“We’re Looking for a Church That,…

by Douglas Hoff


A lot of doctrinally conservative churches of Christ have been losing members for several years now.  This phenomenon is not limited to one area of the country.  It has been observed in the “mission fields” of the northern states as well as in the traditional “Bible belt” states of the south.  It has affected urban, suburban and rural churches.  Dwindling attendance is a great concern for large and small congregations alike.  The impact is just more quickly noticed in smaller groups.

Many have been asking why this is happening.  Most likely there are several reasons.  The increasing secularization of our society is probably a big factor.  With man’s every need met and many desires satisfied as well, how many really feel their need for God?  The wise man understands the spiritual danger riches bring (Proverbs 30:7-9; cf. 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19).

Some preachers admit that at present the fields are not exactly ripe for harvest in America (John 4:35).  The soil has become hardened by false doctrines including evolution, atheism, and denominational dogma.  The field is littered with weeds and rocks (Mark 4:2-20).  Before the word of God can be successfully planted, the gardeners must do a lot of work preparing the ground to receive the seed (Luke 6:11).  Congregations have tacitly recognized this fact. Many members find it is increasingly difficult to conduct a home Bible study. Even when an appointment is set up, the non-Christian shows little willingness to stick with the study.  Time is a precious commodity in today’s world.  As such, many congregations have few if any conversions to report in any given period.

These factors coupled with the inevitable loss of some members because of death, moves, and unfaithfulness are causing many congregations to slowly die out.  It is a matter of concern to every spiritually minded Christian but especially elders, deacons and preachers.  It is also an issue that confronts Christians when they move.  As often happens today, people relocate because of jobs or retirement.  When they scout out the new location they also look for a good congregation.  That is when preachers often hear, “We’re looking for a church that…”

While it might be difficult to say what most members of the churches of Christ want in a congregation, it is fairly easy to list what some have told this author.  The “wish list” usually includes the following things: 1.) doctrinally sound, 2.) elders and deacons, 3.) programs for kids, 4.) evangelistic, 5.) growing and 6.) encouraging.  In some places it is almost impossible to find all or even most of these characteristics in one congregation.  Occasionally, one has to decide between doctrinal soundness and the other qualities desired.

A problem facing the Lord’s church is that some will engage in “church shopping” to find one that pleases them the most.  They expect the church to serve their needs.  If it does not, they will go elsewhere.  Sadly, this is the attitude of many in America today.

What happens when Christians do not find what they want?  Some quit looking and become unfaithful.  Others keep searching until they find a church that is reasonably close to their expectations.  A small number recognize no church is perfect and will choose to worship and work where they think they will be of greatest service to the Lord.  This is the mind of Christ which Jesus expressed thus: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45; NKJV).