Pick a church, or several churches?
Sociologists are reporting they see a trend that a number of church goers are regularly attending multiple churches in the course of a week or month. Several years ago, in an email column entitled “Monday Morning Insight” (www.mmiblog.com), an article attributed to The New York Times stated that more Christians are picking and choosing among programs and ministries that satisfy their personal needs. These folks are fine with floating from church to church.
Then you have this newer category of young adults labeled “religious nones.” They love Jesus, but don’t want to have anything to do with the established church. They don’t church surf; they just don’t go.
Church surfing is particularly pronounced among teenagers, who may attend with their family on Sunday, but then go to another youth group or student worship at another church during the week.
According to the New York Times article, the National Study of Youth and Religion surveyed a group of 13- to 17-year-olds in 2002-2003 and found that 16 percent of respondents participated in more than one religious congregation. Four percent attend youth groups outside their congregations.
This habit is not limited to youth. Many Christians float from among several churches without ever putting down spiritual roots. The decision to surf instead of “land and stay put” only hurts the individual, according to critics.
Critics feel this trend reflects the consumerist mindset that pervades American thinking. People approach church like, “what’s in it for me” instead of “what can I do for my church? What can I get out of church instead of what can I contribute?” We think it’s all about us.
Still another concern has to do with relationships. Peter Beringer, a youth pastor, said, “If families spread their loyalties around, it’s been my experience that they don’t benefit as well as they could. They don’t seem to have relationships in the church that are as deep. From what I’ve seen of students who have done this, they find it easier to disengage and be the kid on the fringes.”
On the fringe is not the best place to be when it comes to church. The New Testament is clear that the Christian life is not just about believing, but also belonging and participating.
Popular pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren suggests that membership is an act of commitment, and that members gain benefits in return for their commitment. What are the benefits of belonging?
First, membership identifies me as a genuine believer. Ephesians 2:19 reads, “.. . you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”
Second, membership provides a spiritual family to support and encourage me in my walk with Christ. Hebrews 10:24, 25 says, “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another ...”
Third, membership gives me a place to discover and use my spiritual gifts in ministry and service through the church (see I Corinthians 12:4-27).
Fourth, membership places me under the spiritual protection of godly leaders. Hebrews 13:17 reads, “Obey those who lead you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give an account.”
Fifth, membership gives me the accountability I need to grow spiritually. Ephesians 5:21 says, “submitting to one another in the fear of God.”
One bottom line is that God doesn’t want his children to grow up disconnected from each other, so He gave us a spiritual family on earth for us to enjoy. There’s a joy to belonging, and helping your church grow stronger. Being an active part of God’s spiritual family brings personal enrichment and fulfillment. And there’s a personal satisfaction to doing your part and watching God use you in His church.
[Dr. David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church. The church family gathers at 352 McDonough Road, just past the department of motor vehicles office, and invites you to join them this Sunday for Bible study at 9:45 a.m. and worship at 10:55 a.m. Visit them on the web at www.mcdonoughroad.org.]