That's a lot of change!
I think that the trend shows that Americans are looking for something they can't easily find. It probably shows some immaturity as well. Why tough it out, if you can move on?
So let's say hypothetically that you are able to move - put your house on the market, look for a new job and find a new life. How would you know that you were at the right church? I have some ideas.
- Inner Witness: Everyone is going to answer, "God said this is the place." so here I am. I am not buying that as the only way to know. If we were that certain, we wouldn't need a church for too long.
Think about it, haven't you missed hearing God; run off to do something that "felt" right, and ended up somewhere else?
- Relationship: The Vineyard churches once did a survey and discovered that a person needs to make 6 meaningful relationships in order for some to stay over a year. I think there is a lot of truth to the statistic. Honestly, why would anyone want to stay where no one seems to care about them?
Conversely, I think it is a bad idea to choose a church based on the pastor - he might leave and then what would God's will be for you? Follow him (her), or start shopping again?
- Testimonies: I don't think anyone really knows what to expect from a church until they hear about how other have engaged with God at that church.
- Doctrine: I used to get all widgy about this. I have NEVER been in a church where I believe everything they teach. Never. And you probably haven't either. It is better to approach this from a strong baseline, than an absolute match. I have been in churches where our doctrine matched, but God didn't want me there. I have also had lots of good years in churches that were far off from what I believe. God can use you. Can you imagine a Charismatic in a Southern Baptist church? That was me. Although one pastor was a really ticked off when one of his deacons god baptized in the Holy Spirit and started speaking in tongues and spouting powerful revelation from the Bible. I swear it was an accident.
-Programs: Most Americans in the manicured church have a set idea of what church is supposed to do for them. A lot of churches fail because the focus is on good ideas, not God ideas. They have programs that focus on something other than Jesus. I have rarely seen a VBS program that focused on Jesus. Usually it is a chance to teach kids Jesus songs, and try to close the salvation deal during the making of a craft.
It is about Jesus - and he like cute crafts and kids songs - but it is hearts and worship that He is after.
So what do you think, how would you know that you are in the right church?