Beware the Dangers of Church Hopping

Beware the Dangers of Church Hopping

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

In the Bible, the early church seemed to consist of small groups meeting in a home, or perhaps a public area. The image is that towns or cities had only one group of believers meeting together. Even in the book of Revelation, Jesus’ words addressed churches as if each were a single group of people to whom he addressed his messages. Even then, he addressed “To the angel” of each specific church. (Revelation 2, 3)

Today, there are over 30,000 different Christian denominations. Can you even imagine that? 30,000. That certainly is a far cry, it would seem, from the unity Jesus talked about.

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity” (John 17:22-23a).

Depending on what part of the country you live in, there are churches of varying sizes, from small to the so-called “mega-churches,” where it sometimes seems so easy to get lost and so difficult for some to make connections.

On the other hand, could it be that sometimes people church-hop to avoid getting too deeply involved? So often today, we treat church like our personal entertainment experience. If we aren’t getting precisely the experience we desire, then we move on to the next event. We remain overly critical of every sermon, every song, every program, every… you name it. There are so many options open to us, we have a delicatessen of choices. 

The Bible really has nothing specific to say about the issue of church-hopping, but it has much to say about the purpose of the church. Perhaps, then, we need to look at what impact church-hopping has on fulfilling that purpose.

Church Community

Church attendance was apparently an issue at some point, as the author of Hebrews addressed the matter specifically:

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

The author specifically associates “meeting together” with spurring one another on toward love and good deeds and encouraging one another. The author mentions “…as you see the Day approaching,” being Christ’s return. Of course, we are closer now to the Day than ever before. Shouldn’t we be prepared? Shouldn’t we have oil in our lamps (Matthew 25:1-4)?

Throughout the Bible, the church is referred to as the body of Christ:

Then, in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul provides a detailed description of the church as the body of Christ:

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).

Then, only a few short verses later, Paul tells his readers that they are the body of Christ and each of them is a part of it. 

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

And, lest we think the references are only to the entire church, multiple verses can be found which use the Greek word ecclesia – referring to the local assembly, baptized under one Holy Spirit and set apart to use our gifts to God’s glory (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Corinthians 11:8).

In Ephesians 2:19-22, Paul likens the church to a building – the household of God.

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

A household – like a family – is designed by God to be one family. One community of believers who work together, care for each other, help each other in times of need, hold each other up, and are there for one another. We are to come together to be vulnerable and confess our sins to each other. In other words, a community of Christ followers who do life together, and live for God’s kingdom and glory.

Impact on the Church

The church-hopping syndrome has had an effect on the effectiveness of our local churches to create disciples. When believers spend minimal time together, then there is no community built. There is little to no opportunity for bonds to grow or for spiritual gifts to be discovered or exercised. There is no opportunity to learn the challenges others face and to encourage each other. There is little chance for the local Christian community to reach out together as the hands and feet of Jesus. 

Moreover, the chances of the Holy Spirit moving within and about the congregation is significantly reduced. To paraphrase author Terry Wardle, we have moved from being people of the Presence to being people of the program – we attend church standing shoulder to shoulder with many others, yet alone in the same place. It was A.W. Tozer’s opinion that if the Holy Spirit departed from the churches in America – 95% of them would not experience a significant change. A pretty sad commentary.

The problem this creates is that the Holy Spirit empowers Christ’s church to be witnesses for him. In Jesus own words:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

In Acts 2, Jesus poured out his Holy Spirit on the church during Pentecost and by doing so, filled it with incredible, supernatural spiritual life. This empowered the disciples to step out, unafraid of the repercussions, preaching the good news of Christ Jesus. That day alone, 3000 people gave their lives to Christ.

Today, many churches find that it is easier to grow through “sheep-stealing” – the result of people leaving other churches – than through evangelism. In other words, church-hopping. The trend has caused many pastors to be a bit uneasy when it comes to working together with other churches in their community, lest their members be attracted away.

The lack of community is compromising how the outside world sees us and is helping to destroy our witness. We have left outsiders with a view of “church” as simply somewhere full of hypocrites going through the motions of rules, rites and rituals. Let’s face it – the Christian community is well-known more for our disagreement than our love for each other. A pretty poor witness to the non-believing world. 

Paul was rather adamant in his critique of such division:

“What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:11-13).

In many ways, the lack of true Church community as a result of church-hopping has weakened the power of the local church. It has left many – too many – ineffective and powerless.

This trend goes directly to what Paul wrote to his protégé Timothy:

“People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:2-5).

Are we at risk of losing our first love? Could it be that, like the church in Laodicea, the Church here in America has become rich and needs nothing? Have we become lukewarm? (Revelation 2:4-5; 3:15-17)

Impact on the Believer

Unfortunately, we see far too many believers who are harsh, critical, judgmental, rude, greedy, you name it. Where we should show grace, instead we show no mercy, but rather we only offer blame and shame to others – demanding that even non-believers follow Biblical values. We are so often critical of our local church leadership – and rather than offering grace, we move on. 

Yet, Church was never meant to be simply a place to go on Sundays. It was not meant to be simply an appealing program or good sermon. The body of Christ is meant to be a lifestyle. A togetherness. A place to grow in Christ with other believers. To “one another” one another. Christians are called to be different from the rest of the world – the ecclesia. We are meant to demonstrate we are Christ-followers by how we love one another. By how we live together in community. It means being people who are kind, caring, generous, patient, and compassionate toward our neighbors.

In other words, we are called to be just like Jesus. 

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-6).

How can we grow with people we have never taken the time to get to know? How can we encourage – or be encouraged – by fellow believers who are nothing but strangers to us?

Oh sure, sometimes it’s easy to simply show up to church without ever being really known. No one needs to know the sins we struggle with or the anxieties we experience. We don’t need to express where we lack wisdom or need guidance. After all, we can do it on our own. We can get there alone. Sadly – this could very well be a reason many people change churches so often. They can avoid being accountable to others for their “lifestyle.” They don’t need to be accountable to anyone, or to confess their sins to others and seek spiritual growth. After all, they can simply do as they choose and follow their own path.

God never intended for us to walk through life alone. We are meant to go through the ups and downs together. This is the experience lost on a “church-hopper.” The love. The togetherness. The growth in Christ and in the Holy Spirit. Someone to turn to who will understand. Someone who will be there with us – in celebration and in loss. And together, learn “how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together…”

Let’s “One Another” Together

The call to unity is not exactly hidden in the pages of Scripture, and church-hopping is a built-in enemy working directly against those commands.

The phrase “one another” appears over 100 times in the New Testament. Most of these are specific commands for how we are to relate to each other – mutually.

Be devoted to one another and honor one another above ourselves. (Romans 12:10)

Build up one another. (Romans 14:191 Thessalonians 5:11)

Care for one another; be at peace with one another; accept one another; forgive one another. But perhaps the most important – and most impressive – was given to us by Jesus. To love one another (John 13:34

Christianity was always meant to be a team sport. Everyone working together toward one common good – the kingdom of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

Photo credit: Unsplash/Channel 82

SWN authorGreg Grandchamp is the author of "In Pursuit of Truth, A Journey Begins" — an easy-to-read search that answers to most common questions about Jesus Christ. Was he real? Who did he claim to be? What did he teach? Greg is an everyday guy on the same journey as everyone else — in pursuit of truth. You can reach Greg by email  and on Facebook