One of the most annoying things for a pastor are the hoppers. Those dirty, dirty church hoppers. In 20 years I have been part of three churches. I pride myself in loyalty. And as a leader for the last 13, I have hated the heart-break!
I took time that could have been invested watching Netflix and wasted it on loving them, encouraging them and teaching them. Still, they left. Adios. Arrivederci. Sayonara. And all that remained was the hope that I did not have to see them at the neighbourhood restaurant for the awkward, “I have to say Hi because you used to come to my church but you’re not my friend anymore” chat.
Then I had a revelation, I was being the jerk. I was seeing these sons and daughters as another number to make me feel better about my leadership. I spent time with them because I wanted to get them to buy into what I was selling. Collect cash, fill a seat and move on to the next customer.
Yes, it’s super wrong. But we all fall into the trap of treating others as accesories to our plans and ambitions. (Read More on Dying to Ambition)
Thank God for the Holy Spirit, and his kind rebukes.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a huge fan of staying. But I have allowed my heart to see the other side of the story. So now I’m cool with my church hopping family members. I’m not one of them, but I am one with them in Christ.
Here are my honest (still processing) thoughts on The Benefits of Church Hopping:
Church hopping allows you to get a taste of a variety of churches. Something we “faithful” should be more open to. We get so used to our current family-bubble, that all other expressions of the Christian faith seem wrong, or incomplete, or not even Christian. Get out and visit a catholic mass, or attend a methodist meeting, or a fiery pentecostal congregation. You might discover how much of Jesus is hidden in them.
Church hopping allows for different needs to be met. There is not one church in the world that reaches every demographic. Some are missing a “Good Looking Singles Group” or a “Life After Ministry Support Gathering.” So don’t be afraid to explore other communities that might have what you’re looking for in this junction of your journey.
Kind of Ironic, Sometimes True Benefits:
Church hopping keep pastors humble, or angry, or cofused as to why another potential faithful has hopped. This leads them to seek God’s face. A very good thing for pastors to do.
Church hopping reminds the leadership team that humans are impossible to control. It’s a “free will” exposé. After all the hugs and meals and good sermons, the hopper leaves and we are reminded again that no matter how many special programs we have, humans are humans and they do what they think is best… and that’s ok.
Church hopping exposes the level of tribalism a local church might be in. If the faithful feel like the hopper was “sinning” by leaving, then you know that they see themselves as a tribe with a chief who controls a piece of land. As oppose to part of the body of Christ, working for His kingdom. Don’t hop… run!
The (I can’t control myself so I have to say it) Non-Benefits:
Church hopping might steal the joy of deep connection. There’s already a good amount of pretending in church. It’s not until you start talking about your porn/food/church-hopping/Netflix addiction when you finally start to be the church. A family of healing. The community of the broken. A gathering of the grateful. Please, don’t miss out.
Church hopping makes gossip feel legitimate. You tell the new pastor of how bad the old pastor was. You’re trying to validate your leaving by assuring him that it won’t happen again because, “this church is so much better.” He pretends he does not want to hear it but this tickles his insecurities with fake assurance. The problem is that you end up looking like a gossip. And you might also end the judgments you were sowing. You’re better than that! If you need to go… move with grace, leave in forgiveness and hold your peace.
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Church hopping takes away growth. It’s basic biology. A plant grows when it’s planted. If the roots are good and the soil is fertile, it has the potential to bear much fruit. Being part of a local church allows you to get deep into the ground. It’s the perfect environment for you to develop, get stretched, be shaken and eventually become a strong tree by the river.
“When a person becomes a Christian, he doesn’t just join a local church because it’s a good habit for growing in spiritual maturity. He joins a local church because it’s the expression of what Christ has made him—a member of His own body.”
There are good reasons and different seasons for hopping. We understand. But it’s possible to miss out on some of the best things local church has to offer. Some people take longer to make decisions and commit, and that’s ok. Jesus loves you no matter where you go, when you go or why you go. Just make sure you’re following the Holy Spirit, and play nice in the search.
Hopping is attractive, but only for a short period. Find the right family and commit to it. It’s not about control, it’s about maturity and surrender. I wrote in my book Designed for Inheritance, “Independence in the Kingdom is a sign of sickness, not freedom. This is not a Lone Ranger’s gospel. This is the story of a family.”
We were designed for community and relationship. I really do love you sweet hoppers, but all the churches you visit are part of The Church of Jesus… as in The Bride of Christ!
Do you really want keep treating her like a one-night-stand?
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