Church For Sale…Aisle 6!

13Jan08

leaving-arriving.gifThere is a great discussion going on in my last post. Read up there if you want and then come back to this post. My buddy Pete had a great comment that I wanted to bring some attention to. Pete took the attention to a Christian that is “church shopping”. I use that term, becasue I think Pete is right on in his assessment. Pete says,

“Here’s a question I’ve been pondering.. do you think when looking for a church as Christians we spend too much time looking for what we want VS looking for what God could do with us or how we could partner with what God is doing with his kingdom in that community? It’s always stumped me how people.. say.. I like the size…teaching..music..and never so much… I feel like God wants me here in this place with these people glorifying him..”

Pete I agree with you 100%. I watch Christians consistently complain about churches. Size, sound, length of sermons, too long, too short, coffee is good or bad, parking stinks, too many kids, not enough kids, sanctuary smells, they take communion, they don’t take communion. they sing too much, they sing too little. It is enough to make my head spin.

I believe very strongly that there is an attitude in many that believe them to be a consumer when it comes to churches. I call them church hoppers. One place for 6 months and than for whatever reason, they leave and then 1 year at the next spot and then there is a new Worship Pastor somewhere in town and they leave to go check out that church. It’s kind of silly.

When did church become a chance for us to be consumers? The reality is that being a part of a church is always about God and what He wants to do in our lives. Church is not about Sunday AM, Sermons and cool bands. It is about a group of people living out a relationship with our Heavenly Father. It is about a group of people worshiping, exhorting and discipling each other. It is about a group of people having and impact on the culture and community it is in.

When people place all their focus on Sunday AM, they suddenly have a mentallity that Sunday AM is about having your needs met. When they place God in a box and only pull Him out at Sunday service, they will leave at the drop of whatever hat doesn’t make them happy.

I remember when our church started 9 years ago, we had many “church hoppers” that came over to check it out. I will never forget our Pastor addressing them in the service and letting them know that if they were only here to look for a new commodity, that they needed to leave and go back to their home churches, because we need there seat for those who did not have a church home.

What makes me most concerned though, is churches that would change who they are to try and fit the needs of these kind of people…yikes.

As you can probably tell, I don’t like the idea of church hopping or placing God on the shopping list very much. But, I want to hear what you all think of it!

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112 Responses to “Church For Sale…Aisle 6!”

  1. AMEN! I love soap boxes!

    Another thing that raises my brow are the big “givers” (and i use that term loosely here) The ones who tithe a bunch of money who then somehow feel that they “own” what they have “bought”. The ones who throw that “I give moola here” weight around and “threaten” that if “so and so doesn’t go or such and such doesn’t change I’m leaving and taking my money with me.” As Pastor has spoken to before – “Fine, be gone and don’t let the door hit you where the Good Lord split you!”

  2. Amen sista. You have to trust and be God led where He wants you to give. Once that happens, it should be with an open hand and joyful heart. It’s His money, quite frankly I don’t want to know where it goes, I trust it goes where it will be where there is the most need for bringing people into His kingdom. If not, He is more than capable of closing the doors…

    I love His design, He split us perfectly did He not? The other way, there would be an awful lot of fffpwghfffpwgh sounds when we went down slides, dontcha think? 🙂

  3. Aww man… This is sooo tempting. I … must… resist

    Seriously, I struggle with conversations like this when I get asked why we started our Simple Church. It’s hard to talk about why I love the SC without seeming like I’m trashing the traditional church model.

    I’ll think on this and see if I can be constructive before I come back… 😉

  4. tam – that works right into what I was saying about being a consumer. When people put some sort of effort, time or cash into the church, they feel they own it. Don’t get me wrong. We as Pastors are accountable to our people, but no one owns the church, not even us Pastors.

    GG – I sure hope your statement “Amen Sista” was not to me 🙂 You also have pointed out who is in charge of the church…God.

    BuddyO – I appreciate the restraint. I understand you will be passionate about the “machine”. Be kind 🙂 I think you would agree that there are valuable abilities and capabilities of both models. There are also vulnerabilities and weaknesses to both. I think the hope is that we see the weaknesses that truly affect both, so we can evaluate our focus and priorities.

  5. I have never had much patience with the consumer mentality, especially the reasons that people come and go from one to church to another. However, my wife and I have recently discussed switching congregations. We currently attend the church I grew up in. Obviously, we have many relationships there and a small group that we adore. However, the church leadership has become more and more impenetrable. They seem to accept no counsel besides their own. They are seizing onto every flavor of the month methodology, and the preacher keeps talking more and more about money. We keep hearing about vision statements but it seems that the church’s vision is to have a vision. Would we be justified in leaving? I don’t know.

  6. odgie – good to hear from you. I hope this kind of discussion wouldn’t discourage you from doing what you think is right. the reality is that there are times where people don’t fit together in close quarters for whatever reason.

    I firmly agree in the Biblical model of accountability. That is to approach the people you have issue and to truly and lovingly discuss. If you’ve done this with the leadership and they are unwilling to listen, than you have to look at the issue Biblically and see what is appropriate for you and your wife.

    there is nothing more dangerous than a Pastoral leadership team abusing their responsibility. Seek God’s Word in prayer and you will see what is pure and true and than make your decision.

    I do also believe that your duty is not do ridicule or point out the wrongs of the church once you leave. Seek God’s presence and focus on Him and leave the past and the issues behind.

    I’ll be praying for your decisions…they aren’t easy…especially with friends involved.

  7. Hey Mandy – You exhausted from reading or thinking about how you want to approach this 🙂

  8. iW: I think you would agree that there are valuable abilities and capabilities of both models

    Absolutely whole heartedly agree, I would add that there’s even more than just two valid models.

    I think the large (200+) brick and mortar model that comprises most of the Western Church is at a disadvantage, because they have so many years (and so many humans) worth of human intervention that they carry more baggage than other ways of doing church.

    I do also believe that your duty is not do ridicule or point out the wrongs of the church once you leave

    I struggle with that too because it’s a thin line between being critical and holding the Church accountable.

