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david zaitzeff

January 21, 2014  8:46pm

The Bible says, Let all things be done to edification. Whether one church hops should be evaluated in terms of edification happening or not . . . Church hopping can be good or it can be poor . . . there is no one statement we can use for all persons at all times. Church hopping for some people at some points in their lives is what is most edifying for them; if not, they would probably spot the fact that being in a single committed church is better and go to that only. It is not the place of some Christians to make up rules for other Christians on a matter such as this, any more than it would be to make up rules for others saying they should marry or stay single, keep the Sabbath or Sunday or another day, etc. It is also not the place of some Christians to speculate about hidden and self-serving motives on the part of other Christians. Paul rejects that in I Cor 4:5. Romans 14. 4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant?

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Theodore Wright

October 22, 2013  9:12am

Actually church hopping is the Biblical model for fellowship and ministry. Acts 2:46 (KJV): And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Acts 5:42 (KJV): And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. Read more... http://maverickchristians.com/2012/05/03/church-floating-biblical-model-fel lowship-ministry/

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KAZIMIERZ BEM

February 02, 2013  9:37pm

I first encountered church-hopping when I moved from Poland to the West during college. Before I came I was confirmed Presbyterian, a member of the Polish Reformed Church. When I moved to Amsterdam, I joined the local Presbyterian (Church of Scotland) congregation. If there were none, I would have joined a Dutch Reformed congregation. I always stay with my mainline Reformed roots - now I serve a UCC congregation as a pastor. I think I am one of the last folks who actually transferred their membership as I moved to other places - but my theological allegiance stayed the same. I think the reason why church hoppers hop is related to the death of denominational allegiance in the US.

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Grady Walton

February 01, 2013  1:06pm

Susan Spicer, I think your experience is very common for us introverts. It seems like the modern church is run by extroverts. It is estimated that 25 to 50 % of the population tends to be introverted. Without knowing it, the modern high-energy social church is alienating a large percentage of the congregation. (Pleeease stop asking me to meet, greet and even hug people mid way through the service . . . aargh!:-) By the way, the original founders of the American colonies could be considered church hoppers. Were they not fleeing the constraints of the Old World church in Europe?

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Susan Spicer

February 01, 2013  12:30am

I have found that every church I have ever attended is cliquish. Generally run by the most dominant members, and after a brief welcome, new attendees are expected to barge right in, sign up for everything, socialize like there's no tomorrow and get into the clique. If you don't do this right away, you are considered standoffish and little efffort is made to include you. I'm an introvert myself and always have a difficult time with this dynamic. I like to get to know the environment, people and programs before jumping into everything. I also really enjoy the more academic aspects of church and less so the social. This typically does not go over very well. I used to church hop a bit, hoping to find a better fit, but no luck. I settled down for my kids, but now do not attend much. Not sure what I will do in the future. And BTW, I have not had any problems fitting in or adjusting to other groups in my life (work, neighbors, school). Very curious.

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Kathi Vande Guchte

January 31, 2013  7:13pm

Pop Seal - really, in your in-depth studies of people who go from church to church this is what you came up with? Was this a blind study? Did you question each person you targeted, or is this just a voyeuristic snap assumption about people you've never met, nor would you reach out to do so.

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catherine howell

January 31, 2013  3:02pm

"Our perseverance is the context for Hebrews 10:24-25, often used by pastors to challenge members to commit to a church: "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." The passage refers to some who have downshifted to church-free lives, but also offers us a helpful way to support other church hoppers." How can the true "church" ever have a church free life??? The point I would like to make is that "we" the "believers" are the "Church." Every time we come in contact with people, wherever that may be, there is the potential to minister to those we see, daily. Are we doing this? Spurring one another on and strengthening one another can happen in many different settings that does not have a huge org, attached to it. Are we accountable to God and other believers? Do we love as He has loved us?

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RICHARD HANNER

January 30, 2013  6:33pm

The absence of biblcal reference screams loudly. If the premise is true that is being advocated, most would have abandoned St. Paul's church plant in Corinth. Imagine that, leaving the church of the greatest church planter who wrote the bulk of the New Testament based upon the reality that it was disfunctional, relationally fragmented, prejudiced toward the elite, excessive with alcohol,chaotic with gifts, suing one another in court, allowing incest and promoting false doctrine. However, Paul addresses those who departed as revealing those who remained as genuine and approved of God. Just sayin!

