Just a Service Provider?

“Yes, we are looking for another church,” she admitted to me, “Our daughter just cannot find any compatible friends in the youth group. That’s the big reason. But also the minister’s style doesn’t connect with us as much anymore.”

I was sad to hear it, for they had been there for five years and spoke highly of it previously. Their older children were helped through the youth ministry when they were in it.

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“Don’t you know a lot of people there? You’ve been connected there for awhile,” I responded.

“Oh yes, but our kids’ needs come first. We want to find a church that better meets her needs.”

After the conversation there was more I wish I could have said. I know her husband was previously in church ministry. How would he have felt if he knew someone in his congregation was leaving for similar reasons?

But you can’t question it, because there are deep underlying assumptions that the church exists to meet the needs of the people, and like with any other service provider, if those needs aren’t being met, you have the freedom to go elsewhere.

But do we? Is that how God set up the church?

I counter, No! The church is not a service provider (no pun intended). It is something way more.

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The people of the church are referred to as brothers (and by implication sisters) over and over, and in some translations as the family of God. They are not patrons, clients or fellow customers. We have a connection and it is through Christ. And so we shouldn’t take it lightly.

Romans 12:10 says, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” Or in other words be committed to one another, hang in, don’t give up.

The Application Bible on this verse comments, “But God calls us to real and sincere love that goes far beyond pretense and politeness.”

If that is the call, how can we leave just because our needs aren’t being met? Would we do that with our own family? Would we abandon our biological kin when they forget our birthday? Would we skip out on family gatherings because there is no one we can relate to? Should we divorce our spouses because they don’t meet our sexual needs? (Oops, not a good example, as some people do that, but that’s a whole different point.)

No, we are a family and we are loyal to one another, no matter what, through thick or thin. And so is the church of God, a family committed to one another. So unless we are specifically called of God elsewhere or a church has clearly left the faith, we should hang in with our church no matter what.

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