    One problem I’ve seen with a large congregation is one you’ve alluded to – accountability. It’s hard for the leadership of a large fellowship to have mutual accountability with it’s members. This leads to a situation where it is easy for people to stay invisible and disconnected. Sometimes by their own choice and sometimes not.

    In a small church (< 30) if someone stopped coming it would be impossible to miss. Not only that, but being a small fellowship leads to deeper relationships among all members, and thus higher accountabilty.

    Large chruches have tried to solve this with the introduction of small groups or life groups but these are voluntary and those folks who wish to stay invisible will not participate. They tend to only attract people who are already commited to being part of the greater fellowship.

  9. Brent:

    i think i might have a take on this that surprises you. i can’t stand church shopping/hopping….. but its inevitable in our culture.

    yes, i have very little support for people that look for a church that will cater to their needs, expectations, wants, and comforts….. but, considering the eleventy-two-thousand denominations out there – AND the different personalities, family needs, theological bents, worship preferences, and relational expectations – we are reduced to the level of church shoppers. it would not make much spiritual sense for us (in our own GOOD and RIGHT and GODLY motivations) to decide to settle into a church that was NOT a “fit” for us, just to say we’re NOT gonna participate in church hopping.

    because of the varieties and “heresies” (depending on which side of doctrine you stand), we are forced to find a church that meets our needs, expectations, wants, and comforts/preferences. we have to. that’s in our best spiritual interests.

    for some of us, our needs/expectations/wants might be to find a church that we CAN serve in and CAN help to grow and change and reform. but still, aren’t we shopping for that kind of church? we HAVE to make a choice, whether our motivations are “good” or “bad”…

    ’til we don’t have any choices, we have to choose…..

    its ABSOLUTELY impossible to avoid. none of us are exempt.

  10. At one point in my old church I was in conversation with the pastor about growth and I proposed an odd question. Why do we care about growth? I had been meditating on Matthew 5:14-16 and it occured to me that perhaps what the church is called to do is just cast it’s light, like a lighthouse or city on a hill. That’s a more passive picture. Not actively seeking to draw folks in, just beconing it’s gifts and attracting people who are seeking it’s particular set of gifts.

    Like Mandy said there are tons of choices. That’s an awesome thing right? Who cares if family A goes here, or to the Nazarine church down the street? Either way they are seeking and communing with Christ and that’s all we care about isn’t it? If what we really care about is peoples relationship with God it doesn’t really matter where they do it, right?

    As a church I suggested that we just figure out where we are gifted, what are resources are, and just focus on being good at those things. At that time, our strength was nurturing. So lets be good at nurturing… so we don’t have a real great youth program… There’s a great one at the chruch just down the street, if people want that they can go there, if they want nurturing they’ll come here.

    Well, that didn’t go over so well…. see, he thought we needed to be all things to everyone, it was important for his… um.. I mean the church’s success.

    Well that begs the question what defines the church’s success?

  11. 12 Jason

    this is an incredibly valuable discussion.

    When my wife and I first started attending church, we attended Wooddale in Eden Prairie, MN, pastored by Leith Anderson, who is the current president of NAE, taking the place of Ted haggard if that gives you any idea of the political clout of Leith and that place. The teaching was, even in retrospect, increibly biblically sound, but the size of the church and the unbelievable amount of money it had made any “Body” activity not only unneeded (they just bought what they needed) but nearly impossible. Though we received a great deal of very solid biblical instruction there, we would never go back to a church of that size and money saturation, unless we really thought that we were led to do so. The deep reliance on one another, which I think is a biblical mandate, doesn’t not come to pass in a place where there is so little need. That being said, we are grateful for our time there.

    If it were not for the biblical instruction we received at Wooddale, we would not have had a Body vision for the church we attended in Duluth, MN, which had about 55-60 members, most of which had always been there. I don’t think that we would have been strong enough to deal with the subtle and not so subtle politics if we did not have a biblical vision. But dealing with it, and persevering with them was greatly strengthening, to all involved, and our experience there continues to serve as our model, generally, how life in the body should be. and what community outreach, stemming from biblical teaching, in each member of the body looks like.

    I also think that there are different varieties of, as Brent said, “churches that would change who they are to try and fit the needs of these kind of people.” I believer that these people are more pliable than most would suppose. They may have a picture of the activities and sermons and music that they think they want, but I believe that these people are ripe for the picking by false teachers who are capable manipulators.

    I would also say that much of the American church is shifting toward, what they would say is a missional, but at times is driven by a vision of philanthropic activity, to the dulling of the glory of Christ. This is consumerism as much as anything, because”doing good” is not Christianity, it pours from Christianity. But if doing good is the starting point, and not Jesus Christ and his glory, then this becomes just another variety of legalism for some and consumerism (giving peoplee the human activity centered religion they really want) for others. And the more this becomes the new trend the more there will be a whole new crop of church hoppers.

  12. Right on brother!

    gaj

  13. I just read this quote from a link on Tam’s blog that fits perfectly with my last comment:

    As the church runs headlong into judgment today the men of God instead of repenting and crying out and studying God’s word with all their passion are looking for models on how to keep lost people in their congregations and it’s wrong.

    Jason: Geez, well said… Kathy and I were just talking about this, how the 10 years at our previous brick and mortar were responsible for the enormous growth that brings us to where we are today. We should never forget the incredible gift that church gave us.

  14. 15 Jason

    Thanks, Buddy. Considering your passion and vision for Christ and his Church, your view to this matter means quite a bit.

    John Piper said that he is aware that new Christians come to his huge inner-city church partially because of the cult of personality surronding him, and within 5 years most leave his church to work within a small church closer to home and in which they can parcipat and contribute. He was a little sad that he was kind of a discipling church which provided seeds for others, but he was grateful for the place God made for this activity nonetheless.

  15. 16 Jason

    And that quote from Tam’s blog should be handed to everyone who believes they are a Christian. Where is it on the blog?

    Has anyone ever read “Brothers, we are not profeesionals”?

  16. J, the quote is in the Paul Washer link

  17. 18 Jason

    Oh, I just listened to a Washer sermon on Ezekiel. just glorious.