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Kirk Miller

January 30, 2013  3:50pm

I don't believe you made a single argument in pure favor of "church hopping." You argued that it's better than giving up on "church" altogether. That's a quite unsatisfactory and unconvincing argument. From experience I know quite well what it's like to have "bad experiences" with churches. Some use such experiences as an excuse to be uncommitted to a local church. But theology must always trump our emotions and desires. So, "having difficulties with the church," in my opinion, is absolutely no excuse. The problem with many "church hoppers" is their priorities. Too many place an improper priority on things such as "worship music," teen programs, etc. Instead, they ought to recognize that no church is going to fit their exact preference. But that's not with which the church is concerned. It's not about "consumer" preference. It's about service and God's glory. Find a church that prioritizes the Gospel, has sound doctrine, and lives obediently, commit yourself to it, and get involved.

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Grady Walton

January 30, 2013  3:25pm

The reasons why people church hop are legion. But I know one: The essential ministries in the modern church limit the types of gifts and skills needed from folks in the pews. In other words, if you don’t play a musical instrument, sing well, teach children’s Sunday school, lead men’s or women’s ministries, lead home groups, maintain the financial books, wield technology like a god, or sit on the church board, well, you are out of luck. (For instance, putting an introvert in the role of Sunday-morning-greeter is not the best allocation of resources.) That leaves cleaning the rest rooms. (Hey, not a bad proposition now that I think about it.) If your passions and skills don’t fit the church’s needs, there is not a lot of enthusiasm for your interests. That’s one reason why this hopper hopped.

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Pop Seal

January 30, 2013  10:07am

The more you have of anything, the less valuable that commodity becomes. With a church on every street corner, if you 'hit a bump' at one address, just cross the street and find a church that is just right. Goldilocks Christians are everywhere and will test the porridge, because they are spoiled little children.

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Alicia Feaster

January 29, 2013  10:52pm

The problem of people leaving churches is complex and calling someone a church hopper is definitely putting a simple label on a phenomenon that is widespread in many areas of the country. There are many mature believers who cannot find a church. In my work as a counselor, I meet people who are strong in their faith and dedicated to the Lord.. some of them have worked in ministry for decades and yet they cannot find a healthy community where the Lord is the center of the worship service. I wonder how an article like this can be written without addressing the issue of the condition of the church in America. Is the church feeding the believers or are they starving for deep teaching? I know why I left several churches and it had nothing to do with church hopping or church shopping. (aliciasroses.wordpress.com)

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Kathi Vande Guchte

January 29, 2013  7:22pm

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S Griffin

January 29, 2013  7:10pm

Since when are we to be loyal to a particular congregation? Yes, I feel it is good to find a church home and get on a more personal level with your "church family" but if you don't what's the issue with that. At the end of the day our allegiance should be to the Lord not a congregation.

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Jennifer Flanagan

January 29, 2013  4:01pm

Thank you for this. I consider myself a church hopper though I don’t physically hop churches often. I try to involve myself and reach out, creating what I need (if it isn’t already there) but sometimes it just isn’t feasible to stay for a longer period time. I hop because I am wrestling with the big questions, the ones that we will never answer but still wrestle with anyway. Church (any, all and in general) traditionally, has not been a safe or open place to wrestle with the “core beliefs” as you are finding your way. I want to keep growing in faith and sometimes the “this is what we believe and that’s it” mentality that most churches adhere to doesn’t support people who are not only wrestling with these questions but looking to love and support the others that they are with day in and day out in the outside world. I want to find a church community that supports the larger community I experience and that is a tough call for any community to fulfill. I'll keep looking though.

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lili silver

January 29, 2013  12:28pm

Thank you for this gracious post, Michelle. It is far kinder to consider the difficult optimism many church hoppers demonstrate than to condemn them for failing to "stick." I was a church hopper for years (moving cross country frequently, unfortunately) until I gave up and downgraded to no church attendance. I was most definitely more hopeful as a church hopper but felt the stigma of the quest itself. Unfortunately I have never been involved in a church that felt like anything more than a social club. Remember, the Bible never said the believers we gathered with had to be in any certain context. They might be strangers or family. And happily, in this day and age, we are able to receive Bible teaching and give or volunteer outside of a church community.

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Cheryl Okimoto

January 29, 2013  10:18am

Love your PS Tim! I thought the same thing! Inconceivable!! Seriously though, I also really appreciate all the comments. It's obvious that hopping is very complex, with as many different stories/reasons as there are hoppers. Some are seekers, some are runners. If we put God first, instead of our own felt needs, eventually we'll all find what we're looking for. Those who aren't looking, but are only running, will eventually run into a wall that makes them have to stop and look. Those of us who are planted in a church need to reach out to newcomers as much as possible. We need to be part of the solution, not the problem.

