In the six years I’ve been a born-again believer, I have moved churches (read denominations) three times — spending slightly over a year in the first church and five in the second.
Report by Phillip Chidavaenzi
I don’t know if this is really a flattering record, suffice to say I’m going to be honest here as I address the rather thorny issue of numbers and believers’ fluidity in the church.
There are churches in which “numbers” are considered very important, and you hear of targets set to break certain “ceilings” and aiming at a membership of, say, 500, 1000 or 2000 over a certain period.
There is too much fluidity in the body of Christ, with believers moving from one church to another. This is not always a good thing as it takes away the opportunity for “rooting”.
Instead of prioritising the rooting of new converts so they can be “disciple” to maturity, we seem obsessed with the game of numbers in which we are constantly interested in how many people attended our last service and our targets for the next service.
Few hardly seek to establish where these new members are coming from. It is very sobering, and painfully so, to realise that most new members in our church pews are coming from other churches. How many times do we have someone coming right from a lost and dying world in desperate need of a saviour?
Church-hopping has now become a cancer in the body of Christ and this can be attributed to the rather poor approach to evangelism by mainly Pentecostal churches.
We have heard the rather disgraceful reports of pastors fighting over “sheep-stealing”. This refers to a situation where a pastor of a church deliberately and actively lures members from another church to his own.
This is really unnecessary, especially against the backdrop of the astronomical numbers of people who have not heard, or embraced, the gospel of Jesus Christ, some of whom are ripe for conversion if only believers heed the word: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14).
Sheep-stealing is, therefore, uncalled for. Imagine, for instance, getting new people to join your church when they are coming from another church. Would you call that growth? Instead of primarily trailing our gaze on the statistics, why don’t we first make disciples of those who would have joined our churches before dashing out for more people to further balloon the numbers? We are commanded not to make new converts — or new members — but disciples: “Go therefore and make DISCIPLES of all nations . . .” (Matt 28:19).
It is only those who have been effectively “discipled” that will bring value into the church. Discipleship is a systematic teaching, training and coaching until someone is firmly grounded in a place or position.
I know of people who “church-hopped” simply because they could not take instruction, especially the kind that necessitated that they stepped out of their comfort zone.
Of course the grass may look greener the other side, but that’s not always the case. One has to seek the Lord first, and His righteousness. Then everything else would pile up as a bonus!
I’m not saying it’s wrong to change churches. No, I have done it, too. But there should come a time in your walk of faith, as you mature, that you need to stay in a church, get grounded there and be fed. I appreciate that people need solutions. And if one church does not seem able to provide them the solutions, they are bound to move and search: “And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are in health have no need for a physician; but they that are sick.” (Luke 5:31).
Christ — not the church — is the physician. I encourage you to seek Christ, not a church. You must have a relationship with Christ. When you find him, you have found everything. You are ready to be a disciple, not a convert.
A disciple is a “follower”. A convert just sits and looks. The church is full of converts. When we have disciples in the church, then it will effectively fulfil its mandate on the earth.