Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sheep Trading

One problem with making numbers the judge of any ministry is they frequently consist less of conversions to Christianity than of the movement of believers or professing believers from one church to the other. Is this a good thing? In my youth I believed it was wrong to leave a church except for doctrinal error or moving to another location. I have since been led to change churches for what I feel were good reasons. But I do not believe it is something that should be done lightly, without much thought and prayer. To casually move from one church to another on a regular basis is a definite problem. How can we fulfill our Biblical obligations if we have no commitment to a specific congregation (1 Corinthians 12:25-27; Hebrews 10:24-25; 13:17)? However, in some cases there may be a genuine advantage to an individual or a congregation that results from changing churches. At other times I suspect there may just be an attraction to superficial flash and being told what the person wants to hear (2 Timothy 4:3). But even in a case where such a switch is a good thing for those involved, we need to ask if it accomplishes anything to advance God's purposes in the world.

What God looks for in believers is growth in obedience to Him (Ephesians 4:12-16; Titus 2:11-14; Philippians 3:12-15) and in service to others (Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:28-29; 2 Timothy 2:10). (In some cases this may involve people becoming genuine believers first.) It is by this kind of growth that a congregation should be measured. It is only if it contributes to this that a church switch is a benefit to the church as a whole. Any other switch may be appropriate, but it is simply rearranging the ranks. Now one result of this growth in Christ is reaching out to those on the outside (1 Peter 3:15; Colossians 4:5,6; 2 Timothy 2:24-26). Even then, sheer numbers may not be the basis of evaluation. One way to gain a large number of converts is to abolish the stumbling block of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:23-25). Now we do need to ask if we are carrying out God's commands in this area (Matthew 28:18-20), but we must also ask whether the numbers represent people genuinely coming to Christ. Now I do not want to be down on large churches. There are undoubtedly  large churches which are reaching out to unbelievers with the gospel and whose members are growing into the people God wants them to be. There may be others which are not reaching out or growing much spiritually, who gained their size through superficial attractions. There are also smaller churches in both categories. But we need to examine the situation based on the right criteria. And to make sure that the ultimate issue is whether we are serving God and not whether we are building up our own egos.


  1. Love the caption in the image Mike.

    I think that I have the opposite problem. I am loyal to a fault and many times say way beyond the season that I am called to stay at a local church.

  2. I understand the problem. Sometimes God has to give me a good swift kick, when He wants me to move. But I would rather have a problem with too much loyalty then too little.