I ran across an interesting posting from early April in the "wild and precious" blog, titled "In Defense of Church Shopping". The writer offers her response to the complaint from a pastor that "criticized the concept that churches are 'spiritual service providers.'" She argues, by contrast, that people have every right to take care of their spiritual needs. Furthermore, in response to the suggestion that people should not be concerned about whether they disagree with their pastor, she writes:
The truth is, anybody making this statement is probably a pastor. What is the point of worshipping week after week, listening to a person who preaches the Word and shapes the liturgy, if you have some fundamental disagreements with that person about that same Word and liturgy? Is this a tolerance test? Of course I'll disagree with any other human being from time to time -- we're human, after all -- but to state that agreement with the pastor should not be a criteria for whether one stays active in a church is an unrealistic and, frankly, disingenuous statement. You can bet the person making it, on his/her Sunday off, seeks out a worship service with a pastor they enjoy. (If they go to church at all).She also offers the suggestion that the term "church shopping " could perhaps be replaced with "church dating":
And, as is true in my dating life (or my desire to have one, is more like it), I'm not really out for a long-term commitment just yet. I need a break from the hard work of that kind of commitment. I do want to just be able to enjoy the date without thinking too much about the future. Which means, next Sunday I may or may not want to spend time with you. I may want to go out with another church next week. Or I may be serially monogomous for a while -- a few months in this church, a few in that.
It is very possible that I am consigned to permanent religious singlehood, and that I will never get "married" to a church.
One of the problems is that I think that some people have a built-in concept of loyalty to a church or denomination because that is what they grew up with, but for those of us who are coming in from the cold, the dynamic is different. Those with a built-in history can put up with more disagreement with the pastor or other problems because it is "their" church that they are a part of. It is also easier for such people to be dissidents, radicals, heretics, or troublemakers. For them, there is a brand loyalty, whose role in these matters is sometimes quite significant. But what if you are a radical, heretic, or dissident who comes into a church from the outside? I feel uncomfortable playing the role of the iconoclast for a congregation of which I am at least initially an outsider. It isn't "my" church, I don't have the built in loyalty in the first place, and I don't go seeking out a church in order to be a troublemaker. If I had a history with a given church, it would be different.
I think the question, "Is this a tolerance test?" is a valid one. I don't expect complete agreement with everyone in a church, including the pastor. But if I'm not on the exact same page, I'd like at least to be in the same chapter. I can think of better things to do on Sunday mornings than sit though an experience I don't particularly enjoy.