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John Holmes

January 28, 2013  11:56pm

Many reasons for church hopping. 'Been There Done That', and seen some solutions. The walking wounded - eg The disastrous 'Health Wealth and Prosperity' doctrine that infers that if you are not, it's your fault/ie sin for not allowing God to act in your life. This also includes survivors from other forms of Spiritual abuse. Looking for safety, sanity. Insularity - You have at most 2 Sundays to capture in the interest of most visitors who may be willing to stay. I have had more fellowship with the carpet than with church goers in some places. So unwelcoming churches push people on. Lack of inclusiveness - the Church does not encourage new comers to gain 'ownership in the Church'. Sure you have to be careful, but having entrenched groups running things the way 'it has always been done here' is not good. Also the problem with those who are chasing Gods special blessings. "God's Gold Dust" etc. Solution, proactive gentile greeters who can extend and followup hospitality.

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Tim Fall

January 28, 2013  6:40pm

This line captured the whole theme for me, Michelle: "... our desire for community and meaningful corporate worship trumped our newbie fatigue every time." God's people are destined for community; it's in our spiritual DNA, if you will, because the Holy Spirit himself dwells within us. Getting that community right here on this side of eternity is difficult, though. One thing I keep in mind about folks who show up at church on a Sunday morning - whether they are long-standing attenders, or visiting form out of town, or church "hoppers" (whatever that means for those folks) - is that all of them are part of the body of Christ and have as much of a place attending that service as anyone else. Cheers, Tim (timfall.wordpress.com) P.S. When I saw that blank name tag in the picture above, I wanted to write in the words: Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

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Rosie Simmons

January 28, 2013  6:39pm

Excellent article. My husband & I've had many experiences with churches. His 1st exposure was as a reluctant little boy visiting one; I started out as a "member" from my cradle. Both of us became Christ-Ones through a para-church ministry. Whether as folks just passing through a church, or looking for a "home", or devoted members & volunteers (leading youth groups, serving in the nursery, kid's SS teacher, kitchen workers, givers, cleaners, adult educators, choir member, visitation workers, mission trippers, college group leaders, women's minister, adult-ed. attendees, affinity group partakers, cell group leaders, & outreach Elder; I'm sure I've missed a few) missionaries sent out by a church, & now serving in the pastorate, GOD IS GOOD. Currently in a rural area 8 yrs., we're experiencing the ups & downs of people coming & going, staying long enough at church to bring it a little "closer to Heaven", or macerate it. It's quite a ride. It's all been a joyous yet severe privilege.

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Karen Smith

January 28, 2013  6:20pm

Hello, my name is Karen and I am a church hopper. Unlike many hoppers, I perform rigorous research online for every church I can find; I study doctrinal differences as a hobby of sorts. I started church "hopping" after my father left both my mother and my old church; over two year period I think I hit every conservative church in my city. As an adult, my wife and I settled in the Catholic church - for all of nine months, before I had a crisis of faith and left the Church and God behind. My wife is still Catholic, though she doesn't attend Mass. In 2010, I reclaimed my faith (and started other major life changes), and then looked for a church for a year and a half before finding one - and now that I no longer live in that area, I am restarting the search. That said, I've never been good at being a regular attendee.

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Rachel Stephan Simko

January 28, 2013  3:19pm

I think it's unwise to categorize any group as one thing or another, and labels are just not helpful. You do good to shed light on remembering that everybody has an individual story, and not every "church hopper" is being overly picky or "consumeristic." On the other hand, it's a serious problem in general. I guess I don't know many church hoppers who are older, but I worked with college students (and hey - was a college student once upon a time) and that tends to be a really tricky time of church-going (most tend to hop or honestly not go at all). So we always encourage college students to find one church and plug into it. evenonesparrow.blogspot.com

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DENIS DURAND

January 28, 2013  12:57pm

My name is Denis and I am a church hopper. I believe I am for many of the reasons addressed here, but one more. I have read articles that speak to the issue of the singles demographic having greater difficulty plugging in than couples or couples with children. But I am in yet another: married to a non-believer spouse (and having grown and/or non-believer children). It's an awkward status that requires a bit of balancing. Hard to get involved enough to really connect (without straining the marriage), and other church members don't quite know how to include you. A men's group is a great option (or a women's group in the reverse case), but so much the better if one finds others in a similar situation.

