I came across a blog post today which stated people with huge potential don’t stay at underperforming companies. When I read this I wondered if this applies to the church as well. To illustrate why I would compare these two, let me first flesh out the business analogy.
A “devout” employee is someone who works really hard trying to make the company successful. The individual is willing to spend a lot of energy going above the call of duty, maybe helping others do their job or putting out fires or developing their personal skills. An underperforming company is one that doesn’t develop their employees or products, essentially maintaining the status quo.
My biggest regret professionally has been spending so much of my life at an underperforming company (I can say this because the current management readily admits this was the case). I was “devout”–I worked really hard– but after 7 years I find myself without many actual skills. I put out fires and tried helped others, but didn’t develop professionally. It didn’t matter how “devout” I was. I wasn’t able to help the company because I wasn’t given proper training or the right tasks. My effort wasn’t aimed in the right direction.
I hope the carry over to the church is clear. One can be devout without actually growing as a Christian or helping others. Many activities, done in the name of Christ, actually move the church away from her goals. The question this post asks is “should devout Christians attend underperforming churches?” By underperforming I mean a church that doesn’t aim after the goals of the church. Some of the main goals are helping its members to:
1) love God and people.
2) live lives of obedience to Jesus’ teaching.
3) grow to maturity, which means Christlikeness (head, heart, hands), stability, and ability to help others.
(Mat 28:18-20; John 17; Rom 1:5; 16:26; 2 Cor 11:2; Eph 4:11-16; Col 1:28-29)
The task God has given the church, and the leaders of the church in particular, is to facilitate increasing acquisition of these goals in its members. There are churches with great teaching, discipleship programs, ministry training and opportunities, etc. Then there are churches that don’t have these things-maybe their teaching is false or they don’t disciple their members.
This question is difficult to answer. Some might even consider switching churches based on these criteria self serving. To this I would point to my experience as an engineer. Because I haven’t had proper training I am not able to help the company as I would like. This applies to the church as well. The Christian life is a group, not individual, activity, and as such, the quality of an individual’s worship and ministry is positively or negatively affected by the group. I may expend a lot of energy—I may be devout—but if the group doesn’t guide me properly I will likely aim my energy in the wrong direction.
On the one hand, the answer seems obvious: if your church is underperforming go somewhere else; we can’t reach our goals if we aren’t aiming for them. But on the other hand, there are good reasons to stay. What if you and your family have always gone there? What if you love the people? What if you have particular opportunities to help, even if others don’t?
In the end, I don’t feel I can answer the question I posed. To me, it seems the important thing is that you prayerfully consider the church you attend and why and that you aren’t acting out of selfishness. Know the pluses and minuses. And, once you’ve done that, don’t undermine the leadership by gossiping about the areas you consider negatives.