A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Church Hoppers

March 1st, 2011

My cousin Jack serves as pastor of Buffalo Springs Community Church, just outside Lubbock, Texas. When he started there he was told they had a tradition of the pastor doing a children’s sermon during the service. Turns out the tradition had begun only six weeks before he got there. But he accepted it as part of worship on Sunday morning.

Each week they sent an empty coffee can home with one kid. The kid could place anything he or she wanted in the can, put the lid on and bring it back on Sunday. When it was time for the children’s sermon they’d hand the coffee can to the pastor and he’d have to do an on the spot lesson based on whatever he found inside the can.

One Sunday Jack opened the lid to find a blue plastic frog. What to do? Creation? The plague of frogs from Exodus? Jack came up with something else. He talked about “church hoppers”. People who go from church to
church but never settle in one place, never plug in and commit to being members of a local community of Christ followers.

The kids loved it. Some of the adults? Not so much. One couple, who evidently happened to be doing some pretty regular hopping chose not to come back.

I admit that church hopping is something that bothers me, too.

We are, to a large degree, products of our culture. It seems especially true when it comes to the American Christian sub-culture. We’re a consumer society. We are blessed, and one could argue cursed, with innumerable choices. If we don’t like a particular cafe, we find a different one at which to dine. If we’re not enamored with the Ford we purchased, we trade it for a Nissan. Even our daily minute to minute decisions are consumer driven. Ever sit and channel surf on your TV? We give a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to a given program in three seconds or less. We like what we like. And we want what we want. And we want it when we want it. Which means we want it now.

This consumer mentality carries over to how we view church. Don’t like the preaching? Go to another church. Don’t like the music? Go to another church. Don’t like the youth program? Go to another church. Encounter someone who isn’t easy to get along with? Go to another church. It’s called “church hopping”. More accurately, it’s church shopping. And it’s not healthy. Or Biblical.

Lubbock, Texas is sometimes referred to as “the buckle of the Bible Belt”. There are around 300 churches in the area, give or take a couple sets of pews. If a person wanted to, they could visit a different church every Sunday for nearly six years. And the way some of us hop around, both here and across the country, it’s a wonder more churches haven’t installed revolving doors.

Too many Christians possess an attitude of “what can the church do for me?” And, for good or bad, churches cater to that consumer mentality. Planning meetings are based on the question, “What can we do to attract people to our church?” They invest in modern facilities, contemporary music styles and technology. In many churches today there are just as many people scrolling through the morning’s Scripture text on their smart phones as are flipping the pages of their Bible.

There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s crucial that we be relevant to the culture we live in. In fairness, part of the reason for church hopping is that some congregations are living in the past and refuse to do whatever it takes to communicate God’s truth in today’s reality. It’s not practical to ask people who live in a graphic intensive, high tech culture to go back in time 40 years on Sunday morning and expect them to relate. God’s truth is always fresh, never stale or antiquated. Wise are the churches who work hard to communicate with relevance.

That said, the bells and whistles of a particular church are not the issue. The issue is committing to a group of Christ followers where we live. Or as the Bible calls it, “the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-16).

The Bible talks about you and I as members of the body of Christ. We’ve each one been given unique talents and skills and abilities by God to use for the building of His Kingdom. Ephesians 2:10 describes them as “the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do.”

Yet instead of asking ourselves, “How has God gifted me to contribute to His local church?”, too many of us hop from church to church asking, “What can this place do for me?” That egocentric approach is a recipe for disaster. There’s no place (or person, for that matter) that will always be able to meet all our needs. If the focus is on our needs, it is inevitable that we will be disappointed. And because the focus has been our needs, the problem will never be our fault. It will be the church’s fault. And that’s when the enemy steps in and whispers sweet lies in our ear.

“You don’t need to put up with this. There’s a perfect church out there for you. A church with no politics. A church where every song is your favorite. A church that will meet all your needs and the relationships will be easy and free of disagreement.”

Really. It’s out there. Somewhere. The enemy says, “Just keep hopping till you find it.”

Of course, it’s a lie. There is no such place. Yet if the enemy can keep you hopping, then he can keep you disconnected. When he keeps you disconnected, he keeps your God-given talents and abilities from being offered and used within in a group of Christ followers. Without your God-given gifts and talents, without the life experience you bring, the body of Christ is less than it was intended to be.

When we continually hop around, the body of Christ suffers. And the devil wins.

It’s not about finding the perfect church. There is no such place. After I joined Turning Point in the fall of 2007, I was asked to share with the congregation my experience of being a first time visitor there. In concluding my remarks I said to them, “I know Turning Point isn’t a perfect church. And if it was before, it’s not anymore. Because I’m here now.”

Do your homework. Pray about it. Then pick a church and plug in. Quit hopping around. Offer your God-given talents and abilities. Bring to that group of people your life experience that is unique to you. And in doing so commit to that church for better or worse. It might be a mega church or a house church. It really doesn’t matter. They’re all made up of imperfect people, just like you, who are loved by a perfect God.

You’ll be surprised how far God will take you when you quit hopping around.

“But, speaking the truth in love, may we grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” – Ephesians 4:15-16

Todd A. Thompson – ASliceOfLifeToGo.com