People change churches all the time. I’m sure there are times when it’s justified and times when it’s not. I won’t be making any judgments on a large scale here about the act of “church shopping.”
But, I want to share the story and perspective of a man named Tobie. He church-shopped for 3 decades and his conclusion at the end of that journey may not surprise you. But, it’s always a good reminder because our enemy’s #1 strategy had a hold of him all that time until he finally caught on to the trick.
Leaving behind the heretics
For many years, Tobie went about pursuing the perfect church – jumping from place to place and theological perspective to theological perspective. Each jump he made, he thought he was making progress, leaving behind those he labeled as “heretics” along the way because he decided they were wrong on some theological points.
By the way, they were all debatable matters which the apostle Paul clearly taught are not all that important to worry about (although they can be fun to debate).
This happened time after time after time until one day he came to this conclusion…
Each group that I had ever explored (including “house churches”) in my yearning to escape from heresy was spectacularly shattered into its own bits and pieces. You can always manage to find out why each of these streams was regarded as heretical by someone, somewhere.
“Everything right” doesn’t exist
That led him to share this joke…
Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What denomination?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.
After 3 decades of searching for a group of people that would get everything theologically right, Tobie came to the conclusion that what he was looking for did not exist.
The enemy’s #1 strategy for a church
Tobie’s experience reminds me of the enemy’s #1 strategy to use to tear apart a church – to create divisions out of our differences (read a full post on this here).
How do I know this particular tactic is his #1 strategy?
Because God’s ultimate goal for creating was oneness with and in his Bride, the Church. When Jesus had one last prayer request before His death, this is what He prayed (John 17:20-23). So naturally, the enemy’s ultimate goal is to keep this from happening.
There are for sure things to divide over – things that make a Christian a Christian and a church a church. But, they aren’t the disputable matters that seem to so often divide the Christian family internally. Here’s what Paul said about this…
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters…Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. (Romans 14)