Recently, my husband and I moved to a new town—again. In 34 years of marriage, our family has moved eight times. Our first priority in a new place, other than getting sheets on the beds, has always been to find a new church home.
This search process usually begins with a battle—a battle inside of me. The church shopping mentality threatens to take control. My personal desires try to push their way to the front.
I want a church that … I’m looking for a church that will … I’d really love for our new church to … Wouldn’t it be nice if …
I have this idea of the church I want. It combines the best of our past church homes. Incredible, worshipful music. Solid, engaging teaching. Believers that do life together. Heavily involved in missions. Strong community outreach. Active women’s ministry.
And we could look for a church like that and probably find one. We could make a list of all the attributes we desire in a church and compare each one we visit to that list. Does this one meet our criteria? Does that one make the cut? Do we cross off that last church?
But Lord help us—and I mean that as a prayer—I don’t want to find our new church home that way. In fact, I will boldly say, God doesn’t want us to find our new church home that way. I don’t want to choose my favorite; I want to search for and find the church God has already chosen for us.
The term “church shopping” rubs me the wrong way. Yet, sadly, not only do many of us use it, but it also adequately describes how many of us look for a church. We shop for one like we do a car or a prom dress or laundry detergent. We scour the community for one with all the desirable features. Then we chose the one that will serve and suit us best. After all, we want to get the most “bang for our buck.”
Honestly, it’s easy to fall into that mindset. Our consumer-oriented culture programs us to think that way. Christians have learned the power of the American consumer. We know that marketers cater to our needs and desires because they want our business. If one store does not satisfy us, then we simply go somewhere else that will. Unfortunately, many Christians have allowed the consumer mentality to affect their faith and their relationship with the local church. We ask the church, “What do you have to offer me?”
But that’s not what the Bible teaches about a believer’s relationship to a local church. Sadly, many of us today have unknowingly allowed our consumer culture to shape our thinking about the church. We look for the church that will meet all our “needs.” Then when it doesn’t, we move on down the road to the one with the more dynamic preacher or better youth program or better entertainment value.
Worse still, many churches have also fallen into the consumer trap. The church is swayed by the attitude of the Christian consumer—“If they want our business, then they will have to earn it!” So, the church uses lights and sound, razzle dazzle, and giveaways to keep us coming back for more. While the church should do everything with excellence to the glory of God, there is a difference between giving God our best in worship and putting on a show to draw a human audience.
5 Dangers of Church “Shopping”
Church “shopping” is harmful to both the individual Christian and the church itself. Here are just a few of the dangers:
- Church shopping perpetuates self-centered religion – When we look for the church we want, it takes the focus off God and makes it all about us instead. True Christianity is a life of following Jesus as Lord, a life of discipleship. Our lives have been bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus. It’s no longer us that live, but Jesus lives His life through us (Galatians 2:20).
- Church shopping ignores God’s purposes – God puts each church body together just as He wants (1 Corinthians 12:18). If we are not filling our specific place in the specific church body God has chosen for us, we miss out on much of what God wants to do in and through our lives.
- Church shopping leads to “church hopping” – If we choose a church like we do a product or service, we will be quick to move on to another church for a better “deal.” Sometimes this mindset manifests itself like a’ la carte dining. Rather than totally investing ourselves in one church, we pick and choose services and programs from different churches that “best meet our needs.” While there are definitely biblical reasons for changing churches, switching to another church to find better programs or more dynamic preaching is superficial and self-focused.
- Church shopping encourages Church marketing - It’s not just the individual Christian who has bought into consumer Christianity. The more the Christian “shops,” the more the Church “markets.” The body of Christ uses entertainment and marketing gimmicks to entice the Christian consumer to “buy” its services.
- Church shopping stunts our spiritual growth – God works through the local church to spiritually mature His people. In Ephesians 4:11-16, the Apostle Paul describes how God grows all the members of a church together as each one, fully connected, works and serves in their God-designed place.
I admit, this consumer attitude affects me too. That’s one reason I’m sharing my struggle with you. I pray that the transparency will keep me from falling into that trap. Instead, I want to seek and find the church God has already chosen for us. I long to be a part of the church where He already has a place for us to serve—where the body needs us and the gifts with which God has equipped us.
The best way to prevent ourselves from falling into this Christian consumer mentality is by “renewing our minds” (1 Corinthians 12:1-2) with God’s truth about the church. If we align our thinking with God’s thinking, our attitudes, desires, and actions will follow.
3 Key Truths the Bible Teaches about a Believer’s Relationship with God’s Church
If you struggle with a Christian consumer attitude, contemplate these truths about the Church. Allow God to use them to realign your thinking to His:
- God gives us talents, abilities, and spiritual gifts to use to help the church (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)—The gifts God gives us are not for us. They are for the “common good.” God intends us to use them to serve, encourage, and help other believers—particularly in the context of a committed relationship with a local church.
- God has a particular spot for each of us in a particular body (1 Corinthians 12:21-27)— Which church and which place of service is NOT my decision. God has already chosen it. It’s my task to discover His will and obey it.
- God works through the local church to grow us up into spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:11-16)—I cannot be everything God intends for me to be without being vitally connected to a local church. God matures us and strengthens our faith within that context. He has designed faith to be a corporate experience.
Have you noticed that God rarely does things the way the world does? Let’s reject the world’s way of finding the “right church” and embrace God’s best.
Photo credit: Pexels
Kathy Howard helps women live an unshakeable faith for life. The author of 8 books and a former “cultural Christian,” Kathy encourages women to stand firm on our rock-solid God through difficulties or ease by embracing real, authentic faith. Find out more and get free discipleship tools and leader helps at: www.kathyhoward.org.