Sadly, church hopping is an epidemic in the American Church. A lot of us will be attending a new church by this time next year. The reasoning will be that the pastor said something we did not like, the songs are not lining up with our preferences, the piano was moved to the wrong side of the stage, the service runs too long, or someone started sitting in “our” seats. Okay, some of those are to be funny, but the reality is that these things do actually push people away from churches.
To start, you need to know that there are very corrupt churches that you should absolutely run from. However, there are also very healthy churches that you can and should run to. There are legitimate reasons to leave churches, but many times we leave because of our own preferences. Church was never meant to meet our own preferences. Church is meant to glorify God. That is exactly what healthy churches do.
To help with this issue, I want to give us some marks of a healthy church. What can you be looking for to know that you can stay put in a church, instead of always having your eyes on the next one? I am glad you asked! There are many marks of healthy churches, but I want to focus on a few big ones. The crazy thing is…get ready for this…church size is not on the list. Neither are cool and fancy buildings. The number of services that a church has did not make the cut either. We are simply going to look at three marks that make a healthy church in God’s eyes, not ours. Sadly, there is a big difference between the two.
“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29)
This is a big one that hits home for me. We live in a modern world that craves the lights, the camera, and the action. Our flesh wants to have the great band, fancy light show, and professional sound. All of these can be great, but they can also cover up false motives. Worship can easily become about being “attractive” instead of about worshipping the Lord. A self-exalting band should be a red flag. Great singers and professional musicians do nothing for a church if they have no intent of worshipping God. A healthy church will have a worship team that is solely there to worship the Lord and lead the church to that place. They will worship with reverence and awe. God will be glorified.
“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity.” (Titus 2:7)
If I only had the time and the space to give you one pointer in finding a healthy church, this would be what I would say: You need a pastor with integrity more than you need a great speaker. We judge the effectiveness of a pastor by how dynamic his preaching is. This cannot be more backwards. The barometer of a pastor is his integrity off the stage, not how well he compares to the well-known preachers you like to listen to. After all, you do not know who those well-known preachers are off the stage.
Quick note: Your pastor will never be perfect. However, you need to be able to trust his walk with the Lord. If you have a faithful pastor, even if his preaching is not world-famous, you need to honor him. That is God’s grace to you and your family. God will be glorified by a faithful pastor.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
How will the world know that we are disciples of Jesus? Fancy buildings? Great programs? Large attendance? Professional band? Dynamic speakers? No! The world will know that we are disciples of Jesus by our love. Just as Jesus has loved us, we are to love one another. Have you ever experienced this in a church? It can be rare. Large buildings will do us no good if there is no love inside those buildings.
If a non-believer walks into a church and finds a rock concert and self-exalting speaker, they will have found nothing different than what the world gives them. The world is already trying to “attract” them. However, if that same non-believer walks into a church and finds Christ-like love, they will want in on it. A healthy church laughs together, prays together, worships the Lord together, honors one another, and carries each other’s burdens. Our churches should not be abundantly full of gossip, factions, and pride. Love is a very good sign that God is there. Love glorifies the Lord.
We are clearly only scratching the surface in this writing. There are dozens of other marks that we could hit on. We could have discussed church generosity, leadership structure, and many other factors. However, these three are a great starting point. We must stop seeing church through a selfish, worldly perspective. Look at a church and see if it is glorifying God, regardless of size. If given the option, always choose genuine worship over a concert. Always choose a faithful pastor over a “dynamic,” unfaithful pastor. Always settle into a church full of Christ-like love.
Church hopping does not have to be an epidemic. Church membership can still exist. By all means, run from corrupt churches. Then, run as fast as you can to a healthy church. They do exist. They do worship and glorify the Lord. They do actually feel like church. Once you have found a church to belong to, do not let your own preferences get in the way. Pour yourself out for that place. Do your part to make it the best that it can be. Give your life for your church family. After all, Jesus Christ gave His life for it. Follow His lead!