Mike Cope's blog

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Thanks, thanks to our gracious hosts, the College Church in Fresno. Lee and Bill, the world's greatest chefs, you and your gang outdid yourselves! As Leonard Sweet said after Friday evening's meal, "If steak were a religion, this place would be a cathedral!" - - - - It's not necessarily wrong to switch churches. There are several good reasons someone might decide they need to do so. But I'm through catering to church-hoppers. These are the religious consumers who hop from place-to-place, seeking the congregation that best serves THEM. Worship like they like it. Change only when they approve. Children's ministry the way they think it should be done. Ditto with youth ministry. A class or small group where they are the center of attention. God bless the Church-hoppers, for theirs is the eternal quest of self-fulfillment. Here's my growing conviction: let's live missional lives--lives poured out for the world. Let's seep and leak into the crevices of society; let's offer our lives for God's purposes of mercy and justice; let's be poured out like wine upon the altar. If people aren't happy with that, let's love them and bless them as they leapfrog to another place. But let's not get off task in order to keep them. It isn't the way of Christ. All things in love. But the mission of Christ must guide us.

28 Comments:

  • "All things in love. But the mission of Christ must guide us."

    Preach it, Mike!!

    How often have we seen our fellowship get lost, veering away from the mission of Christ to argue, split, hop away over whether the communion table should be in the front of the auditorium or in the back; power point or heavy hymnals; song leader or praise team; even over which translation the preacher uses and a myriad of other minutae.
    All the while the lost continue to wander in darkness without the Light of Jesus because we're too busy taking pot shots at each other.

    How sad.

    Praying for travel mercies for all of you returning from Zoe.

    Good news today! It's RAINING!!! PTL!!

    By Blogger Kathy, at 1/22/2006 05:59:00 AM  

  • Mike-

    I appreciate your willigness to take an honest, head-on approach to this issue.

    I think we are already seeing that there is going to be a price for our missional focus. It WILL (and - in my view - OUGHT to) stir up trouble in ministries on all levels (children, youth, AF) because it isn't a comfortable environment for the church consumer. It will probably result in smaller budgets, smaller attendance, and less "prestige". But the one thing it WILL do - the one thing that makes it worth that price and more - is make us more like Jesus: the incarnate body of Christ in the world.

    I still think its important, though, to continue to have a message that invites the church consumer into the mission of Jesus.

    By Blogger Matt, at 1/22/2006 06:12:00 AM  

  • "If people aren't happy with that, let's love them and bless them as they leapfrog to another place. But let's not get off task in order to keep them. It isn't the way of Christ."

    Would that be, like, shaking the dust off our feet?

    By Blogger Keith Brenton, at 1/22/2006 06:28:00 AM  

  • This is a general statement made from a pastor, and I often tend to agree with it.

    But what about those of us who would like to serve but no one ever asks? We want to be a part of the community but since we're new to the club, we're often over-looked for the long-standing members of this social club. We have desire to plug into a community, but because we feel like there is something more to the church than the age, gender, or marriage/single specific cookie cutter ministry we're supposed to join, we can't serve because that's where we're supposed to be.

    I've "hopped" churches before. Yep, I've done it. I'm guilty. But I've done it trying to find a place to serve, not to be served.

    I wonder how many "hoppers" aren't hopping for themselves, but feel more like outsiders even after attempts to join a community.

    Just a thought.

    By Blogger Jon, at 1/22/2006 06:55:00 AM  

  • Here's what I've been hearing from certain people from my church for the last 4 years concerning your well-made point of not letting church-hoppers hijack a church:

    "Well, we just need to patient with people and not do anything that will upset folks. We must preserve peace and unity"

    "Change in people takes time, a long time. It may take twenty or thirty years to get someone to move an inch, but hey, that's growth"

    "The stronger brother's responsibility is to give in to the weaker brother if something upsets them"

    I'm not sure what inspired this post, but I surely will be using it in a sermon pretty soon. God bless.

    By Blogger Brad, at 1/22/2006 07:02:00 AM  

  • I am convinced that church-hopping is a major force that has turned many people off of the church.

    They see the church as something we have created...then we complain about our own product not doing what we want it to do.

    They want authenticity, not another product. When we give in to God and look to show people beauty, then the outsiders see something worth being a part of.

    We don't need more political structures...how many people are untrusting of the government?

    Thanks for this one, Mike. Consumer Christianity is the reason we have a postmodern generation...untrusting of authority; unsure of truth. Sometimes Consumer Christianity Churches need to die while new churches aimed at reaching the lost take over for them.

    By Blogger Big Mike Lewis, at 1/22/2006 08:32:00 AM  

  • What if these people aren't actaully "hopping" by choice? What if we did something that drove them off (or our lack of doing something). Should we be so arrogant to assume all the fault resides with them? I can't help but look in the mirror each day and pray for mercey each time someone quietly shouted to the Lord for someone, anyone to help them; and it fell on my deaf ears.