  18. Wow. This is cool…..I have a million thoughts on this. I think If we cold REALLY put.. Love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and Love your brother as yourself into actual practice.. most of this would solve itself…

    I’m also a systems thinker..so… behavior usually reflects the system you’ve set up.. our culture has set up a consumerist mindset, and a lot of churches practice some form of attractional ministry.( I’m not saying that is good or bad, Im just saying..something usually attracts people to your church, Hopefully it’s God, but sometimes its not 🙂 ) So we shouldn’t be surprised to see it happen. What does surprise me is when people that know better practice it.. i/e mature Christians.

    The other I thing I see…. which fascinates me ….is sometimes its the church itself and leaderships fault. (and I can say this because I am in a leadership role at mine). Sometimes when people say Im leaving because I don’t like…music…teaching…whatever… or I don’t go there because……when you spend some time with them and dig right down to it you can find out that what is really going on is that some sort of barrier has been put up that doesn’t allow them to connect to God. Sometimes you can remove that barrier and other times you have to just say.. well that doesn’t jive with what God has given us to do so please find someplace that jives with what God wants you to do. ( In Love of course)

    (tanget ahead) We spend a lot of time in our community talking about why we exist (our particular community), which is to help people far from God take steps toward finding him. We filter everything through that, and a lot of “shopping” people leave because of that, which is cool. The cooler trick would be if everyone got out of their seats and actually became hands and feet for SOMEONE ELSE…..

    I’m sure Ill have more thoughts after I click submit..If we could just make it all about Jesus and Love…sometimes thats harder to do than type 🙂

  19. Amen and amen. I observe a lot of these “church shoppers” that were described and you wrote exactly what I feel is so dangerous and unfortunate about having that “a-church-is-supposed-to-cater-to-my-every-whim” mentality. It is a rampant philosophy that is depriving people of the resources, fellowship, sharpening, and discipline that is necessary for us to be effective ministers. Oh I could go on and on…

  20. 21 ronpai

    I wonder if we see church shoppers because that is how we have set up the church? What i mean is I wonder if the church has come so dangerously close to a business model that it’s attendees begin to act like customers. When the church is set up with the “wal mart/movie theater/McWorld” model, then of course people will continue to move from church to church shopping for the bigger better deal or the latest and greatest fad.

  21. Ladies and gentlemen the quote of the day:

    What i mean is I wonder if the church has come so dangerously close to a business model that it’s attendees begin to act like customers.

    Again I’ll say it. Why do we feel this compulsion to ‘grow the church’?

    Possible answer: $$ (even if it’s for ‘good’ causes)

  22. Hey all! Just got off the phone with Brent. Internet is down at the office. He’s getting emails but is not able to go on line. He’s reading all your comments and is liking and appreciating the conversation taking place. He’ll jump back in as soon as they’re up and running again.

    Please continue….

  23. Hey all! Just got off the phone with Brent. Internet is down at the office. He’s getting emails but is not able to go on line. He’s reading all your comments and is liking and appreciating the conversation taking place. He’ll jump back in as soon as they’re up and running again.

    Please continue….

  24. Membership must be down… better bring in some more souls so they can pay the internet bill!!!

    JUST KIDDING….. 😉

  25. “Again I’ll say it. Why do we feel this compulsion to ‘grow the church’?”

    Obviously Brent is my husband…so that makes me married to a Pastor. I look at the leadership at our church and am simply blown away! I know each of them personally…as does a large, large part of our church attenders. they’re accessible – they’re not above anyone else. They’re not looking to be the next biggest thing.

    We ARE growing…BUT, we’re growing in part because of the reasons I listed above regarding our leadership.

    Deb, said something above that spoke to the heartbeat of TRF – come one, come all. It is not our responsibility to tell you how bad you are – it’s our duty to show you how good you can become in God (that is not implying you are “bad” to begin with) People are drawn to that. We are a church that has a passion for our community and are currently knee deep involved in large community projects. That is something a Christ Follower appreciates and will gravitate to for a “church” setting. As that allows them to rub shoulders within a group of fellow believers with a vision for His Kingdom.

    We’re large, but not fancy schmancy. We’re simple folk who just want to be His hands and feet. We come on the weekends knowing we will be further equipped to reach His people.

  26. “Membership must be down… better bring in some more souls so they can pay the internet bill!!!”

    HAHAHA!!! I SOOO knew someone was gonna point that out!

    Good one friend!! 😉

  27. We ARE growing…BUT, we’re growing in part because of the reasons I listed above regarding our leadership.

    Yeah, man (ok, lady) that’s the way it should be done. Re-reading my comment… I’m not saying that the church shouldn’t grow if it’s the fruit of ‘doing it right’.

    I put ‘grow the church’ in quotes to indicate an conscious action. So many churches have action plans, or growth plans designed to grow for the sake of growth. To increase membership so that more funds are available to build a bigger building so that we can grow more so that funds are available to hire more people to promote growth so that we can afford more mission to stimulate growth for blah blah blah.

    Focus on Christ, teach the Word, worship the Lord, love each other. If it grows GREAT! If not, so what? Do you still have your spiritual integrity? Then don’t sweat it.

  28. 29 ronpai

    “Again I’ll say it. Why do we feel this compulsion to ‘grow the church’?”

    Maybe we feel the compulsion to grow the church because sometimes we have put the Great Commission (Go and make disciples) before or over the Great Commandment (love God and neighbor). Being a recovering numbers counter, I found that I have heard more questions about why numbers are down rather than how we can love the people who are sticking around.

  29. i don’t see “counting numbers” as a bad thing. i think MOTIVATION should be the bigger question. WHY are we counting? if we are counting for the wrong reasons, then it might be a bad thing…. but if we’re “counting” for the right reasons, then what’s the big deal?

    aren’t we supposed to be “making” disciples? more and more and more present-tense making… not made or tried to make…. but currently always and ongoing making disciples. that means that, while we are nurturing and growing others, we don’t neglect to make some more…. we should be in constant pursuit of making more and more.

    how do we know if we’re “making” any if we don’t pay attention to the quantity AND QUALITY of what’s being made.

    i really don’t see church growth as “counting numbers” – rather, it should be about SOULS. don’t we want others to know about God? or are we to settle for the steady few that come week in and week out?

    i don’t think there’s anything wrong with keeping track of the wax and wane of church growth, as long as our motivation for counting is a genuine effort to make disciples.

