in the presence of God. I look over and see neighbors, and others I know and its cool. And when I am out of town and I attend – same thing. In another life it was boring – and all the kneeling used to hurt my knees as a kid. Now it is different.

      And the only real desire I have to go anywhere else would just be to supplement – actually in the other direction – not rock song and show – but Divine Liturgy – now that would be cool.

      But then I guess each have their own focus and tastes….

  39. I don’t know if this is the right place for this but . . . Perhaps some people have had the same experience I have. I left a church after having been there for a number of years. I left for a variety of reasons (the annoying preaching being the least of them). I’ve been drifting for a year and a half and have a really hard time settling into a church. Its harder to put out the effort it requires to be involved in a faith community. I don’t expect to agree with everything any church believes as that is highly unlikely in any church. I wonder if this is what its like after a divorce or separation.

    • Blessings on your journey. Perhaps God has got you right where you need to be, in the desert for the moment, but don’t lose faith.

    • textjunkie says

      It is hard, and there’s no harm done in taking a sabbatical before finding a church community you can put roots down in again.

  40. Maybe someone has already said this…

    Not long ago Bill Kinnon quoted someone say, “What you win them with is what you win them to.”

    T

  41. textjunkie says

    Why change churches? I dunno, I tend to find a church and just stay there. I lived in one city where I didn’t really find a church home in the two years I was there–I tried my usual brand (Episcopalian), and there were quite a few of them in the town, but they were all pretty old and sleepy and I wasn’t, at the time; I tried a Vineyard church, and while the worship was great the preaching was horrible for six weeks running, so I kept going; the Presbyterians were the best of the lot, with a good preacher, a young congregation with a lot of ministries/opportunities, people actively singing during the service, so I went there for the last 6 months or so I lived in the city. But their habit of only serving communion once a month left something to be desired, for me.

    So yeah, there are lots of reason to “date around” until a church and you click. Why you’d leave once you’ve been there for a few years, gotten involved, tithe regularly, etc., are more complicated, but if you’re growing in new directions and they aren’t, it’s worth considering.

  42. MelissaTheRagamuffin says

    *IF* I ever change churches again, I will probably actually go to the Catholic Church. Something I have come to really appreciate about the Catholic Church is that their doctrine doesn’t change depending on what way the breeze is blowing. No matter how much people might be clammoring for change, the RC remains steadfastly unchanged, and honestly that is a huge attraction for me right now.