People are mobile in today's world: Some churches grow and some decline. But what's really going on?
Recently, pastor and theologian David Fitch engaged Ed Stetzer on his data about megachurches and sheep stealing, it seemed that the only thing they could agree on is that there were too many church transfers.
This is part of who we are as a country. The average American moves 14 times over his or her lifetime. And 58 percent of people who have changed churches, changed for reasons that had nothing to do with location.
There may be reasons to leave a church. In a way, church-hopping is very American. It makes sense in a place full of personalized playlists and individualized movie recommendations.
It would be easy to write off church hopping as a cultural phenomenon. You could even cite the individual for a lack of spiritual maturity. But churches have a responsibility as well.
Imagine if your sheep were so deeply committed to your church that it would be hard to accept a job offer in a new city.
Imagine if there was such a level of commitment that they would be willing to put up with poor preaching and bad music.
Church-hopping and sheep-stealing don’t have to be inevitable.
But it will require doing at least three things differently.
1. Build a Community They Don’t Want to Leave.
Think of the closest community that you have ever experienced.
Maybe it was your traveling basketball team in high school, your best friends from college or the connections you made on a mission trip. Do you remember that heartwrenching feeling you had when it was time to leave that community?
Does your church feel that way?
Churches are often indicted for being nothing more than purveyors of religious goods and services. They may even “sell” community through some sort of small group system or another official program. But these are often attended only by a small percentage of the church. They can easily become a perfunctory event rather than a time of deep communal sharing.
The second chapter of Acts paints a picture of the young church gathering daily in the temple courts, eating in each others homes, sharing possessions and growing numerically.