  30. 31 ronpai

    Unfortuantely I write from personal experience with my last post. Too often I’ve seen the church going after numbers for the wrong reason. here are a couple of thoughts that i had as well.

    “aren’t we supposed to be “making” disciples? more and more and more present-tense making… not made or tried to make…. but currently always and ongoing making disciples. that means that, while we are nurturing and growing others, we don’t neglect to make some more…. we should be in constant pursuit of making more and more.”

    We are supposed to make disciples, but we are called to love God and neighbor first. When people become a number, is this loving them? when they are a seat or parking space for the church is this loving them? Making disciples is teaching people to love. What I am saying is that sometimes we can focus on the disciple before the person. And then after we make the disciple, do we drop them and move on to another “project”? I find it interesting that sometimes our focus is not on teaching one to love God and Neighbor, but instead teaching them to make more disciples. We can teach them to teach others, “…but if we have not love then we are just the beginning drum solo to ‘better is one day’.” Yeah, I think that may be heresy of some kind.

    “how do we know if we’re “making” any if we don’t pay attention to the quantity AND QUALITY of what’s being made.”

    I wonder if quality should be paid more attention to than quantity. This is the problem with counting is that the quantity at times can become the focus rather than what people are learning and repeating to others. Having worked for 5 years in what could be described as a “come and see” church, i saw this happen too often. I have seen a few people let go because they were not drawing enough people to their ministry even though their teachings were bang on (in my opinion). They didn’t grow their ministry fast enough for my employers opinion. I know this isn’t all churches, but it happens.

    “i don’t think there’s anything wrong with keeping track of the wax and wane of church growth, as long as our motivation for counting is a genuine effort to make disciples.”

    Throw in loving the person before they are a disciple and I totally agree.

  31. 32 Jason

    “Making disciples is teaching people to love.”
    ?

  32. 33 ronpai

    foot…in…mouth…gotta…try…to…remove…it.

    let me think about what I was trying to say. Maybe this: I wonder if making disciples is teaching people to love God and love neighbor as themselves?

    Weren’t we talking about church hoppers? I’m sorry if I was an accomplice in steering this a different direction. I am also sorry if I offended anybody. Please don’t hate…participate.

  33. 34 Jason

    Please don’t hate…participate.

    hmmm

  34. 35 lazrus2

    This is probably just my ‘too heavenly minded’ perspective, but I tend to think that
    – if we really took God at His Word for what He says ‘is good and required of us’ (Micah 6:8) then,
    – maybe just if we (shepherds and sheep alike) were to ‘do justly’ and to ‘love mercy’ and to ‘walk humbly with Him’,
    and
    – maybe just if we were to ‘humble ourselves and pray’ and
    – to ‘seek His face’ and
    – maybe just ‘turn from OUR wicked ways’,
    then He really would
    ‘hear’, ‘forgive’ and ‘heal our land’ (i.e. nation, state, valley, and churches) (2 Chron. 7:14)
    and then
    – we wouldn’t have to be so concerned about people (how many there are and what they think) rather than HIM,
    – except to ‘have His mind and heart’ for them because we’re in right relationship with Him first.

    To me, that’s the only chance we’ll ever have of being ‘any earthly good’ (i.e. rightly representing Him to the world as His church).

    Practically, for me, that means making the most of every opportunity He allows me for ministry, whether inside or outside the church walls (yet always ‘listening’ for His direction re: what to continue in or release).

    AND foundational to that is maintaining a consistent daily intimacy with the Lord, out of which it all flows (i.e. “we can’t lead people where we’ve never been ourselves”).

    Yes, Pete, I agree with your assessment of ‘Love God and one another’ being the ‘key’, just adding a little more emphasis on the outflow of that (i.e. James 1:22: “Don’t merely listen to (or discuss/talk/blog about??=) the Word and so deceive yourselves. DO what it says!”)
    D-

  35. 36 ronpai

    jason. You crack me up.

  36. Matthew 28 doesn’t have anything to do with growing the church… or really church at all…

  37. 38 Jason

    “jason. You crack me up.”

    that’s one.

  38. Holy Crap! How am I supposed to catch up on this one!

    I’ve come home cause (according to Buddy) we need more people in our church so we an have more money so we can pay our internet bills 🙂 Very Funny!

    Anyway, I will read through and see how I can get involved here. there are some great thoughts. I am hearing…

    1) Sticking to the simplicity of the Gospel…Love God Love others
    2) Numbers…are they important, valid, invalid?
    3) Leadership irresponsibility…accountability.
    4) The church”machine”.
    5) Whether Favre and the Packers will take it all!

    Sorry I just had to slip that last on in there 🙂 I’ll be back with some ideas.

  39. ronpai:

    no offense taken here at all…..

    i think the common denominator in all of these arguments is that real Church can only be accomplished when love is present and shared. otherwise, it is just an obnoxious drum solo!

    i guess i shoulda mentioned that Love for others should be our motivating factor for making disciples, not just being motivated by a drive to make more clone disciples.

    anyway, dying to see what brent has to say about all this!

    participating,
    mandy

  40. ps: GO PATS!

  41. Thanks Mandy…no pressure and I really wish I was in your snow right now.

    Pats? Who?

    🙂

  42. 43 ronpai

    My last post. I swear it is.

    1. How could anybody be against Brett Favre and the Packers right now? …unless they live in New England somewhere.

    2. Mandy – thanks for not being offended. writing on these things sometimes cause voices to sound concieted and/or jerk-ish. I added blended worship to my blogroll. I really liked the question if we “show our legs at church”.

    3. Jason. What does that mean, “that’s one”? Do we really have three stikes here? Do I get any balls in the count? Maybe a foul tip once in a while? I hope so.

    4. Brent. thanks for letting me write here.

  43. brent: he he! gotcha!!! you’ve pulled me out into the fire of comments @ blendingworship on more than one occasion. 🙂

  44. Ron – Everyones welcome! Discuss away 🙂

    Mandy – So this is payback 🙂 No worries here. this is an awesome respectful discussion.

