There’s a movement that has woven its way into the lives of many millennials. It defies the tradition of our elders and makes something once rebellious seem normal.
They’re “church hoppers.” They irritate church pastors, and they’re often dubbed shallow spiritual consumers.
But are they?
These individuals defy the church-traditions of many eras before us by attending different services week-by-week. They often fly below the radar and experience the Church in their own way. As I journeyed into it personally, and talked with other church-hoppers, I discovered some important things.
1. Church Is About Relationships
Contrary to the semantics of American Christian culture, “church” is people. It’s the people of God in all their glorious mess and beauty. This church is not the event or service we normally refer to, but instead it’s the people these services hunger to bring together in relationships.
And whether your church service experience is liturgical, charismatic, traditional, contemporary, church-planty or a house church, you will find true Church—these people—in every single one.
And if all of this is true, then we have to think about church in the context of relationships, not buildings and styles.
Simply hopping from service to service without connection does a true disservice to all that a church offers. There is freedom, depth and life to be experienced when you throw yourself into a trusted, safe community.
So, the true question may not be whether or not church hopping is right or wrong, but instead, if you have a community that sees you, knows you, loves you and challenges you consistently, regardless of where you attend on Sunday.
2. It Will Be Exactly What You Make It
Church hopping can be done with or without intention. And quite frankly, the process will usually give you exactly what you ask for.
For example, if you’re church hopping with the intention of experiencing diversity, chances are you’ll experience it if you’re intentional about it.
However, if you are looking to just consume, or remain unattached relationally for whatever reason, it’s safe to say that you’ll probably succeed if you can avoid the greeters at the welcome door. Our motives and values often drive us in every decision we make; don’t let church-hopping slip through the cracks without really understanding why you do it.
3. Beware of the Pendulum Swing
Balance is something we all tirelessly strive for, and our experience with church culture is no different. Believers tend to grow attached to a very particular way of “doing church”—whether that’s a particular methodology, theology or structure.
They attach to this until they get burned, and often the reflex response is the proverbial pendulum swing to the exact opposite.
Do you blame them?
We’ve all been hurt and wounded, and it sometimes just feels safe to run as far away from the hurt as possible. Sometimes, this is why people church hop. The thought of committing to another church body sounds risky, so they pendulum swing and neglect commitment altogether.
On the other end, some hop churches in order to find balance.
They enjoy the worship at this mega-church, while they’re better able to connect relationally at a smaller, more intimate community. Balance is good, but our tendency to pendulum swing is strong, so again: Understand why you church hop.
4. Church Doesn’t Make Us More Holy
We throw church hoppers under the bus, because they’re defying a lot of the traditions we’ve always known. But realistically, there are many who actually attend one church on Sundays, even at a membership level and yet still practice the pendulum swing, unintentionality and relational avoidance.
I think a proper response as the people of God is to love, regardless of where or how often someone may attend a given church.
We tend to judge when our feathers are ruffled, as if it’s personal and we need to seek justice for the greater body of Christ; but realistically, our church practices are not what make us holy.
As the people of God, we have already been made holy and righteous through Jesus. When this reality really hits you at a faith level, we can begin to love each other well and have healthy conversations about a healthy church life.
Instead of fighting one another about the rights and wrongs, let’s follow in the footsteps of Jesus and love each other into a real relationship—on Sundays, and every other day of the week, too.