Many Christian believers stay faithful to their church community, but some for various reasons, move to other churches.

Sometimes Christians change churches. By that I mean a believer begins to attend a different local church than he or she did in the past. This can happen for a number of different reasons, some of them are good, and some of them are not so good.

For example, a person may move their place of residence. In this event they may start to attend a church which is closer to their new home and this is totally understandable.

Or a person may have a new charismatic experience of the Holy Spirit. The church that they were attending does not believe in, or accept, this experience so they transfer their membership to a church that does accept it.

These are, in my view, acceptable reasons to change churches. A very different, and less acceptable situation, would be a case in which a Christian has a falling out with another believer and so decides to attend another assembly so that they will not see this other person.

Sometimes a person may change churches because they have changed denominations. It is also possible that a person may begin to attend a different church because there is an opportunity for ministry in a new location. All of these are contemporary examples of “changing churches.”

There is a sense in which no one can really change churches. I say this because in God’s eyes there is only one church, Jesus is coming back for a church (Eph. 5:25-27). One contemporary author who has pointed this out is Nik Ripken, the author of “The Insanity of God.” In a youtube trailer for the film he said “don’t you ever believe there is a free church and a suffering church, there is just the church.”

In the days of the New Testament they did not have some of the distinctions we have today, there were no Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, Presbyterians, or Pentecostals, etc.; there were just Christians. However, there were local churches in various cities and people did, at times, move from one church to another.

The apostles and prophets in the New Testament moved to different churches. Paul established churches in the ancient world and sometimes revisited them (Acts 15:36). We also find the prophet, Agabus, moving from place to place (Acts 11:27-28; 21:10). However, some of the ministry moves were more lasting than others; we are going to look at one such case.

In Acts 4 we find mention of a man by the name of Barnabas. He was a member of the church in Jerusalem. He was of Jewish heritage (Acts 4:36) and was known for his generosity, in that he gave all of the proceeds from the sale of some land he owned to the church (Acts 4:37). In addition, he appears to have been known for his encouragement. His name was Joseph, but the apostles renamed him Barnabas “which means Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36 NIV). I am sure he was later an encouragement to Saul of Tarsus when he helped him to be accepted by the Jerusalem church (Acts 9:26-28). The setting of all the history in this paragraph was the city of Jerusalem.

But later in Acts we find Barnabas (along with Saul, that is, the apostle Paul) in a new location. In Acts 11, we find the two men in Antioch. Barnabas had been sent there by the church in Jerusalem to see the new work that had begun there. After visiting the church in Antioch and encouraging the believers there, he went and got Paul and the two of them spent a year teaching the Christians there. In Antioch there was a need, and an opportunity, for Barnabas to minister. He helped shape the spiritual life of this church, which played a prominent part in reaching the Gentile world.

Writing about the physical human body in 1 Corinthians 12:18 the apostle Paul told us that God, set the parts of the body as He wanted them to be. The same holds true in His body, the church. He determines who will function in different ministries (Eph. 4:11). By His Spirit, He decides which gifts of the Spirit a believer will operate in (1 Cor. 12:11). And, Jesus, being the head of the church, has a right to move His people around, and at times He does so.

Whenever He does this it is to bring His servants to the next step in their journey, to launch them in a new ministry or to expand, or strengthen, His church. As Christians let us serve faithfully where we are, but be open to the possibility that He may redirect us in order for His will to be accomplished in a greater way here on earth.



John P. Lathrop – United States

John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Western Connecticut State University, Zion Bible Institute, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Center for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME). He is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies and has twenty years of pastoral experience.

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