  45. 46 Jason

    No, just one that I crack up.

    Relax, I’m participating..not hating.

  46. No J, There’s two 😀

  47. 1) Sticking to the simplicity of the Gospel…Love God Love others

    This point really stuck out to me. A couple years before I became a Christian the parents of a good friend gave me a “track”. I know now it was a track but had no idea it was then. It was the typical, this is who God is, who I am, what Hes done, what i can never do…and on and on. Shortly after I was given a book marker specially designed with versus to bribe and guilt one into submission. After that I had a friend pray a holy, rolling, craziness over me (out of the blue!) fast forward to my conversion reflecting on these many attempts at winning me and i wondered why didn’t they ever just befriend me, give me a bible for crying out loud?

    We’ve been given so many “tools” to help aide us in evangelizing when we already have the greatest tool and that is His word and the great commission. Too much of us has infiltrated the gospel.

  48. OK….

    Some things that stand out to me are this…

    “Numbers”
    I have no doubt that many churches have abused this. I always wondered why an old church i grew up in had the attendance numbers in the bulletin every week. I always thought that was weird. Which makes me think. Is this a largely denominational thing? I am sure modern churches can fall into this as well, but it seems that denominations(which do run very heavily on budgets) would consistently be concerned over numbers.

    Now, I believe that numbers are valuable and ultimately the reason we do things. Going off what Mandy said, I believe that our ultimate duty on earth is to love God and love people so that people will see and come to know our Savior and be redeemed to Him. That’s a number game. If we look around our cities and see church attendance falling, could it be because we as a church are not loving our communities? Could the reverse be the same, that if we are loving our communities our church attendance is going up? I think so.

    I think it comes down to intent on a plan for your church. I know of some churches are driven to grow, but not for money and building sake, for salvations sake. Why would we not want as many people in our cities to know about the amazing God we serve? In doing this there is a passion that leads to action(as lazrus2 said, it is not enough to talk about it) and inevitably brings people into our church communities.

    “Money”
    This is an interesting one to tackle with the church. money has been a part of the church from day one and it has been a valuable commodity for the church from day one. there is evidence to say that money in the early church was spent on caring for the community and caring for the leadership of the church. Todays’ church has taken on a lot more responsibility that costs money.

    I am not going to argue whether the programs and styles of churches are good or bad(that another and probably much longer conversation), but I really liked the idea that Jason and Buddy brought up in regards to serving in the church. Buddy, you talked about the church focusing on what they are gifted to do and doing that. Jason you talked about how if everything is paid for, there are no opportunities for the community to step up and minister to needs.

    It is never the job of the church leadership to do everything for the people. Service and care and reaching out to help are as much the people’s role as the Pastors. There is no separating that duty between certain parts.

    A side note. I don’t believe that it is the responsibility of only the leadership to hold the fellowship accountable. I think it is the entire fellowships(Leadership included) responsibility to hold each other accountable. Biblically I see it as a team sport in this regards.

    Epiphany – I liked your thought on how being consumer also relates to people not getting involved in ministry. If someone has selfishly shopped for a church that meets their needs, they are likely to look for comfort over involvement.

    Buddy -I wanted to clarify my statement to odgie. The accountability to leadership from it’s people is no different than anyone else. the bible says when you have an issue with a brother/sister, you go to them and discuss it and then it goes on from there if no reconciliation is made. This is the goal…reconciliation. If we have taken these steps and feel that Biblically we have grounds to leave that fellowship, we do not have a right then to speak against them or gossip about them. that is just division in the body that we see way too much of.

    Buddy – I loved your image of the church being a city on a hill. To take it a step farther, people have to know what that city is about. That city is a place they will go to because they know what it contains and Who it serves. So taking that thought, numbers are good, but they only come from our active participation in peoples lives in our cities. We don’t do church on Sunday AM. We do church all week and as a result, people want to come to service on Sunday AM.

    That leads to my final thought in this whole discussion. How are we defining church? Buddy you said that Matthew 28 has nothing to do with the church. In regards to the individual “entities” or “machine”, I would agree with you. but in regards to the community of Christians, not bound by denominational or brick walls, I would disagree. it is very much about Jesus’ bride. We(Christians) are all the church. Whether we attend the same service on Sunday AM or not.

  49. 50 Jason

    T,

    yahoo!!!!

  50. B, I’d love to read your short novel here but I think I’m just gonna get up from the couch here, walk to the dining room where you are typing another short novel, and just chat with ya about it 😉

    J, you’ve got skill

  51. B- sure, ones definition of church is critical to the discussion. My comment on Matt 28 was referring to the brick and mortar church particularly in the context of ‘growing’ it.

    I don’t believe Jesus had growing a church in mind when He gave us that Great Commssion.

    BTW – I was wondering how that worked with you two… your comments often appear close to the same time. I imagined you sitting on either ends of the sofa staring into your laptops. Glad to hear you guys talk too… 😉

    Actually, getting Kathy involved in bloggin recently she would say “why am I typing this when I can just talk to you about it?” – because other people may be interested in what you have to say. .. Now she types… then we talk about it… I like it, it’s nice that way.

  52. Yep Buddy – right now B is sitting on the sofa chair next to me as I sit on the couch. We share the footstool. We’re watching a 1998 Superbowl game and “talking” to you. Our orphan children are being neglected and forced to watch Funniest Home Videos! We’re top notch peeps I tell ya!

  53. Oh and Buddy, i did finally respond to you and Kathy on your “poor” post… Hope she’s well today!

  54. Hey Buddy, I assumed your reference was to the institution. thanks for clarification. There is a whole aspect to this that begs us to question what church is and what Sunday AM is every time we respond. I think it would be a good practice to keep things in perspective for lots of discussion.

    “I don’t believe Jesus had growing a church in mind when He gave us that Great Commission”

    I would assume we are talking about the institution again. But my question would be why? Just for discussions sake. I am not going to question what Jesus thought, even if this is the truth, but this takes us down an interesting path.