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Judy Krysl

January 28, 2013  12:42pm

I might add that leaving a congregation one has loved deeply and has invested sacrificially in is one of the most painful grieving processes in life. But if the Kingdom of God is to come first, then the pain must be taken to the Lord, and one must ask for wisdom, provision, and a new call. God does not run out of service for those who have willing hands and hearts open to Him.

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Judy Krysl

January 28, 2013  12:35pm

There is something special about church family loyalty, and from experience, I believe a person shouldn't leave a body over a glitch that may be temporary. That said, I admit to being a person who has left two churches over the past fifteen years. In both cases, I desperately needed to be able to focus on God when I was there to worship--I needed to meet with HIM in worship; to have the light of daily quiet times and prayer come together with the flooding of His illumination in corporate worship and prayer. In both cases, I was taking part in church ministries--was not saying to other people, "What can you offer me?" In both cases I stayed more than a year, crying out to God for leaders to put Him front and center--believing if "the Spirit is in you and the Spirit is in me, we are going to be able to get along." At a certain point, a person who keeps pushing that God must come first, and isn't understood, becomes a threat to unity, and it's time to let God come second--or leave.

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Howard Pepper

January 28, 2013  12:14pm

I appreciate the article; the comments of Laura Martin. The mix of purposes for meeting as the body of Christ is complex. Few churches (or their leadership) attend to more than a small portion, that usually being theological/spiritual in what is an over-spiritualized way, especially in Evangelical churches (I've been in many, beyond just "hopping" usually, tho now a progressive). Burton Mack (whatever conservatives may find objectionable about his work) offers what needs to be paid much more attention to: a "social interest" analysis and explanation of the earliest Church and its broad, rapid growth. Then the same focus on how social groups work in a religious context, and how personal, family and societal needs can be met there could greatly improve the discipling & support functions of churches. This, combined with much more attention to the application of good psychology (which Evangelicalism largely fears or ignores). Even while an Evangelical (& counselor), this was glaring!

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Gerry Slykhuis

January 28, 2013  12:02pm

I agree that there are many who move from church to church for poor reasons however there are also many who do it for good reasons. In years past, people would stay with "bad" churches because their family always went there. This allowed churches to flourish that had no business existing. Fortunately, many of these are now dying because people feel comfortable leaving. We stayed with our church for over 10 years because I believe that once you make a commitment, you stick to it. After over 10 years of bad teaching, superficial community, and lack of integrity in leadership, we decided it was time to leave. A number of people told us we were in sin for this. I'm sure that our former pastor would be one of those lamenting the "consumer mentality" of church hoppers.

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Cheryl Okimoto

January 28, 2013  11:50am

An interesting article, with very good points, yet there is a lack of spiritual maturity in your examples. They're all looking for what the church does for them, not what they can do for the church. It's okay as young Christians to do that; they're still learning and growing, and they need a place that fosters their growth. But as we mature, we need to be looking for churches where WE can help THEM grow! Also, if new people don't present their needs to the church, they shouldn't judge the church for not meeting their needs. Even the best of counselors needs honest input from his counselees if he's going to be effective in helping them. Too many people show up just before service starts, sit in the back, sneak out during closing prayer and then complain because no one reached out to them. If you want to be part of a community, you have to make an effort, not just expect the exisiting members to do all the work. It's okay to start as a hopper, but eventually you need to grow up!

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Tamara Crolla

January 28, 2013  11:19am

In my experience, church leaders who talk bad about "church hoppers" are just upset because they can't count on the "hoppers" to make regular financial contributions.

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Laura Martin

January 28, 2013  11:10am

Thanks for this article! I had a recent discussion that there is a difference between a "church hopper" and "spiritual refugee". Hoppers are those who indeed have a consumer mentality. But just b/c someone is having difficulty finding a church home doesn't mean this is the case! They may be "spiritual refugees" - people with various special circumstances - such as the 3 examples you give on page 2. It seems that the church should excel at genuinely welcoming people such as this - yet, I have found this is generally and sadly NOT the case. I recently wrote on a similar issue- in response to a post by a church leader who looked at the comments made on exit interviews from churches. Instead of any introspection or considering that the church may have some areas of improvement - all the blame was placed on the leavers! (They had "entitlement mentality.") Yet, in some of the exit interview comments I heard the legitimate cries of lonely people who needed the church to reach out to them.

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