The Problem with Church-Hopping

4 issues with always looking for a church.

I grew up as a pastor’s kid. I am now on the road to becoming a pastor myself, working as the Worship and Creative Director at my church. Through this time, I’ve come into contact with a certain type of people.

I’m here to save you from their fate—the fate of the Church Hoppers.

These people are usually nice, but there’s something in them that won’t let them stay anywhere too long, and every few years they decide that something is wrong with their current church and they leave to go elsewhere.

Now, I will allow that some churches need leaving, and there are legitimate reasons for finding a new a church at times. But, I want to address the main complaints I’ve heard and why those complaints shouldn’t be good enough.

Here are four problems with church hopping:

1. It puts the focus on what we feel like we should be doing in the church.

The complaint: “I’m know I’m called to ____ and I don’t feel like I can do that here ...

Proverbs 26:12 will shed some light on this one: “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

One of the things I tell my own congregation just about every Sunday is that worship is a choice.

Sometimes we have the wrong idea about our calling, and despite our greatest hopes, God has slotted us for something else that appears to be boring or less glamorous than what we think we should be doing. But that’s why God gives us friends and leaders.

If you’re having trouble finding your ministry sweet spot, first admit to your friends and leaders that perhaps you’ve had the wrong idea about yourself when it comes to ministry roles, and then ask for their opinion about what you should be doing. God gave us friends as a means to seeing ourselves objectively, so utilize that gift from Him before worrying about your own.

Trust the perspective and feedback of the people God has put into your life before making a decision as big as leaving your church.

Instead of only looking to be filled, we should also pray, “God, how can I best serve You and this, Your body?”

2. It makes church about personal taste in worship styles.

The complaint: “I don't like the music here.”

I've lived on both sides of this complaint, in churches that were “too loud” and churches that were “too quiet.”

One of the things I tell my own congregation just about every Sunday is that worship is a choice.

While excellent music is an important thing, God can move in your heart through a organ and an old hymn. He can also speak to you over music that might be too loud. If you can endure to mow your lawn without hearing protection, I promise you can sit through 15-20 minutes of worship if you are in the church where God wants you to be.

3. It makes us too reliant on sermons as the only source of our spiritual growth.

The complaint: “The preaching isn’t deep enough. I’m not getting fed.

This attitude could be indicative of a couple problems.

First, ask yourself “Am I actually listening?” Much of the time, getting close to God doesn’t just involve a new revelation or deep discussions of doctrine and theology. We also have to be reminded of the simple—but truly profound—things that serve as the foundation of faith.

Second, ask yourself if it’s time to step into teaching. If you’re passionate about God’s Word, then it might be time to get off your pew and start a small group or ask to teach a class on a spiritual topic. God often teaches us when we are forced to teach others.

Let’s also be clear: If God can speak to me through the voice of my four-year-old (and many parents will attest to the same thing), then He can minister to you through what might seem like a surface-level sermon. Whatever you do, never stop listening, because you could miss God’s message for you.

4. It puts the focus on our needs, not the church's.

Are you seeing a common denominator through the list so far?

I’m not being fed…”

I’m not finding friends…”

“This music doesn’t really fit my style of worship…”

Anytime we start hearing those two pronouns come out of our mouths, there’s cause to look for dysfunction in our relationship with God and the Church.

Christ and His apostles lived lives of service. You’ll notice that the apostles weren’t overly concerned about any of the things I’ve listed here, instead, they prayed and slaved over how they might serve the church to the best of their abilities.

Too often, some people can treat church like a restaurant, judging it based things like atmosphere, service and hospitality. While those things are important, the more important thing to remember is that the Lord’s table is a family meal. Instead of only looking to be filled, we should also pray, “God, how can I best serve you and this, your body?”

I think if we started asking God those sorts of questions, we’d see that finding our place in the body of Christ isn’t so hard after all.

Top Comments

jpalm

32

jpalm commented…

These are 4 great points!

Perhaps this is semantics, but this article seems to address 4 [great] reasons to not leave a church rather than addressing why church hopping is unhealthy.

