Every church has had them.
People who join your church. Excited to serve. Faithful to attend every function.
Then they disappear.
You hear through the grapevine that they are attending somewhere else now. Excited to serve. Faithful to attend every function.
There is a generally understood term for this. It’s called “church hopping”.
There are some people for whom this is a cycle. They join our churches either by a letter or a statement of faith. They are faithful for a few years. Then they become discontent and the urge hits to find somewhere new to attend. Whether they become disgruntled, or the excitement of being the “new members” wears off, they always seem to find some reason to start searching for greener pastures. Perhaps they think, “There has to be somewhere better than this.” I have news.
There’s probably not.
While certainly there are legitimate reasons to leave a church, such as unbiblical teaching or unbiblical practices, or, of course, moving to a new city, if you are habitually “hopping” from church to church to church, most likely the problem isn’t the churches. It’s you.
Church life definitely has its ups and downs. Our congregations are full of imperfect people who can sometimes clash and disagree. We are made of different personalities, different age groups, different financial statuses. You name it. But the thing is, we all have one thing in common.
When we belong to a church body, inevitably there will be tough seasons. But we stick it out. When we are committed to the body of Christ we have chosen to serve with, we don’t bail when things get a little boring, or demanding, or frustrating. Anyone who says they haven’t been frustrated in church life is not being truthful. Personally I don’t know anyone who has said they have always been perfectly happy in their church. But, like in a faithful marriage, we press on, knowing we will get through the storms, and that bluer skies will come again. If we are always focusing on ourselves or getting our own way, we will never be satisfied in any church we join.
It is always very puzzling to me to see someone church hop between extremely different denominations. This is a cause for concern, because it shows a huge lack of theological understanding. There is very little spiritual depth if a person can be saved for years, but jump from Southern Baptist, to Methodist, then jump headfirst into the NAR. Beth Moore and her recent “hop” from lifelong Southern Baptist to a liturgical Anglican Church comes to mind. Of course, she is not a known church hopper, but the theological differences between the SBC and Anglican make it a concern about what she really believes scripturally. ( not that this hasn’t been a concern with Beth for a long time ) Not all church differences are huge, but if you can “church hop” between a theologically solid church and a heretical one without noticing a difference, you have some serious issues understanding doctrine. Just because you hear “Jesus died on the cross” in a church does not make it doctrinally sound. Even Satan believes Jesus died on the cross.
Here are my suggestions going forward if you are a church hopper.
Examine yourself. My first suggestion for anyone who is church hopping would be to first examine your heart and determine if you have truly put your faith in Christ for salvation. It could be that you are never content anywhere because you have never truly been converted. An unbeliever will never really be comfortable with God’s people, or hearing sermons that convict them of their sin. When an unbeliever hears the gospel they will either be drawn to it, or they will reject it. If sermons that convict you of sin make you uncomfortable, maybe this is the first step you should take in determining your constant need to move.
Repent. If you ARE a follower of Christ, but are in the cycle of moving from church to church, acknowledge that you are guilty of perpetual discontentment and running out, likely leaving them in a bind because of the ministry hole you have left when you bailed. It’s possible you have never thought about the problem you created when your Sunday school class no longer had a teacher, or your spot needed to be filled in the nursery rotation. If you had no biblical reason to leave, and you didn’t talk with the pastor about any issues you were having, and try to do everything possible to stay, then you were in the wrong to vanish with no warning.
Figure out what you believe. You need to do an assessment of exactly what you believe theologically. If you don’t believe in infant baptism, then why are you in a church that practices it? If you don’t ascribe to speaking in tongues or miracle healings, then why are you ok with attending a church that believes in these things? A cessationist couldn’t in good conscience attend an NAR church like Bethel or Hillsong. You need to be in theological alignment with the church body you belong to. *At least on most things. Some secondary beliefs may be different.
Find a church and STAY PUT. After you determine what it is you believe theologically, find a church that lines up with those beliefs. It may take a while to find one. You may have to visit a few to find what is right for you. But talk to the pastor, asking about what the church believes and what they practice. If it is a good fit, make a plan to join, but most importantly, make a plan to STAY. If you have been in the habit of being in a revolving door of churches, make a conscious decision that you will stop this cycle. Plant your flag, so to speak, and determine to stay and tough out the boredom or the ruts. Don’t decide to run out when the going gets tough. If the pastor steps on your toes, don’t get mad and jump ship. Here’s the truth: If a pastor never says anything that convicts you, there’s a problem. Don’t just attend somewhere that tells you what you want to hear. Be someone who is willing to hear the truth of God’s word, and let it change you.
Don’t let your children steer the ship. If you are a family that switches churches because your teens or “tweens” are whining about church and say they will be happier somewhere else, let me tell you something. They won’t. If your children are dictating where you attend church, you need to quit cowing down to such behavior and lead your children. Don’t let them lead you. Don’t be such a weak parent, that you cave in to such manipulation. Especially in such important issues as your church membership. Don’t let the tail wag the dog. Find the church that is best for your family, make it known to your children that this is your church home, and that they WILL attend. And for goodness sake, don’t let them attend somewhere else, separate from you.
Church hopping is truly a destructive habit that some can get into. But bad habits can and must be broken. Serve your church faithfully and make it known that you can be depended on to be there. Your church needs you. And YOU need your church. Church is family. And you don’t bail on family when times get hard.
And let me just say, if you are in the habit of being out of church for a while, go back! It’s a new year. Start it off by making a purposeful decision to be in worship in your church home. If you haven’t joined the church you’re attending, why not? Talk to the pastor about joining and make a commitment to serve! We are commended in scripture to do so.