Today I am writing to say to Christian people every where some simple words of advice: STOP THE HOP!!!
Church hopping...you've heard of this right? You may have even participated in it, but may have not even realized it. Church hopping is a modern day phenomenon that seems to increase by the year. What is it you wonder? Well technically speaking church hopping can be defined as going from one church to another over short periods of time without really committing to any one church for any significant period of time.
Ok, so now you are getting the picture, right? Having pastored here in Marion, Arkansas for the past 13+ years I have seen my share of church hoppers. In fact, there are so many church hoppers I am thinking they should start their own support group in town.
The hard-core church hopper goes into a church seeking something for self or for their family, but they never even makes an initial commitment. They perpetually float between churches, pursuing a Beth Moore study at First Assembly, the men’s group at First Baptist, youth group at the Methodist, children’s groups over at Bethel, New Bethel, Old Bethel, or Bethel # 2 while really gravitating toward the must at Fourth Pentecostal or the new unshaven, jean and sandal wearing pastor sitting on a stool making a "talk" over at the new non-denominational church in town. Simply put…Church hopping is the ultimate ‘it is all about me’ experience.” The hoppers take from various churches whatever they perceive to be of value without committing to any one church to stay, serve or support that church. At no point do real spiritual issues enter their minds, nor does the concept of commitment to God or His church get in the way of meeting their own shallow, spiritual search for the “serve me” experience.
There are many factors that could lead to church hopping. It is consumerism at its most basic form being brought into the church setting. It is also a reflection of the emotional and spiritual immaturity of many people. For example, if there is decision is made they don’t agree with, a building campaign is initiated they didn’t vote for, a staff change is made they didn’t like, or that certain staff member with so much charisma decides to leave for a new location, these people also leave for some new place. Whoever has the latest and greatest music leader, light show, “cool” preacher, new ministry, or whoever offers the least amount of resistance against their worldly lifestyle, they are present. Watch out…if you ever make them unhappy, challenge they way they live, expect more from them, want them to serve or join or be more involved or make a commitment in any way, then they are out of there!
What is my advice for people who need to STOP THE HOP? A couple of things:
First, you must realize that your church is not about you!
I hate to break that to you, but church does not exist to meet your needs or wants. Church is a place to worship God as you grow spiritually and use your gifts to meet the needs of others with the love of Jesus. It is a place to invest your life is something meaningful and eternal.
Secondly I want you to know that if your church does not offer a certain “ministry” you think it needs, then maybe God is calling you to start that ministry.
Third, you need the people of the church in a significant relationship.
When you invest no time or commitment into church, you do not grow relationships with people who can walk alongside you, hold you accountable, ministry with you and be there to help you when you may need it most! You need the community of believers.
Fourth, you must realize no “perfect church” exists.
Do you know why? Because the church is made up of people who are imperfect. You are not going agree with everyone all the time. Everything is not going to always be decided to suit your tastes or desires. At times you might get your feelings hurt and you might hurt the feelings of others. The same thing happens in every other area of life, but you don’t stop going to certain restaurants, Wal-Mart, ballgames, or the movie theater. Again, leaders have to think about everyone in the church and the future of the church. They are not thinking just about what you want to be done.
Fifth, you need to take responsibility for your own spiritual growth.
Your body does not get nourishment simply by walking through Kroger one week, Wal-Mart the next week, and Winn Dixie the third week. At some point you have to commit yourself and invest in the right kinds of food and feed yourself. The same is true at church. What happens in the church to grow you spiritual ought to be a bonus to your own time of daily growing with God. So NO…you do not come to church to be fed. You come to church to worship God, apply what you already know, and to help feed others who are new to the faith.
Finally, I think it is time to see what happens when your focus starts to be on the Lord and not on yourself when you walk through the doors of the church.
You will be shocked to learn that people in the church from leaders to teachers and others are not at church to worship you, fulfill your every desire, or to cater to your personal preferences. You will also be shocked to learn that people in church do genuinely care about you, want you to grow with them, be their friend, serve God with you, and want something in your life that is valuable and real that is only found in making a commitment first to the Lord and secondly to His church!