Although initially triggered by the same reasons, 'church hopping' might signify deeper heart issues like the inability to commit, the inability to 'suffer well' or address conflicts in the church community, the inability to settle into rhythms of grace and community that is 'messy', and what you mentioned a 'what-can-i-get-out-of-it' mentality.

Samuel Joseph Wilson

1

Samuel Joseph Wilson commented…

When church is treated like a business and propagated like a business, this is the result. We should not be surprised that if a leadership team at a church runs the organization in a business like fashion, that the end result will be a church business. In other words, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...it is probably a duck. And when a person doesn't like one business he/she finds another one that suits the needs.

9 Comments

Steve Cornell

344

Steve Cornell commented…

Good advice on something not often addressed! You might find interesting something I wrote up about leaving a Church. "When people leave a Church" https://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/when-people-leave-a-church-g...

Samuel Joseph Wilson

1

Samuel Joseph Wilson commented…

When church is treated like a business and propagated like a business, this is the result. We should not be surprised that if a leadership team at a church runs the organization in a business like fashion, that the end result will be a church business. In other words, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...it is probably a duck. And when a person doesn't like one business he/she finds another one that suits the needs.

Kenneth Bitgood

4

Kenneth Bitgood commented…

I wonder if the author of this article and the author of this other article here should talk:
http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/practical-faith/why-are-christians-s...

Christoph Koebel

5

Christoph Koebel commented…

Okay, as someone already mentioned the article does NOT answer the posted question. Is that the bad habit of many preachers. If nothing else than our Christian Colleges have a MAJOR impact on church-hopping or not going to church at all. My College (Canada) had once a policy about attendance for chapel service. Then they created a policy that it as up to the students. I spoke once at that College. One of the student told me later that she was sorry missing my chapel, because she had a meeting with a staff about her summer ministry. That evangelical College had chapel, but did not believe in its importance. As a mission recruiter I always ask students which church they attend. And I asked at the same College that very question. One student could not tell me that. Occasionally he went to a church, but he had not "his" church. A good survey would be the reason we attend the church we do. I'm at our current church for 20 years. Is it the preaching? Is it the worship style? Does it give me opportunities to use my gifts? Is there a particular program, whatever that is? Is it a group of friends I also interact outside the church service? Here I do not talk about a "small Group", but friends. Friends keep me at church. I feel to some degree the article gives reason/excuses why the church is what it is. My church had around 250 in attendance 20 years ago. Right now we're at 200-250. Some hopped away. Other hopped on. A 15 minute "worship session", as we experience it in many churches is more a reference to a "worship" band or team performing on the stage, hoping the audience joins them in their performance. On the other hand I attended a service in Istanbul/Turkey where the "worship" time lasted 2 hours. Yes there was a group, mostly kids from Christian workers, on the front. but there was spiritual interaction. People got up and shared prayer requests, shared their struggles and expressed their joy in spontaneous praise. And there were folks who were fearful. A few weeks earlier 3 Christians got killed in Eastern Turkey. Some were afraid that someone would follow them to church and would kill them on their way home. These are not made up stories. By the way I do not remember the sermon, but that worship time had a major impact in my life. One fellow from the US actually said; "This was worth the trip."

Mark McCullough

1

Mark McCullough commented…

With all due respect, I couldn't disagree more. If the church that I'm attending doesn't suit my taste or give me the sense that I have a role to fill, then--as a human being who responds as human beings do--I'm not going to engage nearly as fully as I otherwise might. At that point, it's time to find a different church. There are all sorts of churches offering all sorts of teaching and worship styles; the goal should be to find the church that brings one close to God and keeps one there. If a particular church's teaching style alienates me, then my attending that church serves no one. From personal experience, I spent too many years in obligatory attendance to a church that didn't suit me, simply because I had been raised in that denomination. I did my hour every Sunday, and carried nothing of the experience into the the rest of the week. I've been blessed now to have found a church that genuinely meshes with the me that God made, and it has made a world of difference. I am now Christian seven days a week because I'm fully engaged, rather than being a one-hour-a-week Christian because of a bad church fit.

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