    We become "busy," and write it off as an "oops." Too busy to hear, too busy to stop, too busy to listen. Maybe we were too busy to even notice they left. Imagine what the "hopper's" blog must say...

    By Blogger Marie, at 1/22/2006 09:14:00 AM  

  • I like your points!

    I truly believe over the last several years churches have been changing and evolving to meet the wants of its members. Something seems wrong with that picture to me. If God is number one, then why should His work be changed to meet the wants of the people?

    I suppose it is one thing if it isn't working for everyone, but if the congregation is changing to meet each and every person's wants I feel like the congregation needs to rethink their priorities.

    Nice post!

    By Blogger FeedingYourMind, at 1/22/2006 09:19:00 AM  

  • Thanks for your comments here, Mike. I was a member of my last church for 18 years, then moved, and now we have been a member of this one for four years. The decision to attend a church isn't based on what the church has to offer me, but what do I have to offer this church.

    Glad you had a great time out here on the West coast. Next time you're over this way, come on up to Oregon and experience where God REALLY did some great work!

    By Blogger Rick, at 1/22/2006 09:47:00 AM  

  • By Blogger Steve Jr., at 1/22/2006 09:56:00 AM  

  • Greetings from DFW, where the Maxwells (Jack, Jill, Matt) and I are enjoying a 5-hour layover. (We could hitchhike to Abilene well before then!)

    Insightful comments, all. And thanks to a couple of you for the reminder that not all who leave are "hoppers." I tried to indicate that in the blog, but obviously wasn't clear enough.

    By Blogger Mike, at 1/22/2006 11:42:00 AM  

  • One other thing...

    I'm not certain that its that easy to separate the consumers from the missional folks. Some of us are a little of both.

    A lot of us (myself among them) are "recovering" church consumers, who are still trying to figure out what it means to be church rather than attend/build/"do" church.

    I guess I'm saying this because I want to advocate a lot of patience and (as you've already said, Mike) charity in that process.

    By Blogger Matt, at 1/22/2006 01:44:00 PM  

  • Thanks for encouraging others to remember that every church needs more servant-leadership. We must find those willing to go out of their way to make themselves nothing. Fair and balanced Christians aren't what God needs. If the body isn't influencing every level of it's community to give up their rights as free citizens, it's not for lack of potential candidates. Keep telling people why Jesus died for his church on purpose, and he asks us to do the same.

    By Blogger Russell, at 1/22/2006 03:09:00 PM  

  • Amen. There's a world of difference between nurturing those who come our way and coddling them.

    By Blogger James, at 1/22/2006 04:56:00 PM  

  • Thanks for declaring the end of church-hopper-centric ecclesiology.

    By Blogger Fajita, at 1/22/2006 05:28:00 PM  

  • Being in Florida, not a super strong cofc state, we often find it humorous when someone from the Bible belt comes to us and says they are visiting around to the different cofcs since we are just about the only church of any size (still small by Bible Belt terms, about 300). However we teach often on the idea that the church is a place where everybody has their say, but no one individual or group has his or their way.

    By Blogger Steve Puckett, at 1/22/2006 05:36:00 PM  

  • I honestly only see church hopping as an issue in areas where church offerings are varied and bountiful - i.e. Dallas, Houston, Abilene, Nashville, and, to a smaller degree, Lubbock and Tulsa. And, yes, the more church offerings there are, the faster and more frequently they hop.

    Conversely, I do believe there are a significant cofC percentage that attempt to be the type of person Mike describes and yet feel as though they are an alien in their own church for being that person. No joy, celebratory worship or communion to return to with fellow travelers.

    By Blogger KentF, at 1/23/2006 05:49:00 AM  

  • Maybe it would be helpful to discuss under what circumstances it would be appropriate to seek a new community of faith.

    By Blogger Steve Duer, at 1/23/2006 06:24:00 AM  

  • Simplistic approach on what to look for in a church--Will this church family help me to love God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength and help me love my neighbor as myself? Tougher question--Will my membership/participation in this church family equip others to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength and neighbor as self?

    By Blogger eddy, at 1/23/2006 07:52:00 AM  

  • "Here's my growing conviction: let's live missional lives--lives poured out for the world."

    And when we reach "the world" how do we transform them from expecting to be served (after all, it was how we reached them in the first place) to expecting to serve?

    I'm all about "others" but when the "others" become the "us" they tend to forget about the "others" and want to focus on the "us".

    I know the simple answer: Preach Christ crucified.

    I know the difficult answer: Preach Christ crucified.

    I know the sad alternative: Don't preach Christ crucified and do preach church growth and then convert some "others" that will come and convert to "us" who will not convert any more "others" and who will hop churches should the preacher get the bright idea to preach Christ crucified!

    Or, the former "others" who converted to "us" will decide that they want to stay and the preacher who only cares about the "others" and not the "us" should be fired (for preaching Christ crucified) and then the preacher gets to be the hopper!

