A Different Kind of Church Shopper

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Gone is the denominational and congregational loyalty that was the mark of our parents’ generation. In particular, I have been acutely aware of two types of “church shoppers.” The first is the familiar consumer-oriented seeker who asks “What’s in it for me?” This consumer mentality is looking for the “perfect church.”

There is another kind of church shopper. They are highly committed Christians who believe that God is calling them to different places and different contexts. I call them “nomads.” Jesus was a nomad as he said, “Foxes have dens, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). Nomads can frustrate some pastors and laity because they seem to have no permanent church home, but they are highly gifted in many areas of the church life. Instead of getting mad at them for leaving our congregations, what if instead we helped nomads live into their giftedness?

At least four nomad couples attend our church off and on. We have been graced by their presence, and they, too, have been blessed when they are with us. One woman sees her gifts in healing prayer. She and her husband have attended three different churches over the past few years, and they have used their gifts to help set up certain ministries. In one case, it was to help begin a Celebrate Recovery program. At our church, they just helped launch a weekend workshop on the Holy Spirit, which has blessed us and surrounding churches.

Like the Apostles of the New Testament church, these nomads see their mission as building the Kingdom of God rather than being part of one particular local church. They try to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit as they discern where to worship. They are usually there for a time. They tithe when they attend, as they take their commitments to God very seriously. They also cross denominational lines.

As churches, we need to see their gifts and tap into their areas of expertise, not get mad at them for not resting in one place. If we truly believe what the creeds proclaim that we are “one, holy, catholic (or universal) Church,” then there is no need to get territorial when nomads enter our lives. We should tap into their gifts and graces to nurture our congregations as we continue to pursue the Reign of God.


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About Author

Sarah B. Dorrance is lead pastor at Middletown United Methodist Church in Middletown, Maryland. She is an International Coaching Federation Certified Coach and co-author of Reclaiming the Wesleyan Tradition: John Wesley's Sermons for Today. She received her D.Min. from Wesley Theological Seminary.