I grew up as a pastor’s kid. I am now on the road to becoming a pastor myself, working as the Worship and Creative Director at my church. Through this time, I’ve come into contact with a certain type of people.
I’m here to save you from their fate—the fate of the Church Hoppers.
These people are usually nice, but there’s something in them that won’t let them stay anywhere too long, and every few years they decide that something is wrong with their current church and they leave to go elsewhere.
Now, I will allow that some churches need leaving, and there are legitimate reasons for finding a new a church at times. But, I want to address the main complaints I’ve heard and why those complaints shouldn’t be good enough.
Here are four problems with church hopping:
1. It puts the focus on what we feel like we should be doing in the church.
The complaint: “I’m know I’m called to ____ and I don’t feel like I can do that here …”
Proverbs 26:12 will shed some light on this one: “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
Sometimes we have the wrong idea about our calling, and despite our greatest hopes, God has slotted us for something else that appears to be boring or less glamorous than what we think we should be doing. But that’s why God gives us friends and leaders.
If you’re having trouble finding your ministry sweet spot, first admit to your friends and leaders that perhaps you’ve had the wrong idea about yourself when it comes to ministry roles, and then ask for their opinion about what you should be doing. God gave us friends as a means to seeing ourselves objectively, so utilize that gift from Him before worrying about your own.
Trust the perspective and feedback of the people God has put into your life before making a decision as big as leaving your church.
2. It makes church about personal taste in worship styles.
The complaint: “I don’t like the music here.”
I’ve lived on both sides of this complaint, in churches that were “too loud” and churches that were “too quiet.”
One of the things I tell my own congregation just about every Sunday is that worship is a choice.
While excellent music is an important thing, God can move in your heart through a organ and an old hymn. He can also speak to you over music that might be too loud. If you can endure to mow your lawn without hearing protection, I promise you can sit through 15-20 minutes of worship if you are in the church where God wants you to be.
3. It makes us too reliant on sermons as the only source of our spiritual growth.
The complaint: “The preaching isn’t deep enough. I’m not getting fed.”
This attitude could be indicative of a couple problems.
First, ask yourself “Am I actually listening?” Much of the time, getting close to God doesn’t just involve a new revelation or deep discussions of doctrine and theology. We also have to be reminded of the simple—but truly profound—things that serve as the foundation of faith.
Second, ask yourself if it’s time to step into teaching. If you’re passionate about God’s Word, then it might be time to get off your pew and start a small group or ask to teach a class on a spiritual topic. God often teaches us when we are forced to teach others.
Let’s also be clear: If God can speak to me through the voice of my four-year-old (and many parents will attest to the same thing), then He can minister to you through what might seem like a surface-level sermon. Whatever you do, never stop listening, because you could miss God’s message for you.
4. It puts the focus on our needs, not the church’s.
Are you seeing a common denominator through the list so far?
“I’m not being fed…”
“I’m not finding friends…”
“This music doesn’t really fit my style of worship…”
Anytime we start hearing those two pronouns come out of our mouths, there’s cause to look for dysfunction in our relationship with God and the Church.
Christ and His apostles lived lives of service. You’ll notice that the apostles weren’t overly concerned about any of the things I’ve listed here, instead, they prayed and slaved over how they might serve the church to the best of their abilities.
Too often, some people can treat church like a restaurant, judging it based things like atmosphere, service and hospitality. While those things are important, the more important thing to remember is that the Lord’s table is a family meal. Instead of only looking to be filled, we should also pray, “God, how can I best serve you and this, your body?”
I think if we started asking God those sorts of questions, we’d see that finding our place in the body of Christ isn’t so hard after all.
Joey is the Worship and Creative Director at Resurrection Life Church in Big Rapids, Michigan, where he also leads the church's college ministry. He loves folk music, fly-fishing and netflixing with his wife, Abigail. You can read more of Joey's thoughts at medium.com/@the_joeyc or follow him on Twitter at @the_JoeyC.