We are not speaking about switching from one denomination to another. That would simply be a shifting from one man-made organization to another one of human origin. Nor are we talking about leaving behind a denomination to become a member of the Lord’s church. Such would be the right choice, and it would bring joy to God and His people, as He would be adding a saved person to His church (Acts 2:47).
We have something else in mind. We are considering the scenario when an individual, couple, or family is contemplating the possibility of associating themselves, assembling, and working with a different congregation. They are now counted as a part of one local church of God, but wonder if it would be better for them to assemble and work with another one.
In the first century, there were disciples who at one time were worshipping with one congregation, but at a later time they assembled with a different one. Aquila and Priscilla are a case in point. This couple at one time assembled with God’s church in the city of Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8,19). At another time in their lives, they were part of a congregation in Rome (Romans 16:3-5). That happens frequently in our day also, as Christians, because of their jobs, schooling, or family arrangements, move from one location to another. Due to the distance involved, it is impossible for them to remain members of their previous local church, so they become members of a “new” one.
In some cases, there is only one congregation of the Lord’s church available in a particular geographic region, so there is no second option available (before anyone asks, the answer is “yes”; yes, it would be wrong to attend a denomination if there were no local church of the Christ in the area). But what about those areas where there is more than one congregation which you and I might consider? Why do some members of the church choose to make a change from one congregation to another?
There are a multitude of reasons why people make that decision. Some would prefer to continue attending the same congregation, but because of declining health or other matters beyond their control, they feel that it is best to begin attending somewhere that is “closer to home.” Others make the change because a new congregation is established in the area where they live, providing them an option that would save them an enormous amount of travel time and expense.
Though it may never apply to you and me, there are some brethren who change congregations because of the language factor. They are stronger in one language than they are in another, so they are more suited to a congregation that conducts its classes and worship activities in their best language. It makes sense for them to attend where they receive the most benefit. Some change congregations because their feelings have been hurt. If your feelings have been hurt because a lesson presented God’s truth about a sin in which you are living (Ephesians 5:11), then your heart ought to hurt! If someone has sinned against you in a personal matter, then the Lord’s way of dealing with that is for you to go to that person and make every effort to resolve the issue (Matthew 18:15-17). Or, if you have committed a sin and refuse to repent of it at one congregation, running to a second one and trying to put some distance between you and “the scene of the crime” does not remove the sin – only confession of it and repentance can remedy it (Acts 8:21,22).
Others switch congregations because they want their children to be around other children or youth, and where they presently attend there are few kids or young people. We respect the desire of parents to give their kids a chance to be around righteous people and be influenced by other kids who want to go to heaven. But, if a church appeals to you because it provides more fun activities for its young people, that has the feel of a worldly approach and not a spiritual one, do you not agree? It is not the church’s role to provide entertainment, fun outings, or sports competition for your children. Such activities should come from the individual homes, so if you, father and mother, want your kids to have fun with other kids, then you and other families need to organize and finance it.
If you and I are considering changing local churches, should it not be for a spiritual reason? Should it not be that we would do such because we are persuaded that the second congregation will be one that can help us better serve the Lord and help us be prepared to go to heaven? Not because they have more people of a certain age category, not because they have a nicer facility, not because the members eat more meals together – but because this second local church will help us to serve Jesus and make it to heaven!
I have a request for you. If you someday decide to leave one church and begin to work and assemble with a second one, would you please be honest about the reason(s) for the switch? Have the courtesy to tell the leaders of a congregation why you are leaving it. And, when you declare your reason(s) for the change, please do not tell the leadership of the church one thing (the “official reason” for leaving) and then in private tell your best friends the “real reason.” Sadly, some individuals and families are not totally honest about their reason(s) for changing local churches. Please have the courage to tell the truth (Ephesians 4:25).
There is a group of saints whom we respect greatly. They choose to change congregations in order to be a part of and work with a smaller, struggling one; not because they prefer small groups, but because they have a sincere desire to serve and help the church grow. Thank God for such spiritually-minded folks.
By the way, if you are considering changing congregations, how do you plan to contribute to the work and growth of the new congregation where you might assemble? You do plan to do more than just be a warm body sitting in a seat during services, right?
— Roger D. Campbell