The late Howard Hendricks, esteemed Bible teacher and former President of Dallas Theological Seminary said this, “If you find the perfect church, don’t join it you’ll ruin it.”
If you don’t get the humor in that one-liner, read his quote again then wait for it.
If you do get it, there’s at least a chance that you’ve been guilty of shopping to find the perfect church like so many of us have. Something in our church seems lacking to us, we perceive that our needs are not being met and so often, our first reaction is to shop around.
In fact, I’m amazed at how many good Christians are guilty of this. Statistics bear this out. Christians everywhere church shop. (By the way, I’m not saying I haven’t thought about it, because I have.) I can understand this popular knee jerk reaction to a point because in America, we have “Christian options” everywhere we look. We have churches on every corner, Christian radio stations of all types, styles and preferences all across the dial, bibles in every room in our house and fellowship opportunities available with other believers nearly everywhere we go. Why not shop? We have a smorgasbord of Christian “flavors” at our fingertips.
That said, I think there’s a bigger reason why when we become unhappy with our church that we respond by church shopping (HINT: it has nothing to do with having options.) This thought was articulated so well in a book that I read recently.
The book is called “I Am a Church Member” by Thom Rainer. In this quick read, Thom underscores an attitude that is in all of us to some measure. Especially when things don’t go our way, we can convince ourselves that our church is meant to serve us, when in reality, we are called to serve it. Rainer compares our church membership to a country club membership where we pay our dues, and in exchange, we expect certain things in return. He warns that we can treat our church membership like the proverbial country club membership. That is, we pay our tithes, show up each week and assume that our needs should be met. Fortunately, Rainer doesn’t leave us with only the problem and no solution. Using the text of 1 Corinthians 12 and 13 he passionately shares that only by having an attitude of servitude, loyalty and commitment will we be happy, satisfied and edified in our church gatherings.
I need to remind myself regularly that since “the perfect church” really doesn’t exist, shopping around when things happen that I don’t prefer is really not the answer. My church ministers to me best when I serve it enthusiastically. And if I am simply not getting my needs met, I can still look for other ways to fill those needs. Our church members would all benefit by adopting an attitude each day that says, “I will look for ways to serve and not just be served,” wouldn’t you agree?
Something to think about.