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Featured What to say to a sister who attends multiple churches and small groups?

Discussion in 'Christian Advice' started by sccs, Feb 9, 2019.

  1. sccs

    sccs Member

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    Recently, a sister joined our Bible study group but only sporadically. After a few months, we reached out to her because we had heard through mutual acquaintances that she has been attending other small groups and other churches in the area as well.

    When the issue was brought to her attention, she responded by saying that church is not just one building or one congregation (which I tend to agree with) but rather it is whenever 2 or more believers come together to pray. She desires to grow and connect with the body of Christ as a whole. Therefore, she attends two churches regularly, is connected to at least three small groups as well as Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), PRISM, and Intervarsity on a local college campus. She says she strongly believes in the body of Christ.

    Now, that is all fine and dandy but my view point differs a bit. I believe that though we do subscribe to a concept of the global Church at large, that there is benefit to committing and rooting oneself in a local church, submitting to its teachings, knowing its people, and being known by them as well. However, this seems to fall of deaf ears.

    What are your thoughts and how can I speak to this sister about this issue? She comes to our small group fairly regularly but there are times when she doesn't come for months and will sporadically come to our church service.
     
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  2. Jonaitis

    Jonaitis Well-Known Member

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    It is one thing to be a member of one church body, but I don't see what is wrong with attending bible study and fellowship groups from other churches/social-gatherings. Of all the bible studies I have attended, they were mixed with people from different churches, or at a particular church with people visiting from others (such as me and my friends visiting a evangelical free Lutheran church). This is not uncommon.

    I would encourage it, in my opinion. She wants to grow and fellowship with more believers in the community, why would I stop that? If a church told me I couldn't do that, I would leave that church.
     
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  3. Oscarr

    Oscarr Senior Veteran Supporter

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    There are two types of people who have a concern for the conduct of others - intecessors or interferers.

    We need to be wise and sensitive when dealing with the lives and decisions of others. If what she is doing is working for her and she is growing in the Lord, then who are we to say that she should change and conform to our view on where and how a person should fellowship?

    We also need to look carefully at motivation for wanting her to change her ways. Is it "a" local church that she should be concentrating her fellowship on, or it is it "my" local church because I think it would be the best one for her and I would have having more regular fellowship with her. If that is the case, then my motive for change might be a selfish one. What if she did decide to limit her fellowship with a local church and it is one down the road and not mine? Would I be happy with her choice of church?

    So we have to carefully consider why I would want to advise her - whether it is for her happiness, or for mine?
     
  4. maintenance man

    maintenance man Well-Known Member Supporter

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    We can make a lot of different assumptions about a person who bounces around like that, but I think we should simply take her at her word and believe she is trying to connect with as many believers as possible. If she finds a group that truly connects with her spirit she might make a stronger commitment.

    I agree there is value in focusing on being a part of one church body - but I can't honestly see anything harmful about moving around - unless you need to count on her for some reason.
     
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  5. sccs

    sccs Member

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    Frankly, I would much rather her decide on a local church (not necessarily ours) to commit to rather than bouncing around. The reason why this is an issue for me/us is that when she does decide to come to our gatherings, it is hard for anyone to truly get to know her because she is there one week and is gone the next.

    This particular person is not a member of any gathering from what I understand. They simply attend and stay on the fringes of each.

    If local churches are not important to commit to than why have local churches to begin with? Why not all the Christians in the city meet up in the park and forego any form of deep fellowship but rather just stay on the surface-level pleasantries. The issue here is not that she is not part of "my" church, but rather that her behavior is actually harmful to her own growth. Where and how are any discipleship relationships formed if every other week you are attending a different gathering? How would you invite others to speak into your life or have the clout to exhort others? There is something special about a unique commitment to a church body or small gathering (regardless of whose it is) that shows a certain level of maturity. Otherwise, it just becomes church hopping.
     
  6. Albion

    Albion Facilitator

    +18,797
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    Personally, I would let the sister be...so long as she is keeping that schedule.

    I agree with you in principle, but I would not push the point with her at the present. She will most likely alter that schedule at some time in future, and that might be the time to have a conversation.
     
  7. Oscarr

    Oscarr Senior Veteran Supporter

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    The problem is that we have a divided and factionised mish-mash of churches all believing they are better serving God than the others. There is no such thing as "the local church". All we have is a number of denominational churches in a region, refusing to fellowship with one another. If a person commits to one of these factions, then they are not joining the "local church" at all, but just a man-made denomination that has an agency in their locality.

    Perhaps she is better off spiritually, by being as she is, because she is fellowshiping across denominations and is not wanting to be tied down to one "party". Perhaps she is not wanting to have a "party spirit", but to fellowship with the wider body of Christ without giving regard to the denominational "labels".
     
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  8. Spiritlight

    Spiritlight ✰•.¸¸★•*´¨`*•.¸.✰

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    She’s getting to know a broader group of people she’ll be spending eternity with. At least she’s coming to church these days.

    Regarding alienating oneself to one little congregation only, it’s great for community and social but bad for broader teaching and Christian experience.
     
  9. Spiritlight

    Spiritlight ✰•.¸¸★•*´¨`*•.¸.✰

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    [QUOTE="Oscarr, ] Perhaps she is not wanting to have a "party spirit", but to fellowship with the wider body of Christ without giving regard to the denominational "labels".[/QUOTE] Or a social extrovert who’s personality thrives on being with different people.
     
  10. Radagast

    Radagast is a Trinitarian Christian

    +6,540
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    You can make her more welcome (good idea), or you can forbid her from attending (very bad idea).

    And you can pray for her.
     
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  11. aiki

    aiki Regular Member

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    This. This is a very crucial part of living in community within the Church. A person who flits about, never settling in any one community of believers, is not truly known and so cannot be challenged and corrected, encouraged and supported, as God intends they should be by the Church. What's more, believers with no "fixed address" church-wise cannot properly exercise their spiritual gifting, limited as they are by loose connections, weak fidelity to any particular group of believers, and being relative unknowns in any community of believers to which they may temporarily affix themselves.

    The biblical idea of Christians being "members of one another" implies a significant degree of intimacy, of relational interconnectedness, that taking a smorgasbord, pick-and-choose approach to church life defeats.

    Also, the shopping mall attitude toward church involvement suggests self-centeredness - the kind of self-centeredness one would expect in a consumerist culture, that elevates the needs/desires of the individual above that of the community. Such self-centeredness, however, is highly corrosive to the sort of community life every believer is called to in Scripture. The Church is not a product. Treating the modern profusion of churches as an opportunity to shop about among them, taking what one likes from one church or another, reflects a selfish, consumerist attitude that in the long run will damage, not strengthen, the Church.
     
  12. Oscarr

    Oscarr Senior Veteran Supporter

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    Which factional denomination are we talking about here when we refer to "the Church"? I thought that the church has already been seriously and possibly irreparably damaged by it being split up into multitudes of denominations, each thinking they are the true church and refusing to have fellowship with others outside of their exclusive "party".
     
  13. Radagast

    Radagast is a Trinitarian Christian

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    Either that, or someone looking for a place where they are made welcome and not finding it.
     
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  14. Sketcher

    Sketcher Born Imperishable

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    Just leave your door open so to speak, and invite her to events that you think she would enjoy.

    With any luck, she'll see as I did that the activities that campus ministries put on are all essentially the same, and life will be simpler and more manageable for her if she picks one. A stern talking-to on the other hand, runs the risk of her not going to yours anymore. Just let her do what she wants.
     
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  15. sccs

    sccs Member

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    It's not that the various churches in a region are refusing to have fellowship with one another. It's more of a practical result of the fact that people don't have time to invest in the lives of two, three, four congregations. Is there any other area of life where hopping around is considered good? How would you feel towards someone who takes college classes at five different universities and never getting a degree? How would you feel towards someone who chooses to work at five different companies at the same time?

    And why does this have to be made out to be a denominational thing? Nothing in the issue at hand relates to denominational differences. Would you feel differently if she decided to attend five different Pentecostal churches at the same time? Say you met this sister at your church and learned that she attended five other churches in the city. Would this behavior be encouraged or discouraged? If so, then is there any reason in your mind in which it would not be a good idea?

    And is she really better off spiritually? Because the Christian life is not just about fellowship. There are things like teaching, exhortation, deeper relationships, discipleship, various ministries and missions that one does not get to truly experience without connection and time.
     
  16. sccs

    sccs Member

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    Yea, I agree with that. We'll just have to treat her as a visitor: be welcoming, kind, but until any further relationship is established, there's just no practical way to truly know her and what her needs are.
     
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  17. Radagast

    Radagast is a Trinitarian Christian

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    And the fact that you believe that explains why she isn't a member of your church.
     
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  18. aiki

    aiki Regular Member

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    ??? I don't know what it's like where you are, but in the city where I live, the various denominations don't generally carry on like you describe. Oh, the Roman Catholic church has the "true church" thing going on, but the Evangelical Free, Missionary Alliance, Mennonite Brethren, Baptist, Calvary Temple, Presbyterian and many non-denominational churches are more in agreement in their fundamental doctrines than not. And so, there is a good deal of interaction among these denominations in my home city, not the divisiveness you seem to think is universal and "irreparably damaging" the Church.

    When I write of the Church (big C), I am referring to the Bride of Christ, the Body of Believers, of which all born-again disciples of Christ in whatever denomination are members.
     
  19. Elliewaves

    Elliewaves Untouchable internet saint

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    You can still get to know her and invite her to things; you just chose not to because of what you think she ought to be doing. If you are worried about it; then just sincerely invite her to more things at your church. She isn't sinning. If you try to rebuke her in your judgement based on your opinion; you will probably just push her away. People usually show up to the same groups (church or not) when they feel someone is sincerely looking for them so it is up to you to reach out and be that friendly face that makes her feel welcome if you are burdened about this.
     
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  20. aiki

    aiki Regular Member

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    Yes, maybe. My experience has been that most of the younger persistent "floaters" are not finding churches unwelcoming; they are simply treating the church like a product, or a form of entertainment, and going wherever they believe they will experience the best show, wherever they will be most positively stimulated. Others (usually older believers) have had some sort of sour experience in a church and suffer from the "once bitten, twice shy" effect.
     
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