So how bad is it really at the church down the road? Do they sing too much? Do they preach too much? Is there not enough community? Do they not have the right programs for your kids? Are they just plain mean? Consider what Tim Chester writes:
I wonder how many churches people pass as they drive half an hour to church each Sunday. Some will be dead and ready for burial. But many will be good churches. They may not be as good as the church people attend. But they may be faithful and engaged in their locality. Why do people do this?
It reflects a consumer mentality. We shop for churches like we shop for groceries. If we don’t like the product then we take our business elsewhere. We end up at the big convenience store with the large parking lot and the local shops in Main Street that the old and the poor have to use wither and decline.
A particular instance of the consumer mentality, but a very common one is this: If church doesn’t have a big children’s programme then we find another church. Who’s going to say we shouldn’t put our children’s spiritual needs first? Me! A lot of Christians have made an idol of their families. So it becomes an excuse not to do mission or community. Look at what Jesus has to say about biological families. It is all negative! Really, it is. ‘Anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me’ (Matthew 10:37). That’s what Jesus said. Get over it. And think about what moving church for children teaches our children. That the world revolves around them. That church is there to entertain them. That relationships with peers matter more than relationships with people who (are) unlike them. At best you will teach you children to be church-attenders. You will have missed a big opportunity to teach them to be radical disciples and missionaries.
So how far is too far?
This is the tricky part in discussing distances in the church. Is there limit as to how far I’m allowed to drive to church? Or better yet, should we limit it?
On a personal note, I have consistently told Emmalie that as we progress in life and ministry, I don’t want to live more than 15-20 minutes away from the church where we gather and serve (with right around 5-10 minutes being my preferred distance). This is mainly because I want to limit my excuses as to why I travel so far! So when I’m at work and people ask what church I am a part of, instead of saying, “Well, we attend a church about an hour from here,” I can say, “Yeah, we’re the Baptist Church right across town.” People know where I worship. They can connect with the location.
So maybe asking “how far is too far” is the wrong question. Maybe we should be examining our hearts daily as to why we do the things we do. Maybe as we strive to never forsake gathering together we should be more focused on what Christ is doing in our area than on what other churches are doing “right.” Maybe we should remember that we are to serve the church as living sacrifices using every gift for building up of the church instead of passively consuming every resource that comes at us.
We are to always seek God’s glory and wisdom over our comfort and happiness.
So ends this five part series on how you choose your church. Click the links below if you missed the previous parts: