Against Church Shopping

Our consumer-oriented culture has trained us to think choosing a church is like picking a cell phone plan: find the one that meets all my needs while offering me the best “deal.” But choosing a church is not like picking a cell phone plan or new car or restaurant or movie or television show.

It is one thing to switch from Coke to Pepsi because one of the two happens to be on sale, but quite another when we leave a church simply because one down the street has a better coffee bar in the foyer. In other words, choosing a church should be primarily “a matter of theology.” This requires a whole new way of thinking. A consumer-oriented mindset by definition holds weak loyalties to any one thing. The consumer mind must be ready to move quickly to the latest best deal or new thing. The theologically-oriented mindset is strongly tied to foundational doctrines and is not easily moved. The former is fickle and mobile; the latter is committed and grounded.

So how do we begin to treat church unlike the way we determine what coffee to buy at The Woods?

  1. Recognize the consumer orientation of American culture. See it for what it is and don’t pretend we’re not living within it. Instead, we must learn to not be conformed to this world (cf. Romans 12:1-2). The best way to do this is to “set our minds on things above” (cf. Colossians 3:1-4) through consistent Bible study, prayer and fellowship with other believers. But it also requires shunning many of the fallen habits of the world. Discernment is needed.
  2. Resolve to find a church based on matters of first rather than secondary importance. For example, what does the church believe about the gospel? The Bible? God? Christ? The Holy Spirit? Church leadership? How these questions are answered should be what drives us to a particular local church not how good the potlucks are on a given night (as important as that is!).
  3. Persevere in your local church. The consumer will not endure faulty products. But the Christian is not called to a product, but to Christ and His church. And churches are flawed. Why? Because they’re full of people like us–people being sanctified. As the apostle said, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect…” (Philippians 3:12). Indeed, we are a work in progress so love, gentleness, forebearance, forgiveness, patience, kindness, etc. must be what marks us as we learn to live together in local fellowship.

More could be said, but I am convinced that we have a tremendous opportunity to get the attention of our market-driven, consumer-oriented culture by modeling the very opposite behavior when it comes to church. When fickleness is the norm deep commitment will stand out like a shining star on a clear night. When those people close to us see this devotion they may even ask why–with all its flaws–we stay committed to our local church. And when that question comes I pray we will have a reason far more powerful than, “We like the music on Sunday mornings.” No, let us say, “The gospel is preached and lived out there. Why would I go anywhere else?”

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One Response to Against Church Shopping

  1. I would add you should be in the church that GOD predestined YOU to attend , predestined YOU to learn in, predestined YOU to grow in [ Romans 8: 28-31 ] …. Live your Life in the philosophy of “Big, Huge, Great, Holy God ” and “so little, minor Me”

    Deuteronomy 6:4-19
    English Standard Version (ESV)

    4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

    10 “And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God— lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.

    16 “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. 17 You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you. 18 And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers 19 by thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the Lord has promised.
    Footnotes:

    Deuteronomy 6:4 Or The Lord our God is one Lord; or The Lord is our God, the Lord is one; or The Lord is our God, the Lord alone

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