There’s a little saying that I’ve been hearing around recently- “bloom where you’re planted”. It’s cute to hear and conjures up images of little flowers in springtime, but in reality, this is a very difficult thing to live out! I’ve been meditating on how this phrase can apply to my own life, especially in relation to ministry opportunities.
A friend posted several subsequent quotes as Facebook statuses today regarding churches. These hit me hard!
“Church hopping is the equivalent of speed dating. It’s consumeristic and shallow.”
“There is no “perfect church” so ask Jesus how you can serve to make yours better so more people can meet Him.”
As someone working in ministry (and with family in ministry), it is amazing to me how often I see this situation- people searching for the perfect church to meet their needs, hopping from place to place with a pros and cons list, or leaving a church because of one thing or another. It’s become too easy to simply switch churches, and I believe that it grieves the heart of the Lord.
Just as we teach our children that dating must be taken seriously because large-scale breakups are very much like ‘practicing divorce’, I believe that church-hopping and general ‘serve-me’ attitudes towards church bodies are creating an unhealthy culture within the family of God that doesn’t actually foster family at all- it fosters division.
In the new testament, division, conflict, and disunity run rampant within the fledgling communities of the Way. And yet, you never see Paul advising church members to go and find another body that will suit them better. Instead, Paul is the champion of conflict resolution, difficult accountability, and tough love. He doesn’t sugarcoat his words to the church, but instead admonishes them to maintain their unity and work together to continue being the Kingdom of the Lord here on earth.
How often do we follow this example in our own churches? As my friend said, there is no perfect church. There will never be a church that wonderfully fits every need of your family and has the perfect sermons and worship and service opportunities and community. There will always be something lacking. So, what do we do about it?
PRAY. As the saying goes, we must seek out the reason that the Lord has placed us within the congregation He has and ‘bloom where we are planted’. Many times we spend so much of our thought life wallowing in what we don’t like, or thinking about the next step, that we miss the opportunities right in front of us.
HUMBLE OURSELVES. One of the most toxic phrases floating around the church today is ‘I just wasn’t getting fed’, or, it’s cousin, ‘our needs aren’t being met’. When did being a church member become all about us, and what we get out of it? Yes, our churches should foster healthy spiritual development. But this development should come when diligently seek ways to serve one another, use the gifts the Lord has given us to uplift the body, and function as an accountable member of the body. It should be more about giving than receiving.
MEET WITH LEADERSHIP. If you have serious concerns with something that you feel your church is lacking, I urge you to meet with the leadership of your congregation and share your heart with them. It’s very likely that they are aware of this lacking, and that it grieves their heart as much as it grieves yours. Rather than simply leaving your congregation to find a place that meets your need, try to set a plan in motion to see that need met within your church body. And don’t forget to ask yourself what your role can be in meeting that need, too!
BE DISCERNING. I will be the first to tell you that there are definitely times and places to leave a congregation. False teachings, major character flaws and corruption in leadership- we have to take responsibility for our spiritual development. That said, I fully believe that if the Lord is leading you away from your congregation, and you have gone through the above steps with your concerns, He will give you peace about that transition, and the ability to leave gracefully and without leaving conflict and dissension in your wake.
Friends, I encourage you, do not take your church home lightly. If you are already rooted somewhere, it should be a very, very big deal for you to leave. If you aren’t, it should be an emotional, serious process for you to commit to a church home. But have faith- the Lord knows what our churches need, and He desires unity and growth among His people. Seek His way for you and your family, and He will make it clear!