Some Christians see their great need to be part of a biblical church, but as far as they can discern, there’s no biblical church near where they live. When (and should) a Christian pack up and move to join a local church?
Those who were interviewed:
Don Johnson (footage is from 10 years ago)
Jesse: I can think of no better reason to move than to be a part of a local church. You know, we had a young man – this was when the church was meeting in our home. We met at 9:00 a.m. and there was a knock on the door at 8:30 I think. And so we went and opened the door and there was a young man there. I introduced myself to him and welcomed him. And I asked him where he grew up. And he said he grew up in Houston. And I said, “Where do you live now?” He said, “Houston.” I said, “Did you drive here this morning?” And he said, “Yes.” And he said, “I didn’t know of a church in my area.” And at the time, he had reached out to HeartCry. And the question he asked is, “Do you of a good church in Texas?” So they mentioned our church. And he showed up at the door. And he drove up from Houston to our church for three or four months every weekend. He’d bring friends up. And eventually [he] moved up there and is still a part of the church to this day. All that being said, I think there is no level of commitment we should not be willing to make to be a part of a biblical church. The question I would put first forward is are you sure there’s not a biblical church in your area? Because of course, there’s biblical churches in Houston. And I want us to be careful that we’re not creating in our mind our ideal church with our ideal pastor and our ideal growth in the church and maturity in the church. And creating a scenario where, yeah, there may only be two churches in the world that meet your understanding of the church. So there’s two sides to this I think we need to be careful of. Have you created such a level of wanting in the church from the things you’ve seen on the Internet or in other churches that you just can’t find the ideal church? Well, there probably is one around you you could find. But you take like up in Maine, the Fellowship Conference New England there. And for so long, there weren’t churches. We looked for them. And so they planted a church up there. And if you find yourself in a situation like that, then absolutely, I can think of no better reason to pack up everything, sell, and move to go be a part of a local church because you need to be a part of a local church. Do that carefully, prayerfully, with patience, seeking the Lord. I think what you guys have done on I’ll Be Honest is here are some other churches. And you can’t always speak to the life of the church, but here are some recommendations. Make sure you’ve exhausted that before you just pack up and leave. But yes, if you can’t find one, no better reason to move than for a local church.
Mack: Well, I would counsel them cautiously. I have made the statement I think in that sermon you referred to that I preached years ago on the importance of the local church. I remember making a statement: if you live where there’s no biblical church and you can move, move and get to a church. Now, there’s a lot of things that can affect that. A man has a good job and responsibilities and he doesn’t even know if he could get a job where he is going. He’s got to evaluate that and be wise – not rash. :He who hastens with his feet sins,” the Bible says. So wisely, cautiously… But all things being equal, (incomplete thought) Single people – this is easier for them because they see there’s no church where they are, they’ve truly searched and they know of biblical churches, and it’s easy for them to uproot and move. I have encouraged young people. Look, you’re a single man, you’re a single lady, and you have the desire to go be in a biblical church. We know that’s Scriptural, so can you do it? Is there a way that you can do this? So if they’re moving from no church to a biblical church, that’s only a good thing. For families it’s more complicated. There’s more to deal with. Can you find a job? I don’t think if a family of seven decides in one month to move and join a biblical church and he doesn’t have a job, and suddenly, six months no income, and everybody’s having to take care of them, probably it’s not a wise approach. Wisdom. Wisdom comes with God’s will and true faith where He will provide. But as a general rule, if Christians can move [from] where there’s no church and get to one, that’s always better. Now, I would qualify that by saying I’ve seen people leave churches that are basically biblical just because they love some guy’s ministry and they say I want to be under him. I’m moving. Well, there can be immaturity in that and rashness is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. So, they ought to seek counsel from godly people. And they ought to ask the Lord, Lord, I don’t want to make a mistake. I want to do Your will. Do You want us to go? I know You want us in a biblical church. Is this the right direction? And I just want to do Your will. Lord, You open the doors. Show me and keep me back from presumptuous sins.
Clint: But to become a part of a church, as in relocate to become a part of a church, that’s a difficult situation. If one can’t be started where you’re at, if there aren’t other Christians there to start a home church, then you’re in a difficult spot. I know several churches that have started from home churches. I believe the Denton church started out in a home. I believe the Kirksville church started out in a home. John Breshears in Warsaw has had a home church for decades and functioned in that capacity. Highway M Chapel started out in the Rages’ home. And so, who knows what God would do eventually long-term with a small group meeting in a home. So there’s that opportunity there, that possibility there to start a home church. To pack up and move to a place to be a part of a church that’s already in existence, I view that from two perspectives. There’s the perspective of the people that would be moving/relocating, and my heart goes out to them. I sympathize for them. They so want to be a part of a vibrant church and be under pastors and have themselves under the care of shepherds and being preached to. And so to move to a church to become a part of it, you’ve got the perspective of those who want to be in that church, want to move to that church. Then you also have the perspective of the elders who would be receiving the new congregants. Those elders – they have got some cautions in their mind. They realize that whenever a person arrives in their congregation, that person comes with some baggage. That person comes with a background, with beliefs, with past experiences, with personalities and traits and that person is going to become a part of their congregation which at that point in time might be in peace and harmony, and there might be a lot of love and service among the people, and the pastor might be free of problems. So when someone moves to a church from the perspective of the elders, they’ve got a little bit more to consider and they’re a little bit more fearful maybe just wondering how things might go now as a result of someone moving there.
