I saw this the other day on another blog, so I did what every responsible blogger does and borrowed it.
Having grown up in the evangelical Protestant church, I have seen this cycle up close and personal. Not only have I grown up in it, I have witnessed it first-hand having grown up in one of the larger churches in central New York. My wife and I have done the “rounds” of many of the churches in the area, twice actually and separated by a few years, and have seen the shifting.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing per se. The problem comes when the only growth a church has is because of transfer and not conversion. Transfer growth is the type demonstrated above. Conversion growth comes with people are “converting” to Christianity.
I’m not sure I like the term “conversion”, but I can’t put my finger on why exactly. Perhaps, it’s because the term is slightly outdated. Or maybe because it harkens us back to an age of the Church where the methods and culture of Christianity blended rather well with the dominant culture. So like many other things, perhaps we should rethink the evangelistic methods and corresponding terminology for the current Church age we live in. Just some thoughts.
Regardless, the problem of transferring from local church to local church has taken its toll on the Church. Consumerism has pervasively infiltrated the Church as we have assimilated more of the dominant culture instead of creating and cultivating our own. The days of affiliation and dedication have collapsed under the weight of determining our own wants and needs based upon our individualistic ideals.
And perhaps our theology has played a powerful part in this and is to partly blame. How many times have we asked people to dedicate themselves to their personal Savior? Or how many times have we asked them to read the Bible in their personal devotions? Or how many times have we asked people to confess their personal sins? Noticing a pattern yet?
We have personalized the faith handed down to us to our own detriment. Now, don’t get me wrong, we all need all those personal things listed above. Unfortunately, we have overemphasized them so dramatically and have seen the coalescence of our individualized Western culture with Christian thought that the results have allowed us to do whatever we see right in our own eyes. If this pastor doesn’t preach well enough, we’re out. If they ask me to give my money to something I don’t want to, we’re out. If a new demographic starts to move into my church, we’re out.
This post has turned into a much longer post than what I was planning. I’m not saying leaving your church family can never happen. I’m not saying there aren’t things that are definitely worth leaving for. What I am saying is perhaps we have made it too easy for people to do so. I guess the funny thing is (and maybe this only true for my area) when people leave their current churches they end up in the exact same place down the street with a different name. That is until they’re out again. Let’s hope not.