The problem with my old church was …
That’s a phrase you will only hear in the modern, Western church—particularly in the United States.
In first-century Jerusalem, if you didn’t like the music, the pastor or the amount of perfume Sister Bertha wore, you had to stay and work it out. Where else would you go?
Disclaimer: What I’m about to say has nothing to do with people who are far from God. I’m writing it to people who claim to know Him well. Read on.
I’m not promoting the idea of having only one church in every community. I think God is blessing a movement of multiplying churches that are helping to fill the earth with the good news of Jesus. But the side effect of our multiplying efforts is applying the same consumer mentality we use at the mall to the church.
When you plant a new church in a community with a lot of churches, like northwest Arkansas for example, you come into contact with people now and then who are “looking for something new” because of the problems they encountered at their old church.
I’ve heard plenty, including…
We just didn’t feel connected.
Sometimes this is a church problem. Sometimes it’s a me problem. Some people will connect in one good church but not another good church.
We didn’t like the ________.
Plenty of words find their way into that blank. The kids’ ministry. The way they gave to missions. The way they asked me to be, like, generous and stuff with my money.
We couldn’t get along with ________.
The pastor? The deacons? Sister Bertha? Whoever it is, our inability to reconcile broken relationships with other Christians is a shame. It’s a bad witness, and going to another church never solves the problem. It just transfers it.
We just weren’t getting fed.
My favorite. As a pastor, I usually translate this in my head into plain English: “We didn’t really like the pastor, or the music or the volume of the music. But the easiest thing to do is blame the pastor for not ‘feeding’ us.” To this last one, I so often want to ask how long the person talking has been a Christian. If it’s a year or more, my next question would be, “When will you grow up enough to feed yourself?” Nonetheless…
If you, as a pastor, play into these kinds of complaints, you’ve created a problem that will almost always come back to bite you, usually in a year or less.
You’ve attempted to “sell” how much better your church is. You’ve hurt the brand of the church in general. And you’ve set the table for people with unreachable expectations, which is a pastor-killing problem to begin with.
Don’t do it. Instead say…