Friday, September 14, 2012

Changing Churches

Again, not so much a sermon this time, as just my need to use this white screen as a sounding board...

For the past month, my family has started having serious discussions regarding switching churches. Before writing this post, I had intended on making it a sermon, and therefore was conducting some research on this topic - i.e. what is the best, most "proper" way to switch, what should one consider before switching, etc. I was amazed at how many articles and forums I found saying that you shouldn't change churches - it is self-interest that dictates these changes which is wrong, and it unfair to the other church, and many other reasons why one should not make the change.

I was actually quite surprised by this. In my mind, the reasons for a switch - not just in my case, but in many cases, aren't bad reasons. They pertain to the spiritual health of the individual. Now granted, this doesn't mean there aren't the occassional "bad" reason - i.e. the soon to be new church has hotter chicks in the congregation, or has a sexy pastor, or has a late service which won't interfere with my Saturday night drinking. But consider the following reasons (note: these do not necessarily all apply to me... I'm just tossing out possibly good reasons for leaving a church)...

Reason 1: Minor issues with the pastor
The pastor of the current church does not "feed" you enough. He isn't available, or just doesn't make sense enough to do any good for you. His beliefs are substantially different than yours, or perhaps he just makes you feel ill at ease. There is a strained relationship there which, despite attempts to fix it, prohibit your spiritual growth.

Reason 2: Minor issues with the congregation
There is a substantial difference in beliefs and values between you and the rest of the congregation. You feel uncomfortable around them. They speak ill of you, or others, and often make you feel as if you're an outsider. There is a strained relationship there which makes it difficult to even muster up any desire to attend church.

Reason 3: Major (or slightly less minor) issues with the pastor
The pastor has either physically or emotionally abused you in some way. Perhaps he actually struck out at you, or made advances towards you. Perhaps he insulted you, criticized you in a way that had little to do with guiding you and more to do with forcing his own will upon you. Or maybe you've seen him act this way towards others.

Reason 4: Major (or slightly less minor) issues with members of the congregation
If there is something within the congregation whom has abused you either physically, emotionally, or both - this can make it very difficult to find the desire to attend church. This abuse can come in any way as described in reason 3 - and it is substantial enough to hinder your spiritual growth and your feeling of fellowship. Or again, maybe you have witnessed these actions between other members of the congregation - such that it causes fear in your heart and makes it difficult to come to church and concentrate on worship or fellowship.

Reason 5: Strong desire for spiritual growth
You want to grow spiritually. You feel a need to grow spiritually. You're ready for this growth. But, maybe for one of the above reasons - or maybe because of something else - you truly do not feel you can get this growth at your current church.

Reason 6: The current church was never truly "your" church
Maybe you had a church you truly felt comfortable with, but you had to move to another state. You started going to a church because it was close by, or was the same denomination as your prior church. But, you never truly allowed it to be yours. You never felt like you fit in, and therefore never fully embraced the congregation or pastor or views of the church.

I could probably come up with a few more, but I'll stop for now. But, I am curious - are these not understandable reasons for switching to a new church? Should not the purpose of your chosen church be to have one which feeds you spiritually, and one in which you feel a fellowship with the people? Should it not be a church where there is a degree of trust or respect between you and the pastor, and you and the rest of the congregation?

Should it not be a place where you feel comfortable to learn and grow and worship?

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