    Paul is probably the one that has given us the most direction in what the institution of church is. If Jesus never intended to encourage or create a movement that would become what we know it is now, was Paul out of line to be as free in his teaching and leadership? Should we follow Jesus teaching which don’t say anything about the institution, which may imply there should be none. Or should we not say this was the implication and follow Paul’s direction? Or do we go even farther and say that when the “church” put the Bible together, they put Paul’s teachings in, so that they would have an excuse to create the entity?

    This could go crazy directions…but I am in this purely for discussion 🙂

  55. We’ve even IM’d while both of us are in the house to have interruption free talk while the kids have been in other rooms. Sneaky 🙂

  56. 57 Elaine

    This is a great post! I haven’t had a chance to read all the comments but thought I’d share my thoughts. I was born and raised in a very spiritually abusive, cult-like system. It took me 31 years to walk away, which I did a year ago. I threw my arms up and knew I needed to find a new church..but was so scared, bitter, hurt and alone. With that said there was no way it could have been my power. God led me immediatly to trf and I have been so blessed. I love that God’s hand was in my choosing.

  57. Elaine, we are so happy to have you. Here and at TRF. Sounds like it has been an amazing journey you have been on. I would love to know about it.

    Hopefully you’ll make it through the comments. There is some good stuff!

  58. 59 Nevin

    This is an unpopular thought. I have ticked off a lot of people today so I am just going to shoot the moon here. I also have to declair I haven’t read the whole post. I agree about church hoppers and that mentality but sometimes I wonder if that whole thing isn’t a bit market driven. In trying to do the next really cool thing in our churches all the time, I can see how people can become consumer oriented. I guess as soon as the gospel becomes cluttered by the show, or the production, or the building, or our egos, or whatever…it is something to keep in check.

  59. 60 Nevin

    PS Packers are going to run the table…War San Diego

  60. 61 Momma Jen

    Holy Cow! What a great post!! I’ve been at TRF for 7+ years and truly love it. I attended another church in Ashland, very similar to TRF, but when we moved to Medford – I had a very hard time making it out there (yes, ALL the way to Ashland) 🙂 I found out about TRF from a friend and haven’t left since!
    Anyway, one of the many things I love about TRF is that overall, the people & pastors are so real. It is encouraging to me to hear the struggles our pastors have had/are having – it’s nice to know they’ve been down some of the same roads I’m traveling on.
    I love how the pastors teach the bible and also discuss how to apply that particular message to my life.
    I honestly can’t say enough good things about TRF…
    except…maybe we could sing “Stand in Awe” again soon…?? 😉
    Thank you to you & all the other pastors!

  61. 62 Jason

    @Nevin,

    “I agree about church hoppers and that mentality but sometimes I wonder if that whole thing isn’t a bit market driven”

    I have thought the same thing. There is an opaque line between speaking the language people understand and saying that which people are drawn to, while intentionally or unintentially omitting that which, though very biblical and necessary, is often unappealing to the mind in the world.

  62. 63 Jason

    @Buddy,

    Can you explain how Matthew 28 is not related to church?

  63. Jason:
    Like Brent said it depends on how you use the word ‘church’ if you are talking about Church with a big C, eg. one holy catholic and apostolic church, then absolutely I think that is what Jesus is addressing. But the focus of Brent’s article and the subsiquent discussion has been focused on the church with a little c.

    In Matthew 28:16-20 Jesus is speaking in global terms ‘all nations’ it’s a missional calling… ‘to all Nations’. I just don’y read that passage as Jesus commanding the apostles go out and get a building somewhere, set up great programs and put together awesome music and sermons for the purpose of attracting the nations in the door to hear the message. I think He intended that as tranformed lives we go out among the natiions and live the Message, being prepared to share the reason for the hope that we have. He is with us to the end of the age.. ALWAYS and EVERYWHERE. Not contained in a small building like a zoo for visitors to come in and awe over.

    OK, that sounded like I’m smashing the church (little c). I’m not. I think the little c is critical for coming together for worship and mutual edification, but not for the purpose of the Great Commission.

  64. “I think the little c is critical for coming together for worship and mutual edification, but not for the purpose of the Great Commission.”

    If you ask me…I think more than money more than numbers or anything else, this is the philosophy of ministry that brings us different styles of churches(little c).

    I know churches that feel their one purpose is to get people in the doors to evangelize and reach them for Christ. The reality is that I think most churches of the last 2 decades lived with this philosophy in some form and now that times and people are changing, this philosophy either doesn’t work well or looks unbiblical.

    I am not sure it’s unbiblical, except when it draws complete attention to Sunday AM and takes the attention of of the “go into the world.” This can lead the church to becoming “show” driven to bring people in the doors. because the whole emphasis is on getting people to Sunday AM.

  65. More than that, I think it’s incredibly difficult (impossible) to provide what’s needed to reach the World (ala Matt 28) and the Church (of beleivers) at the same time.

    I’m not sure that the church should try.

  66. “I’m not sure that the church should try.”

    I assume little “c” here. But why?

    I think I understand what your getting at, so I’ll answer to my assumption. Correct me if I am wrong.

    The Large “c” is asked to “go into all the world”. The little “c” is not. Is this what you are saying? If that is the case, would you say forming a group of people to “go into all the world” shouldn’t happen? Or should it, but then how do we define an organized group of people doing this? What are the regulations and then isn’t that just a little “c”? Or at least what it should be?

  67. Nevi – I know you. How in the world could yo tick people off? Your the sweetest guy in the world. I find that hard to believe 🙂

    Momma Jen – Thanks for the kind words about TRF. As we read through a discussion like this, we really need to take things to heart and the be the people God is asking us to be. not only at TRF, but in everyday life. Let’s work hard and make TRF a “city on a hill”.

  68. 69 Jason

    My father in law actually has has a small piece of grass from the old lambeau field in his yard. I married into cheeseheads.

  69. I was born in Minnesota, so the Packers were always kind of rivals. But, I always liked them. Go Favre!

  70. 71 Jason

    yah, where ya from, den?