Justin: I would say the main thing is people can easily over the Internet have a false view of a church, an unrealistic view of a church where everything’s romantic, everything’s perfect. And you’re only hearing the mouthpiece in a certain church. You’re not seeing the arms. You’re not seeing the feet. You’re not seeing the body. You’re only hearing the mouth. And that can be very, very deceiving at times.
Mack: Well, I’ve seen it in situations with people that are hyperly critical. They’re immature and they’re perfectionists. And they can never stay in a church because within two months they’re seeing the flaws, the imperfections, and they have a critical spirit. And they end up not being able to serve there and live there and they’ll end up criticizing the leadership and possibly causing division and then they leave. And they can never stay in a church. Nothing’s ever good enough. That’s a very bad thing. And people that are church hoppers, or as somebody said, steeple-chasers – church to church to church to church – they’re never going to be stable. One verse in the Old Testament: unstable as water, thou shalt not prosper. So, one of the glories of the Christian life is every church has flaws or weaknesses. Some of the biggest admonitions and exhortations in the New Testament is bearing with one another, forgiving one another, being patient with one another. Well, all those things presuppose imperfections. And so that’s part of growing in grace. See, if you walk alone and you’re a lone ranger, well, you won’t sin… you will, but I mean, you won’t struggle because you won’t have to put up with people.
Clint: Addressing the people who have the desire to move to a church, they need to make sure that their motivation is right. There are a lot of religious groupies. There are a lot of people who follow men. Someone who has a prominent ministry, someone who’s on the Internet, someone who’s vibrant and powerful in the way of speaking and preaching. They have a tendency to draw people to themselves. And there are people that actually follow men from church to church – relocate with them. Surely that’s not a good motivation, but when someone is following a man, sooner or later they’re going to realize as someone once said, “the best of men are men at best.” And they’re going to see flaws. They’re going to find issues. They’re going to be disappointed in some way if they’re following a man. Or, if that man is removed, taken away, and they’re left in the church, now they’ve lost the draw that brought them there. And many times, problems erupt after that fact because the motivation was wrong. They followed an individual. And what we need to realize is there’s no such thing as a perfect church. The best church that you can imagine right now, it’s functioning vibrantly, there seems to be peace, they’re doing this, they’re doing that, they’re involved in great and mighty activities, maybe even on a world scale, the person that comes there with that high of an expectation of a man or a ministry will soon be disillusioned because they’ll realize these people are only people. And this church is made up of people and such a broad mixture of personalities that may or may not get along all the time. And so, it’s easy in those circumstances to lose that element of love when you’re there for a man. And it’s that love that is the bond of unity, isn’t it? And peace. And so those are some thoughts that I have along those lines.
James: If someone is thinking about moving for a church, how important is it for them to visit that church prior to actually committing to move?
Clint: I think it’s important from the standpoint of open conversation. There may or may not be a lot that’s revealed during that time. I’ve heard of people coming to visit a church prior to their moving there and even spending days with the pastor in his home, and then in the end, it didn’t save the situation. Problems arose anyway. But it seems like for the sake of open communication and getting to know one another a bit better, it seems like that would be necessary. It would be that way with a job, wouldn’t it? If you were thinking about relocating and opening a business somewhere, you would spy out the land. You’d go there ahead of time and gather some data and make an intelligent decision based on that. But a church is so much more important and so different from a business because a church is a living organism. It’s a body – the body of Christ with people. And it’s functioning in that capacity. The Apostle uses that illustration so aptly – eyes and ears and a Head. It’s a body – a functioning, living organism. So, so much more important to go and talk openly about it.
Justin: It could be that the Lord wants to do something in your own town, in your own city wherever you’re from, that moving isn’t always the solution. It could be that you’re sensing a need, but you’re seeing the solution in moving. And the solution isn’t necessarily in moving. It’s in seeking the Lord and waiting and saying, Lord, what might You want to do here where I’m at?
Don: If you’re in a place where you don’t have a place to worship and people to meet with, you better find a place where you can find a church. Let’s not look for a job first and then look for the church. Let’s look for the church first, and then find a job.
James: I realize a lot more could be said, but this is simply the content that I had and was able to put together. And I hope that if you’re out there and you don’t have a church, this in some way helps point you to the importance of being part of a local church. And in many ways, any online ministry is trying to work itself out of having viewers. Meaning, the goal is less traffic to a website because you’re wanting to direct people away from a website to a local church, to being committed there, to hearing sermons there. As one of the brother’s mentioned in this video, obviously Internet ministries can be supplemental and helpful, but oh how important it is to be committed to the local body of believers.