When I moved back to my hometown after college, I found many of my good friends from church were either no longer attending our church or attending irregularly. None of them had lost their faith, and one had a very good reason for leaving our congregation. Another friend, though, told me she just wanted to look around and try out some different churches. It was discouraging.
Yet I know our generation loves independence and spontaneity. We love adventures and new experiences. Even in my college town in Iowa where we were surrounded by nothing but cornfields for miles, we would look for adventures by finding old run-down barns or climbing water towers in the dark.
We’re millennials, and we’re known for not sticking around any one place for too long — many of us have a restless mentality and lifestyle. I’ve talked with many other millennials who agree with me that it’s hard to imagine sticking with one job for more than a few years. Many feel the same way about living in the same place.
While this desire for the new can be OK and even good in some areas, I’ve found that it has bled into another area: our commitment to the church. More specifically, our commitment to local congregations.
Leaving a church to try out a new congregation has taken on the flavor of embarking on an adventure, something requiring bravery and courage. But I have found there’s now so much pressure to leave that it actually requires courage to stay.
The Early Church
In the New Testament, when the church was being built, Christians were under extreme persecution. Surely these believers needed courage in order to stay in the church. And yet listen to how the believers in Rome are described:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)
They were committed! Not just to their faith, but to the “fellowship.” The church was built not through establishing individual Christians, but by establishing congregations. And it was not only the Apostles who devoted their lives to these congregations, but the members themselves.
When members are committed, local congregations thrive. And the greater church thrives when its congregations are thriving.
Can we commit to stick with a local church?
Committing to a Local Church
The devil is playing on our desire for spontaneity and change, hoping we’ll leave local congregations or even the greater church in general. To fight this battle, we must be intentional about being a committed part of a local church, even when it’s hard. Here’s a few steps to keep in mind.
- Remember that commitment to a church is not the same as ignoring the problems. Remember, there’s no perfect church, so your church does have weaknesses.
- Do something to strengthen those weaknesses. So often, I find myself complaining that people in my church aren’t hospitable or welcoming to new people. But I could better spend my time being hospitable and welcoming myself.
- Learn from older people in the congregation. We can experience many different perspectives through them, both of those who grew up in the church and those who didn’t. They’ve probably already experienced the many pressures to leave the church, yet they’re still there.
- Most importantly, remember that God wants you in a local church. This knowledge should lead us not only to obedience but to encouragement.
Now, as a clarification, I don’t think that any one church (or denomination) is the true church. And there certainly is a time for visiting or looking for new churches. But our goal should be to find a church that we can commit to — because the church is the bride of Christ and is manifested in local congregations.
Copyright 2018 Tori Mann. All rights reserved.
Read more: “Why I Quit Church Services (and Then Came Back)“