    God forgive us for we know not what we do.

    By Blogger Joel Quile, at 1/23/2006 08:21:00 AM  

  • Why are we here? What is the mission of the missional?
    I try desperately to stay out of it but I just have to share this: If you haven't read it, run and get Brennan Manning's, "The Importance of Being Foolish: How to Think Like Jesus". In his forward, Manning shares his "conviction that Jesus Christ lived and died and rose in order to for the Holy People of God--a community of Christians who would live under the sway of the Spirit, men and women who would be human torches aglow with the fire of love for Christ, prophets and lovers ignited with the flaming Spirit of the living God." (viii) May we as His people "deny ourselves" and be those daily cross bearers as we follow. May our only consumerism be that "of" ourselves not "for" ourselves. May we be lost in His glory in pursuits to His glory. May we watch for the cloud to move if we really want to know when it is time to move.

    By Blogger Mark Brazle, at 1/23/2006 08:47:00 AM  

  • I like everything everyone is saying, but I sense that the seeker vs. missional church dillemma is less about activity and more about identity. The "changes" many people are talking about in the church are really changes of "activity" -- allowing women to do more, instruments in worship, the energy of worship, the enthusiasm of the preacher, etc. What we need is a change in identity, and I think truly missional churches look vastly different than many of the churches we have today.

    I just think Ryan Bolger's article titled "Please, No More Doing Church For 'Them'!" speaks so much to this issue.

    His assertion is that churches that claim to be relevant are almost never so. In an attempt to be relevant, they alienate both the members and the "outsiders" (don't like that terminology, but oh well...).

    He also points to another problem churches have being relevant to the daily lives of "outsiders":

    A focus on the church service as connecting point perpetuates the idea that following Jesus is about going to church. The community's life takes the form of American congregational religion rather than the fluid practices of the gospel, and this emphasis presents quite a barrier to the 'seeker' outside, as they need to be converted to the values of American religious congregationalism before they can come to faith. Thus, virtually all of those who are attracted to the relevant service were raised in church or are currently going to another church -- they are not the never-churched.

    In contrast, the missional congregation:

    ...connects with those outside the faith by, well, connecting with those outside of the community in their world. Connecting happens not in a 'come to us' CHURCH service, but through 'go and dwell' church SERVICE, i.e. service in the community -- living alternative lives.

    Wow. How many churches can say that something other than the Sunday morning service is the major connecting point in their fellowship? Probably very few. But Bolger's assertions are not unlike the description of the church in Acts, where a once-a-week "service" was not at all central to the life of the community:

    A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had. They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity-- all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 1/23/2006 09:07:00 AM  

  • ooh, I found another great nugget of reading goodness. It's an interview with Ryan Bolger called "The Marks of a Missional Church".

    If you are into the present conversation in the least, read it. It really addresses some of the core issues here.

    I'm done now.

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 1/23/2006 09:14:00 AM  

  • I think Mike is driving more at a consumer type of church.
    View this: http://www.sermonspice.com/catalog/product_info.php?format_selected=wmv&length_selected=long&play=1&products_id=413

    By Blogger Hoots Musings, at 1/23/2006 11:14:00 AM  

  • I think that Jon made a good point about some "hoppers". I did a little hopping in high-school and didn't really understand why I wasn't liking a lot of youth groups until I got to college.

    I went to Highland most of my freshmen year. I loved the church and it's purpose, but in the spring of that year, I found myself waking up and going back to sleep instead of church. An uperclassmen took me to a small church outside of town, and from day 1, they have asked me to lead singing every time I was there. I haven't left that little church and my attachment has grown to it.

    I don't blame Highland and I still love to go when I get the chance. But I had trouble with feeling like I was simply sitting in church and failing to find a way to get involved. I had trouble finding a way to serve. I think that was one of the things that attracted me to the small church. It was easier to find a need and fill it. If I ever miss, I get called and asked "where was our song leader?" I think what has meant the most to me in finding the "right" church is the accountability and the ways I can fit in to serve the ministry of the church.

    I think a lot of good has been said here. I just want to remind everyone that there is no clear-cut reason for "hopping". People have different motivations and it is important to take all the possibilities into account.

    By Blogger Daniel Gray, at 1/23/2006 11:27:00 AM  

  • So important to let them know that they will be missed...that the family will grieve their absence...sometimes we are so on the mark with the issue that we leave a widow behind..

    By Blogger Beverly, at 1/24/2006 05:50:00 AM  

  • I like Jon's post. Some churches just won't let you serve regardless, especially in the Church of Christ. It is more important to find a church where you can serve and if that means church hopping until you do then so be it.

    By Blogger GITCHA, at 1/24/2006 09:32:00 AM  

  • I was about to post the video, but Hoots beat me to it. I think it says it all.

    Me Church

    By Blogger Tim Lewis, at 1/24/2006 12:08:00 PM  

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