4 Things Church Hoppers Are Missing
By Jacob Riggs
“The young adults at our church are our most committed members” is not something I anticipate many church leaders to say. I’m a young adult, and I get the appeal of church hopping. There’s so much about twentysomething life that is…transient. Most people move several times in their twenties: out of the dorm, into an apartment with a couple of friends you thought you’d enjoy living with, back into your parents’ house because you were sadly mistaken, and it just goes on and on. Not to mention the fact your friends are moving, getting full-time jobs, and getting married, which completely changes the dynamic of friendships. There isn’t much about the life of a twentysomething that is consistent. Why should your church experience be any different?
Constant life-change isn’t the only reason church hopping is appealing. It is now easier than ever to find high quality spiritual content. Getting tired of your pastor’s sermons? Just listen to the podcasts or watch the sermons of any extremely gifted speaker from across the world—one of whom is likely in or near your city! Is the music at your church slow and boring? There are 20 other churches in your city with better music. Do you want more exotic mission trips, better programming, cooler graphics, And tastier coffee? I guarantee you can find those things in a church not far from where you live.
The thing about attending a church for these reasons is there will be another church someday that will be even cooler than the one you just started attending. Graphics will get clearer, teaching will be more compelling, and music will get more authentic. With this mindset, what results is that churches get larger not by winning former prostitutes, drug addicts, idolaters, or moralistic deists, but by “winning” members from other churches. Individual churches grow, but the kingdom doesn’t.
Like I mentioned, I get the draw to gather spiritual content from different places and attend different churches to do so. Let’s face it; your pastor is a normal person. He may not have superhero speaking powers like Francis Chan. But I’m here to claim that church hopping, although glamorous, actually causes you to miss some incredible things God wants to do in your life. Let me mention four.
1 – You’re missing some of the deepest relationships you could ever have.
Before I became a pastor, I was on staff in a small church for over five years. Although we’ve been gone for over a year, people in that church still send cards to my family. Do you know why they do that? It’s not because we’re awesome people of which you just can’t get enough (trust me on this). It’s because they became family to us and we became family to them. And do you know why that happened? Because we showed up and stuck around.
Do you really want community? Stay. Go to lunch with people after church. Show up during events and volunteer. Mention prayer requests. Attend the midweek service and ask older members about their experience as a young adult. There are deep friendships waiting for you, but they won’t happen unless you stay.
2 – You’re missing a unique chance for spiritual growth.
Spiritual growth happens as God’s Word is applied to our hearts by His Spirit. And God uses several different mediums to make that happen. Sometimes it’s just by reading the Bible. Sometimes it’s by singing God’s Word. But one medium most people don’t acknowledge is the person sitting in the pew next to you on Sunday morning.
Scripture is clear that God gives gifts to individuals in churches (Romans 12:3-8). The reason He does this is so the church can be built up. The Spirit gives some people the gift of teaching so they can instruct others. The Spirit gives some people the gift of mercy so they can weep with other church members who weep. The Spirit gives the gift of serving so others in that church can be served when they need it. He gives many other gifts, but the purpose for all of them is so the rest of the church can be built up.
How can the gifts God has given people in your church benefit you if you don’t stay long enough to allow them to be a part of your life?
If you have been changed by the good news, God wants to shape you to be like Jesus. One of the main ways He does that is by putting people together in community and then miraculously empowering them to help one another on the journey. You simply cannot get that unless you show up to one church and keep showing up.
3 – You’re missing the chance to make a unique impact in someone’s life.
It’s true that you need to stick around in order to let people get to know you so they can use their spiritual gifts to serve you. It’s also true that you need to stick around to get to know others so you can use your God-given gifts for them.
God has gifted you in a unique way through His Spirit to serve a local church. He knows what your gift is, and He wants you to know, too, if you don’t already. When you keep leaving, you are squelching some incredible opportunities other Christians could have to know God better through you. Paul said that when one member suffers, the whole body suffers (1 Corinthians 12:26). What happens when one member just never commits?
4 – You’re missing some of the most relevant preaching you could hear.
This point is going to take some convincing, I know, but stick with me. There may be men who can preach better than your pastor. But if you stick around in one place, there will never be someone who can preach to you better than your pastor.
If your pastor is doing his job, and if you’ve invited him into your life, then he or another pastor on staff will get to know you. He’ll know your struggles, victories, and gifts. He’ll know your past and your family life. He’ll know your hopes and dreams. And he will try his best to apply God’s Word to your life. But if you change churches every year or treat churches like a buffet line, you’re missing God speaking to you through the pastors He has intended for you. These men are called to keep watch over your soul (Hebrews 13:17). They can’t do that, however, if you don’t stay.
Not to completely derail this conversation, but we should at least acknowledge that some churches have serious problems. Some are so serious that it would actually honor God more to leave. If your church says Jesus isn’t the only way to Heaven, then it’s not a church. Leave. If your church says the original writings of Scripture have errors, then leave and leave fast. If your church allows serious, continuous sin to go undisciplined, then you should strongly consider leaving.
However, if your church is faithful to God’s Word and boring, maybe God is calling you to stay and get involved. If your church loves one another dearly but has a logo from the 90’s, you should probably stay and learn Photoshop. There is such a thing as a dysfunctional church, but I’m willing to guess yours isn’t so dysfunctional that you should leave.
A few friends of mine had been attending the same church regularly for several years. Let’s call them Joseph, Karl, and Steven. Karl began having serious physical and psychological issues. He would call Joseph and Steven to come over to his house to try to calm him down from aggressive panic attacks. Karl eventually ended up in the hospital. Joseph and Steven were there to help, holding Karl’s body down as he convulsed from the attacks he was having. All the while they would remind him of the truths of God’s Word. “Nothing can separate you from God’s love in Christ, Karl.” “He will never leave you or forsake you.”
Karl went home a few days later, but the escapades continued for months. Steven and Joseph kept helping though, bearing Karl’s burden. By God’s grace and the use of medication, Karl progressively got better. Joseph and Steven had the spiritual gifts Karl needed. Without them, it remains to be seen whether or not Karl would have recovered like he did.
There is real community waiting for you—a place you can use your gifts, a place others can minister to you, a place where deep friendships are waiting and meaningful pastoral care can impact your life. But these things will not happen to the extent God intends if you don’t stay.