Why Changing Churches Will Never Satisfy You

Posted on April 13, 2011

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I’m not sure if you are aware of this, but today, right now, in your city, in your neighborhood, on your street, there is a mass exodus going on.

People are leaving denominations and community churches by the droves. “Church membership” is dropping at an alarming rate. George Barna heads the Barna Group, a respected polling organization that focuses on Christianity in America. He said that between 5 and 20 million Christians have left church institutions across the country, and every year, a million more leave. With about 300 million people in the US, that’s almost one in a hundred. Chances are you know one of them.

But what exactly is causing this mass exodus? Are these the unfaithful, seduced and drawn away by the world?

Quite the opposite. These are seeking believers (many are pastors), disillusioned with the superficial condition of Christianity in America today. Here are a couple of their testimonies if you don’t believe me: Quincy Zikmund, Frank Viola.

The nutshell version goes like this: Churches today are empty. They may be full of people, and they may have the gospel in a basic way, but the real content stops there. A recent tweet from Frank Viola sums it up well.

@lensweet – And every week Christians are bombarded with the same message: “God is holy, you’re not, try harder.”

The message is basically: “You’re saved. Now try to act like Christ.” Many are finding this message unsatisfying, even unbiblical, so they are looking elsewhere. They are finding that meeting in homes in a simple way and taking Christ as the center of their life and worship is giving them what they want: a community in which they can grow in Christ. This kind of experience of Christ individually and communally is drawing many of His seekers out of pews and into living rooms.

Honestly, I think this is wonderful. When I read the New Testament, this is the pattern that I see. For my entire Christian life, I have met with a group known as the local churches. That’s not our name. It’s just what other people call us. Most of our meetings are in homes. We have no designated pastor, no hierarchy, just brothers and sisters taking Christ as their life and living a simple and pure church life.

Still, I know some Christians that are not happy where they are. I know others who keep themselves too busy to stop and think about if they are in a genuine expression of the church of Christ. I also know some that seem satisfied until they get offended by someone and then bolt to the next congregation.

To myself and to you, I just offer a reminder. A change in outward practice will not give you what you’re looking for if you miss Christ as the content. And if you find Christ as the content, only a genuine expression of the church of Christ can contain you. A portion from Matthew 9 illustrates my point.

John the Baptist’s disciples then asked Jesus, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but Your disciples do not fast?” (9:14, Recovery Version)

Their question exposed them: these were disciples of Jesus’ forerunner John, who had come out of the “old religion” of Judaism. John began baptizing people and pointing them to Christ. Yet, John’s disciples took these new practices and made them their “new religion.” They had John’s new practices, but they missed Christ as the content of their new practice. Why else would they still be following John instead of Christ?

Here was Jesus’ word to them: “Who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before.” (9:16, New Living Translation) Jesus’ word indicated that John’s disciples had made their practices into a “new religion”, which was still old clothing. Christ was the new cloth. John’s disciples were trying to patch Christ onto their “new religion.” But this only tore their old garments. That’s why they didn’t understand why Jesus’ disciples did not fast.

Okay, so new religion, old religion, wherever we are, what should we do? Don’t worry about where you are. Just take Christ as your center, love Him, enjoy Him, seek Him, and reject any other center. Eventually, you too will not be compatible with religion, whether it is new or old, home church or institutional church. If you’re in any religion, there will be a “tear,” and you will be free to go find the genuine expression of the church of Christ. That is the only thing that can contain someone that enjoys Christ and takes only Christ as his center.

I have found such a place in what many know as the local churches. I just call it the genuine church life. If that sounds like what you’re looking for, let me know…

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