  71. Well, I was born outside Minneapolis, but only lived there the first 6 years of my life. We went back every Sumer for a month to visit family until I was in the 6th grade. I haven’t been back now for 25 years. I’ve still got family there. I would love to visit again. Most my family is in Lake Minnetonka.

  72. So do you enjoy listening to Prairie Home Companion?

  73. 74 Jason

    mmmmmmTonka.

    We lived in Excelsior for two wonderful summers.

    I recently heard this hilarious quote from Garrison Keillor on the Puritans:

    “They came to America in hopes of discovering greater restrictions than were permissible under English law.”

  74. Amy – I actually loved the movie…but I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of it in general.

    Jason – That quote I hilarious. I grew up baptist, so I wasn’t far off from this. My favorite Baptist quote was…

    “Baptists don’t believe in pre-marital sex, cause it leads to dancing.”

  75. Quotes like this make me so glad I grew up a single wide trailer trash pagan. We didn’t have quotes cause, well, no one knew what that word meant. But we did have good advise. like… Never kiss your cousin in public.

  76. What do you mean your kind have quotes. My favorite is…

    “Nice tooth”

  77. That’s not a quote. That’s a marriage proposal.

    What came first the tornado or the trailer park?

  78. You got me there

    Hahahahahahaha!

  79. You had me at “nice tooth”

  80. I found your blog through Tam’s … and I love this post! You’re right: Consumerism seems to be a major trap that Christians fall into when trying to find a church. Although I confess: I’m still trying to figure out how I *should* choose a church.

  81. Faith – Welcome and thanks for getting involved here!

    Here is my opinion, you are going to select a church appropriately because of your attitude towards consumerism. We inevitably are given the opportunity to choose from an often large amount of churches. The responsibility lies with us to choose with integrity and not for selfish reasons. It sounds like you are going to choose with integrity and will have no problem finding a place.

    we all have an opportunity to surrender to God plans for us and allow ourselves to be His servants. When our heart is right with that, He will open a door for us into a wonderful community of other believers where we can be challenged, encourage and put to work.

  82. 83 Jason

    @Brent

    hahaha!

  83. Faith,
    Stay away from any chruch that has a Worship Pastor with a mullet.

  84. I haven’t read all the comments Brent… but I did see the “You had me at Nice Tooth.” comment as I was scrolling/scanning. Sometime things jump out at you.

    I love church hoppers. I see “the hoppers” as falling into one big bucket: seeking a body of theologically similar believers where I can ‘fit’ and focus on Christ. Nothing derails us from the cross like being or suffering a mis-fit. E.g, new gay believer randomly and unwittingly goes to worship at Westboro Baptist one Sunday.

    Within this bucket of hoppers, I think there are those who know this is exactly what they are doing and are very intentional about it. Also, there is probably a larger group who are meandering aimlessly. I think many hoppers don’t know what they are looking for (because they do not know themselves) and are shopping for that God-presence feeling. And since our feelings can mislead us, they stick around for 6 months to a year before realize… i.e., they dance with someone just because the sex was good.

    So yeah, I love ’em. I try to figure out if they’re intentional or clueless… since my help/advice is different for both.

    And if he’s sportin’ a mullet, I humbly realize I got him too late to be of any real help.

  85. 86 Jason

    boy, ric, those are very insightful points of view!

    thanks!!

  86. Hey this is getting dirty now 🙂 What’s wrong with Mullets ric and Buddy. And faith, Buddy is just jealous 🙂

    ric – You bring up a huge aspect of this process…feelings. Is it wrong to want to feel good in a church home? I don’t think so, but that’s not what it’s about. feelings need to be a by product or benefit, not the way or means.

    And your right. although my thoughts come across as harsh, I wish to push no one away that is actively seeking. I get impatient with “Christian” church hoppers that want the next greatest thing and we have a bunch of those in our valley, so I often speak from that angle. But, there are many who have responded in this post that are honestly seeking and I welcome that.

  87. Based on talking about feelings. I read this great post this AM…

    http://www.stevenfurtick.com/uncategorized/fake-it-til-you-feel-it/

  88. No one is harder on mullets than an ex-mulleteer.

  89. hmm… you’re sounding a bit defensive Brent. Is there a full head shot of you somewhere?

    I like 99% of Steven Furtick’s post. Where he lost me was the writing of a [insincere] encouraging note. I would advocate a more honest, relational exchange. I’ve worked with youth for 8 years. If I tried something like that, they would know and I would lose credibility. So, I’m not onboard with the ‘faking it’ part.

    So I’m with you and Furtick on ‘feelings’ not driving our decisions. You mentioned feelings as a by-product. Many of the hoppers who do not know the ‘product’ they’re searching for, seek the by-product instead. And since “feel good” can be produced by many means, the search can take a few hops. And barley.

  90. Defensive…who me…about hair? 🙂

    I understand what your saying Ric. Obviously I can’t speak for what Furtick truly meant, we only have his words so I am sure I can read into them a bit.

    As I read that statement from Furtick it reminded me of Biblical reference to praising and obeying even when we don’t feel like it. I don’t like his word “fake”. But for me it is an intent. Sometimes we don’t want to do what’s right and we don’t feel like saying nice things, but we need to choose to anyway. I’ve had this happen in my life where my selfish desires have caused me to feel a certain way, yet when I choose to say or do what’s right, God has had a way of softening me and bringing me into His true joy.

    Like I said(and you have as well) I don’t agree with the idea to “fake it” taken at face value, but i like the idea of obeying and doing even when we don’t feel like it.

  91. By the way, you can see a “full head shot” at this post. Don’t say I didn’t warn you 🙂

    https://brenttrf.wordpress.com/2007/11/02/the-mullet-part-3-of-3-the-unveiling/

  92. I KNEW IT. Ok, so here goes my Furtick note attempt:

    The styles of your younger self were so BOLD and your posting of these images shows such COURAGE and CONFIDENCE. I too am free from the locks of my youth (please check out the photos on http://www.myspace.com/wanttogetwell/).

    See. It doesn’t work. Not for me. You may comment on over-sized bow ties and white polyester blazers now. Or green and white polyester warm-ups. It was the 70’s man.

