I want to tell you a story about a young couple making a decision about which church to attend. Let’s call their names Frank and Meg.
Meg has a friend Clare who has talked excitedly about her church. Frank is friends with Tom with whom he can talk about things like family and church. Both Meg’s dad and Aunt Mary are the sort of people they are comfortable confiding in. They talk with all of these people. Everyone acknowledges that there are so many differences between different churches that it is almost impossible to analyze them The general advice is “Pick a place where you feel that your needs will be accommodated, and you can grow in the Lord.”
The reason that they have been making this decision is because they have been attending Frank’s family’s church and have come to the point where they feel unexcited and stagnant. It’s not that Frank and Meg were not involved. They both volunteered in different capacities at the church regularly. They’ve been members there for years and given their money and talents. They just feel stagnant.
So Frank and Meg go on a quest. They pick a couple of churches to visit where they go in, listen to the morning messages, and see how the children respond to the children’s programs.
Frank and Meg decide they like Bucolic Community Church the best. They go to an informational meeting there. They meet the pastor and talk with him. He’s younger and they identify with him. This church is exciting and doing things.
So they start going. They join a small group and put their kids in children’s school on Sunday mornings.
What is the problem, you may ask? Isn’t this exactly the way that people are supposed to do it?
To answer that, I want to look at some of the processes that Frank and Meg have to go through in order to be able to accommodate this change in their lives.
Both the old church and the new church are considered very orthodox, and acceptable churches. Both teach from the Bible. Both have ordained ministers from accredited institutions. Both have statements of faith with common, acceptable beliefs including the all-important deity of Christ and Trinity clauses.
It is important to note that nowhere in this process was there any real and clear investigation of the beliefs of either church. Almost all churches bring people in just by inviting them to a service, and slowly teaching them their ways and beliefs.
But there are a number of differences between this new church and the old church. The old church taught that baptism, communion, and marriage are sacraments while the new church does not recognize sacraments. The old church baptizes infants while the new church does not recognize infant baptism, rather it teaches and practices “believer’s baptism.” The old church did not teach tithing, while the new one promoted it, although not legalistically. These are the differences that immediately stand out, although in reality there are more.
So what has to happen to Frank and Lori if they are going to go to this new church? Well, they do what millions of believers do everywhere all the time. They acquiesce and just go along with the beliefs of the new church. So whereas before they espoused infant baptism, free will giving, and sacraments, now they teach and promote believer’s baptism, tithing, and the keeping of “ordinances”, or “memorials”.
The individual churches involved downplay the differences. Still, the new church pushes the couple to be baptized by immersion, not recognizing their infant baptism.
This process does not happen in a second but happens rather fast, nonetheless. And it goes further than that. Soon they learn that in this new church, people can be ordained because of their “gift ministry”. New pastors and teachers are ordained when their “gift” is recognized.
Now you may ask, if you believe the tenets of the second church, “what is wrong with that”? Well, the story has not ended. You see, this goes fine, for a while. But then Frank, or Meg, it doesn’t matter who, gets transferred to a different part of the country. And they have to go through the process again. So they do the process again where they go to some churches, go to some informational meetings, meet a pastor, and select a new church. They can’t find a church that matches their previous church even though they were pretty happy there. So this time, they again choose a church somewhat like their original church, or perhaps somewhere in the middle between them doctrinally. This new church practices “believer’s baptism”, and calls communion a memorial, but doesn’t believe that the spirit can lead people to be ordained in the church, for example. And a different issue arises. The last church believed in Christian counseling, which the couple used and it helped them. The new church calls it “psychobabble”.
Frank and Meg decide that, still, all in all, this latest choice is the best choice they have in the area they live. So, once again, they acquiesce. Because they want to be involved in the church, be active members, and be able to teach, they accept the new church’s tenets, lock, stock, and barrel. When Frank teaches his Sunday school, or Meg teaches her women’s group, she teaches the new church’s doctrines.
Do you think that this is an imagined story? I have seen this story personally acted out numerous times, and have heard it from other people that this is in fact the process that goes on in churches everywhere on a regular basis.
This story illustrates the sad fact that people in our society regularly go back and forth on a lot of these issues. In fact, it’s required if for any reason you need to change churches.
But going back and forth on these issues can cause problems. If you can’t have certainty on baptism, giving, and a host of other issues, how can you be really sure about the rest of the areas of the Christian faith? I mean, really, are you really saved by grace? If you can’t be sure that there are manifestations of the Spirit, how can you be sure that there is a Spirit? All of this acquiescing on these issues just feeds doubt.
So what is the answer? Well, there is no easy answer. In the future, I will discuss these things further. But my question right now is, don’t you see a problem here? Even further: Are you a yo-yo Christian?
As for myself, I must confess that I have done this. I have gone to the Catholic Church and bought the story, hook, line, and sinker. And after I found myself falling away from that because of problems I had reconciling what appeared to me to be some glaring deficiencies, i.e., the ban on birth control, and the forced celibacy of the priesthood, just to name a few. But then I found myself in another group, a “nondenominational” ministry, where I bought hook, line, and sinker. And, yes, I left that assembly, only to start going to another church, which I started to accept “ hook, line, and sinker”, this time, however, only to stop, and realize what I was doing.
Part of the reason for this website is because I realized that that practice is not healthy. I don’t want to base my faith on “yo-yo Christianity”. I will take my time, investigate on my own, and decide for myself what true Christianity really is.
My journey has led me to the point where I realize now that there was never any more powerful, more exciting, more wonderful time for Christianity than at its very beginning. In the process, I’ve also come to realize that studying original Christianity is the best place to start.
I encourage you to do the same.
©copyright 2012-2023 Mark W. Smith, all rights reserved. Last revised 9/25/2023