~by Pastor Mike Middaugh
You have undoubtedly heard the term church shopping. It is a phrase that has come of age in the last couple of decades as people’s priorities have changed. In America past most people went to the closest church that was part of their denomination – if you were Methodist, you went to the closest Methodist church and settled in.
Things are different today. More people are moving from city to city, and even nation to nation for jobs or other opportunities. Once there, if one desires to find a church they might spend several months attending worship around the city. Denomination matters less, worship style and programming opportunities often matter more. Just like in every other aspect of our consumer lives, people feel free to shop around.
So where does that leave the local congregation? For a church in a busy area, like Calvary at Georgia Ave. and the Beltway, visitors are to be expected. But as we see people come, stay for a week or maybe two and then fail to return, we may be tempted to think in a couple different, I think harmful directions.
First, we may get discouraged. We believe in our church and know all it has to offer and we may wonder why others who come and go don’t see what we do. We may also be tempted to think that the work we have put into the services, or the volunteer hours we have spent have gone unnoticed. I have been guilty in this area as well, but when I stop and take a step back to think about these feelings, something comes to mind. I am here and do what I do because God has called me to do it. I serve in this church because it is where God has placed me to follow him and serve as he leads. In the end, that is the call on our lives that matters. That being said, we will often find that God does bless our work, and abundantly, but that is for him to take care of.
Second, we may get into a game of “if only” This is one of the easiest places to mentally reside when thinking about the church. If only our building was like that other church building. If only our publicity was better. If only we had more for this age group or that age group, then surely this church would draw even more people. The game of if only is dangerous for God’s people because it has to do with where we put our faith. Are we trusting God to do his work, following him, prayerfully calling out to him, or are we putting our trust in some tangible asset, a thing which can be built and torn down?
Our desire to reach more people comes from a good place. I believe that most, if not all of us here at Calvary deeply desire to reach into the lives of others. We know that church in general, and this congregation in particular, has added much to our lives and we are changed by a gospel that sends us out, we are a people living on mission. And so I would ask you to continue in this commitment. We are where we are as a congregation because so many people have stepped in, given hours and dollars, and sacrificed to make this ministry possible, and I think we find more happiness in serving by knowing it is not really about just about us.
That being said, I do believe that God will continue to work here at Calvary as he has for many years. I also believe that we haven’t even begun to imagine the good future that God has for us in the work we are called to do. His future for us is always greater than the future we could imagine for ourselves. So I hope you won’t get discouraged by church shoppers or by wondering where is everyone on a particularly light Sunday. We are here to honor God in all that we do, and then use all that he has given us to its very best. Beyond that, we call on God and the Spirit to do their work, and know that we are blessed to be used by Him.