  93. Oh my! This is an INSANE amount of comments! ha ha! I don’t think I even want to try to read through them all….I’ve SKIMMED. 😉

    Good post Brent. I like it. Really makes you think, and I think it will make ME think differently when we are back to choosing a church again after we move.

    As always, good stuff. 😀

  94. Hi Brent, I definitely want to echo Brandy’s comment above. I found your blog navigating over from Tam’s blog. I love reading all of the insights for both of you. I think I will jump in on the next discussion though, this one seems a little full!
    Sean

  95. Ric – Do you actually want people to see that Wedding picture 🙂 i love it! I am sure your wife loves it as well.

    Brandy and Sean – No worries on trying to jump in. thanks for commenting though. i love to hear peoples thoughts in all this.

    Sean – Welcome! it’s good to know you. My wife’s got a great thing going on over at her blog and I appreciate you stopping by here. Don’t be a stranger.

    Brandy – I don’t like the idea of you guys moving away, but I do understand. Glad this could be an encouragement for the future.

  96. Yeah us moving is bittersweet. It will be sad to move away (AGAIN) from family and friends, but good to get on with things instead of hanging in limbo.
    We should get our orders next month. *SHOULD* being the key word. 😉

  97. What if we “ordered” you to stay 🙂

  98. ha ha ha! I think “big brother” would have a problem with that. 😉 heehee

  99. B, just wanted to thank you so much for your input today…it put things into prospective for me. Just wish it were a bit more often……..ahem……

  100. I understand Brandy 😦

    Deb – I assure you I would be over more often if I didn’t have to deal with so much rif-raf around here 🙂

  101. Hello all,
    This site & discussion was sent to me by a friend. Regarding church “(s)hopping” I don’t do same but would never attempt to contemplate what is in the hearts and souls of those worshiping with me. I don’t spend time in church wondering why an unfamiliar face is in the midst. The more the merrier!! No Bravo from me to the publicly chastising Pastor or those who cheer him in inviting people to leave “his” church and go home. So much for welcoming with open arms. I prefer to leave the judging to Him. By the way, “big c”, “little c”…. aren’t we missing the point here people? Going to church in ANY capacity is ALWAYS a good thing. PS:Roman Catholic and loving it (please, no ministering as not shopping for new religion either!!)

  102. Hey Linda, thanks for stopping by and joining in. I am not sure you really got the whole point of this, there is a definite difference between those who are actively seeking God and looking for a church to do this and those who are just selfish Christian consumers. The church is unfortunately full of selfish, lazy Christians who are convinced that it is there to meet their needs. There is no issue with whether they choose to worship at our church, but they won’t be left alone either.

    “big” c and “Little” c is huge. We very much so see the point and that’s why it is being talked about. The “little” c is a very important part of our lives as Christians, but it is not THE part. That is the key. Americans are too focused on the “little” c and doing this become so fixated on Sunday AM. I agree with you that going to church(Sunday AM) is a good thing, but that 2-4 hours is never above the other 164 hours a week where Jesus has asked us to be His light in this dark world.

    That is the point of this post. It is not OK for the little “c” to breed or encourage lazy, selfish Christians, neither is it ok for a Christian to actively seek a church just for this intent.

    PS So your Roman Catholic. It would be interesting to hear about your experiences and journey.

  103. I see. I was a bit confused about what “big C and little c” stood for.

    That being said I do have a concern that there might be a propensity for rash judgment here. There is no way for anyone to know what a person’s relationship with the holy trinity is and to place someone in a category apart from another based on pre-conceived notions is wrong.

    I am also uncomfortable with your wording. I would NEVER call any one of Gods creations and someone’s pride and joy, little, lazy, selfish and the like. A little more self-reflection/prayer and less casting opinions about other people would do a body and soul good.

  104. Linda – Glad your back. Many choose to comment and run, but I am pleased you have become a part of the discussion. I do understand your concern and it is just.

    My purpose in this discussion is to challenge those who are listening not to bash or judge those who are not. I don’t claim to know someone’s relationship with God, but I do see and watch Christians in the community everyday either live out their lives for Him or just sit and complain about their own needs. Christians need to be challenged to live in an upright standard. God will judge who we are, but we can and should encourage how we are living.

    I am a little taken back that you would not believe us to be lazy or selfish. I admit I am. I am sinful and a failure and daily I have to lay down my own flesh to allow His Spirit to reign in me. I understand you think we are calling people that, but if anyone has been called that, it in this post, it is implied that I am as well.

    And again, this is not about casting opinions on others, it IS about self evaluation. Are we as Christians being lazy and selfish and expecting the church to meet our needs OR are we as Christians humbly placing ourselves at the feet of Jesus and letting Him use us in powerful ways to be light and salt for this earth. Church is never about going to get something we need. It is always about honoring, worshiping and serving our God.

    Another thing to consider in this discussion is that we are generally focused on the evangelical church and the concern over whether or not it is to blame for much of the intent and attitude of the people in it. Are we going to see a show or are we going to worship. This is at the root of a lot of this discussion.

    This discussion originally stemmed from here…

    https://brenttrf.wordpress.com/2008/01/11/ive-never-given-birthbut-my-wife-has/

    Which led us to the thoughts in this post.

  105. I agree with you. Our church actually found us and not the other way around. We were in a church for years, when my husband got really sick. We had visited another church prior to this, b/c the pastor asked us to come. After my husband’s severe health issues, our own church did nothing –not one call from anyone–while this church (huge in size) we’d visited had a huge outpouring of love for us. It was amazing to see God’s love wrapping around us through this church. Needless to say, once my husband was able to go to church at all after recovery….we left our church home for a church that we knew we were being called to.

  106. Hey blessed1 – We just conducted a survey at our church and one of the things it confirmed is something that nationwide surveys have showed. People want community. When community happens, everything else becomes icing on the cake. It is a beautiful thing when you find those relationship.

  107. 108 comments? How could I miss such a party. I don’t like Brent getting so many kudos, so I’m leaving to find somewhere I like better.
    J/K

    Great post, I couldn’t agree more!
    Fred

  108. 109 comments? How could I miss such a party?
    err… I mean, great post man!

  109. Community is important….community = fellowship.


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