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The solution to church hopping and disengagement

In a consumeristic culture like ours, it's common for people to hold high expectations when it comes to their choice of a church or pastor. They may believe that they can find a church or pastor that aligns with their beliefs and values 100%. However, this expectation is often unreasonable and can lead to unhealthy church hopping or disengagement from church altogether.

Being part of a church community is important because it provides a support system of like-minded individuals who can encourage, challenge, and uplift one another. The Bible instructs us to gather together regularly for worship, fellowship, and teaching in Hebrews 10:25, which says, "And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near." The church community also offers opportunities to serve others and use our spiritual gifts to make a difference in the lives of those around us, as seen in 1 Corinthians 12:7, which says, "A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other."

Additionally, being part of a church community allows us to learn and grow in our faith through sound teaching and accountability, as stated in Ephesians 4:11-13, which says, "He [Jesus] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God." Overall, being part of a church community is a vital aspect of our spiritual journey, as we are strengthened and encouraged by others to grow in our relationship with God.

Since were called to be part of the local church, how do we find one? Should we expect them to be exactly like we want? One reason why it's unrealistic to expect complete alignment with a church or pastor is that everyone has their unique perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds. These differences can lead to disagreements or misunderstandings, even among people who share the same broader agreement on the fundamental beliefs of the Christian Faith. Additionally, churches and pastors may have different interpretations of scripture (mostly on the more peripheral matters), and as such, it's not always possible for everyone to agree on all aspects of doctrine and practice.

When people set unrealistic expectations for a church or pastor, it can lead to unhealthy church hopping, where they continuously switch churches in search of one that aligns with their expectations. Once their expectations are not fully met, it's on to the next church while carrying deeper and deeper disappointments each time. This constant search can become exhausting and prevent them from fully engaging with any particular church community. It can also be detrimental to their spiritual growth, as they may miss out on the benefits of building relationships and receiving support from a consistent faith community as the Bible calls us to do.

Alternatively, setting unreasonable expectations can lead to disengagement from the church altogether. When people are unable to find a church that aligns with their expectations, they may become bitter, disillusioned, and disheartened, leading them to withdraw from the church entirely. This can be particularly damaging as it can isolate them from the support and guidance they need to grow in their faith. It can also cause them to become toxic with bitterness and have a negative impact upon the faith of other believers, which the Bible warns us of (Hebrews 12:15).

To avoid these negative outcomes, it is essential to set realistic expectations when it comes to your church community. Instead of seeking complete alignment with every aspect of the church, focus on finding a community that aligns with foundational New Testament core values and beliefs. Look for a church that prioritizes the same things that the New Testament does, such as Scripture reading, serving, fellowship, worship, and making disciples.

When looking for a church you should look for a community that affirms the essential tenets of the Christian faith, such as the belief in the triune God, the divinity of Jesus Christ, salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and the authority of Scripture. Most local evangelical churches align with these core values and theology though they may differ on the more nuanced aspects of the faith such as end times, age of the Earth, church governance structure, church liturgy, the proper use of spiritual gifts and so forth. The key is finding a church that holds essential Christian beliefs and letting the Holy Spirit guide you in your final decision through consistent prayer. Avoid making beliefs that are not required for salvation and spiritual growth into deal-breakers in your search for a church home.

There is a risk that you may encounter churches that deny the core tenets of the Christian faith, especially if you are exploring churches outside of your usual denomination or tradition. This is why it is essential to do your research and ensure that the church you are considering is committed to the essential teachings of Christianity. You can start by researching the church's statement of faith or doctrinal statement, which should outline its fundamental beliefs and teachings. You can also listen to sermons or teachings from the church's pastor or leadership to get a sense of their theological perspective.

In addition to ensuring that a church aligns with Christian core beliefs, it is also important to look for a church community that encourages spiritual growth, provides opportunities for service and ministry, and offers support and accountability. You should seek a church where you can build meaningful relationships with other believers and find guidance and encouragement from the church leadership.

It's essential to recognize that no church or pastor is perfect. You may encounter disagreements or misunderstandings even within a church that aligns with Biblical beliefs. However, by choosing a church that affirms the essential teachings of Christianity and provides opportunities for growth and community, you can find a supportive and nurturing environment for your spiritual journey.

When considering joining a church, there are certain factors that are not worth basing your decision on. These include:

1. The church's physical appearance: While it's nice to attend a church that is aesthetically pleasing, such as a beautiful building or modern decor, the physical appearance of the church should not be the primary factor in your decision to join. This approach could lead to making a decision that's based upon aesthetic preference rather than the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

2. The popularity of the church: A church's popularity or size does not necessarily indicate its spiritual depth or commitment to the core tenets of the Christian faith.

3. The quality of the music or preaching: While quality music and preaching can enhance your worship experience, they should not be the sole factor in your decision to join a church. Such an approach can be superficial and unhelpful in the long run.

4. The programs or events offered: While a church's programs and events can be a valuable resource for spiritual growth and community building, they should not be the primary factor in your decision to join a church. Instead, look for a church that prioritizes the essentials of the Christian faith, provides opportunities for service and ministry, and that you are convinced the Holy Spirit has guided you to join through much prayer.

It's also important to avoid unrealistic expectations when joining a church. These can include:

1. Expecting complete alignment with all aspects of the church: As mentioned earlier, it's unrealistic to expect complete alignment with all aspects of a church or pastor.

2. Expecting a perfect church community: No church community is perfect, and there will be disagreements and misunderstandings.

3. Expecting a quick fix to all your spiritual needs: Spiritual growth takes time and effort. Don't expect joining a new church to provide an instant solution to all your spiritual needs.

Once you have found a church, commit to building relationships within the community. Attend services regularly, participate in events and activities, and seek out opportunities to connect with other members. By building relationships with others, you can find support and guidance as you navigate your spiritual journey.

In summary, it is unreasonable to expect complete alignment with a church or pastor, and such expectations can lead to unhealthy church hopping or disengagement from the church altogether. Instead, focus on finding a community that aligns with basic Christian beliefs and commit to building relationships within that community. By doing so, you can experience the support and guidance you need to grow in your relationship with God.

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