When I began pastoring over 12 years ago, I began to hear an expression that was unfamiliar to me at the time – but which has become all too familiar since. Folks would visit our church and say, “We are church shopping.” I have to admit that it struck me as funny. I would think (but not say), “What are you looking for? Discount tithes? Half off missions? First month free?” Without fail, these “church shoppers” would come to a service, look around critically, and often dismissively, refusing to be more than polite to anyone, and then leave. I have found that many of these “church shoppers” have been “shopping” around for years!
God saved me in a Baptist church as a teenager, and from that day to this I’ve never “church shopped.” The one time we moved, when I was not in full-time ministry, we knew where we were going and we joined the next Sunday. I would not have moved without knowing what church I would attend or at least without a short list of churches to visit – and one of which I would join, soon! Church is too important a part of my life. I cannot even imagine “church shopping” for a year!
I suppose this “church shopping” mindset has come about with the commercialization of churches. It is no secret that churches compete with each other for members instead of trying to reach the unsaved; it is also no secret that many churches pander to people in exactly the same way that businesses do to their customers. This has, in my opinion, helped to foster an attitude among professing Christians (I emphasize “professing” because I believe many have never truly been born again – Mt. 7:21-23) that the church exists to serve them – and if it doesn’t, or doesn’t offer them a Super Walmart variety of church ministries under one roof, they will simply go “shopping” elsewhere.
Another way in which this attitude manifests itself is in the way that pastors are treated by “church shoppers.” While this may not be universally true, the fact is that in suburban areas, especially in the heavily churched South, pastors are often treated with the same level of respect and disinterest that is usually reserved for telemarketers, door-to-door vacuum salesmen, and vendors in the aisles at Sam’s Club. The attitude of such is, “If I want what you are selling, I’ll come and buy it.”
It is a shame that when a pastor visits, he is not invited in; that when he calls, his call is not returned; and when he sends an email, no reply is received. Why? Because these are church shoppers; if they want it, they’ll be back.
Please pardon my rant; it’s been 12 years in the making. The fact is that God never intended for Christians to be spiritual vagabonds, roaming without a home; He never intended our “home church” to be in another State because “we haven’t found one we like yet;” He never intended for us to be tumbleweeds blowing around town from one place to another, and staying home more often than not. The Bible teaches that we ought to be “planted in the house of the Lord.”
Have you ever read a typical Baptist “Church Membership Covenant?” Look in your church hymnbook, it’s probably there. The last line of ours says this: “We moreover engage that when we remove from this place, we will as soon as possible unite with some other church of like faith and practice.” Oh, how we need to get back to the importance of the local church!
A church does not need to be a Super Walmart. God does raise up great churches and I am thankful for them. But we have large number of professing Christians who are looking for a ministry package – and looking, and looking, and looking. We should be asking: Does a church have the right Bible (the KJV)? Does it have the right doctrine? Does it have the right music? Is is a soulwinning church? Do they have strong Bible preaching?
If you are SERIOUSLY looking for a church home, then show up for Sunday School, Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. Schedule a meeting with the pastor. Respond to his attempts at making a contact. Boy, when I run into folks like that, I know I’ve run into some folks who take the Christian life seriously (and I have, many times, thank the Lord).
If you are without a church home, you don’t need to go “shopping.” You need to get serious about finding God’s will for your life – and then get plugged in to a Bible-believing church.
Thank you for reading. God bless.