If, by chance, you are a church-attending person that's easily offended or thinks they might get riled up reading a post about church, go to the top of your browser and look for the "X" and remember this: I probably need you more as my friend right now than I'll ever need you as a reader. Now click it. Thanks.
Time to get real.
Two two-word phrases are among the most frowned-upon concepts in the entire Christian universe. They're only separated by one letter.
For my heathen readers, let me educate you on what these terms mean. "Church hopping" refers to the actions of those who don't actually attend a church, but go to a bunch of different churches for short stints, never wanting to make a full-time commitment. These people prefer the Appetizer Sampler Platter at the most convenient branch of TGI Applebili's. And they order it every single time. Christendom frown level on red.
"Church shopping" refers to a situation where someone who is a churchgoing Christian--for all kinds of reasons--no longer attends their old church and is looking for another to attend long-term. They'll often say things like "right now we're between churches". A lot of times these are people that will go to a bunch of different restaurants trying to find the perfect one and usually want a bargain. They might even bring a coupon. Christendom frown level on orange.
The first reason I bring this up is because it is such a cumbersome issue. No one wants to talk about it to the point that it's practically against the rules to talk about it. The second reason is that our family falls into the second category.
I said it. The reason why I said it is because I hope this helps someone. At the very least, I hope that by typing this, I can be real with myself about where we are and solidify the issue in my mind. Yet, I know that thousands of church-attending people deal with this every day and that maybe they're looking for some clarity and camaraderie. Let's give it a try.
No church really likes to be shopped. No church likes to be hopped. Every single one of them has had it done to them, even if they didn't realize it. People drop in on churches they think they might want to attend and they make mental notes or whatever. They (hopefully) pray about it and talk with their family about it. They make a decision.
People don't really like to be church shoppers. (Which is unlike church hoppers. I think they actually kinda enjoy that way of life. And then there's the unfortunate situation where shoppers become hoppers and it all devolves into...anyways...) It's weird. It's awkward. It results in a lot of strange conversations.
How do you make your mental notes, pray your prayers and have your conversations about a church and turn to someone and say, "We've decided we don't want to attend your church, but it's not personal."? Maybe to you it isn't personal, but to the person who loves their church and has spent years or decades building the thing, I could see how it would be. Faithful church members start to think:
"Maybe they didn't like the song selection."
"Maybe they didn't like the preaching."
"Maybe they were looking for a bigger (or smaller) church."
"Maybe they prayed and God told them to go somewhere else. But why would He do that? Are we not good enough for God now?"
Ideally (at least in some sense), people want other people to go to their church, whether they be saint or sinner. Maybe that's not the driving force behind everything they do, but the fact remains: if you don't think pretty much everyone else on earth should be going to your church, why do you go there yourself?
Already in this past month we've had a large number of people attempt to recruit us to their church. Now, I know that might be another thing I'm not supposed to talk about, but it's absolutely true. The reason they do this terrible thing has been expressed in nearly the same words over and over again. They all tell us it's because "their church is the best church." This is a completely ludicrous claim.
And you know what? I love that.
I love that these people love their church so much that they talk about it like it was their own kid. Because God knows that amongst the billions of children, my two kids are tied for first in the overall rankings worldwide. Even though it's irrational I'm glad I think that way. When I see that someone feels that way about their church it speaks of your loyalty, your passion, your willingness to take ownership. You're proud to call that church your home and believe that God brought you there to grow in your relationship with Him.
But it doesn't mean it's the right place for our family.
After everything that's happened in the past few years, we need to do our best to make a wise decision. Everyone (yes, everyone) else has opinions about it, but they're not us. Right now, no one's enjoying it any less than we are, so your prayers and encouragement mean a whole lot.
And so here we are. We may be swinging by your church in the next few weeks. If we don't choose to attend there on a regular basis, we hope you don't take it personally. However, we don't blame you if you do. Actually, if you don't take it personally, we're wondering why.