I know a family that changes churches every 18-24 months. In the eight years I’ve known them, I know they have been active attendees or members of 4 churches. This pattern is very troubling to me, and while this family is an extreme example, this problem is all too common. We’ve become a society of consumers, and how we view our church attendance is really no different. We are all looking for a church that packages its product the way we like it. For some people, any excuse to leave a church will do. With this in mind, here are some reasons why I think church hopping is a bad for a Christian’s spiritual health. In no particular order:
- It makes you a critic and not a humble learner. A person who finds himself hopping from church to church over a short period of time approaches every church situation with a critical eye having in mind a particular list of characteristics that he expects a church to fulfill. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have certain priorities in mind when we’re deciding where to worship, but the church hopper’s default position is to be critical and this makes it difficult for him to be a humble learner. A person cannot learn when he is always looking for someone else to make a mistake. There is no church that will satisfy in every way, the church hopper uses this reality as an excuse to move on.
- It promotes a lack of community. In 13 years of marriage, my wife and I have lived in three states. One thing we’ve found to be consistently true for us is that the first year in a new place is tough. It is hard to find a church and build relationships. We’ve found that it takes two to three years to really build authentic community. The church hopper never really experiences the benefits of community because they aren’t around long enough, and their critical nature keeps them from allowing themselves to vulnerable enough for authentic community to happen.
- It promotes a lack of authenticity. For the extreme church hopper, this is likely the reason they keep moving on. Some church hoppers are hopping because they are hiding a sense of shame, and they really don’t want to be known by others. The fact is that if you are around the same people long enough, you will see their flaws, and they will see yours. It is not a bad thing to know the flaws of others, nor is it a bad thing for someone to know yours. It is in working through our flaws together that we learn true patience and love for one another in Christ. This sort of authenticity, though sometimes difficult, is really important to our spiritual growth and for the health of the church as a whole. The church hopper never gets to experience the sort of authenticity that fosters spiritual growth in Christ.
- It avoids accountability. Related to authentic community, accountability to our brothers and sisters is important for our spiritual maturity. Some church hoppers hop because they refuse to deal with conflict or refuse to repent when there is a legitimate sin issue in their lives that is affecting the health of the church.
- It shows a propensity to be like our culture and not like Christ. Our culture is built upon consumerism. Take more and more, consume more and more. Expand your territory. The Church is built on upon the sacrifice of Christ. The Church is supposed to represent a culture of sacrificial giving to others for their benefit. The church hopper is a consumer who is looking to take for themselves in order to fill their bottomless pit of neediness.
- It allows us to make our “pet issues” primary. There are all sorts of issues that divide Christians and churches. Most of these are really issues of secondary importance, but human nature being what it is, we all want to win the argument. When we desperately need others to agree with us this is a sign of our own insecurity. Many people church hop because they can’t stand the thought that they might be wrong on some of these secondary issues and they are looking for a group to reinforce their beliefs on secondary issues. This is bad for our spiritual health because it does not allow us to really listen to the voices of other Christians and makes our view of Christianity very narrow. Worse, it can cause us to view our fellow Christians in a self-righteous way, denigrating their faith because they don’t agree with us over something secondary.
Are there any other reasons you might add to the list?