On the Dangers of Church Hopping


This past semester I had a class assignment called “Church Visits”.  Basically, we were required to attend 3 different churches through the semester, ideally from denominations drastically different than our own.  Honestly, this was a pretty informative assignment; I’ve had many new experiences and have learned a lot about the diversity of liturgical form within the Christian tradition.

While we were out exploring the vast field of Church culture in the Nashville area, however, I came to what I think are some fairly profound and startling realizations; and of course I felt that I should share them here.

In many ways I would equate this assignment to “Church Hopping”.  For those of you that may be unfamiliar, Church hopping is the practice of attending a different church every week, usually without planting significant roots in any one congregation.  Church hopping is a significant problem in the modern Church, especially among my own generation. I’ve thought this for quite some time, but this assignment has given me some new perspective on the specific impact it can have on our walk with God.

Avoiding Accountability

One significant problem with the model of church hopping is that it removes our opportunity for accountably.  I think that the majority of us immediately associate accountability with secret sin.  This isn’t necessarily wrong—accountability from others is one of the most effective ways to battle a sin that lies hidden in our hearts.  However, this is not the only role accountability can play in our lives, nor should it be.

The community we find in the local church is also responsible for holding us accountable to certain things.  Specifically, a healthy church should encourage consistent Spiritual growth in our lives, deeper understanding of God through community with His body, and a passion for glorifying God through the practice of corporate worship.

The church hopper might still receive one or more of these things from an individual visit to a church, but this cannot match the consistency and accountability of a single “church home”.

There is simply no way for healthy accountability to occur without consistency.  

 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  Hebrews 10:23-25

Church Shopping

Another temptation of church hopping is a preferential selection based on programs, practices, or worship styles.  To be sure, there are certainly instances in which a church can be “right” or “wrong” for a person based on their spiritual needs.  Here, however, I am speaking of something quite different.  The practice of bouncing from church to church each week breeds an unavoidable pattern of comparison in our hearts.

We might go to one church because we love their worship style, or to another because their pastor is a gifted communicator.  The further we follow this pattern of thinking, however, the more shallow it becomes.

This church has the best coffee…That one has really convenient service times, and always gets out on time…Their church has the coolest graphics…All of my friends go to that church…This church has the most attractive men and women on stage…

This goes on and on, until we find ourselves in a position where church is more about our preferences than it is about God’s presence.  When we exchange one for the other, we allow selfishness to control and direct one of the most important aspects of our Spiritual lives.  This is both unwise and unhealthy in our walk with God.

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.  This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  James 3:14-17

More Than Just a Concert

The healthy function of a church is inherently dependent on the active participation of its members.  As much as we attend church to receive and be built up in our faith, we should also invest our time, money, and spiritual gifts to strengthen the community.  Church cannot simply be a show we attend each weekend, it must become more to us.  I hope you can learn, as I did during my “church visits”, that church hopping will ultimately undermine even the most well-intentioned faith, and that our participation in the local church will draw us deeper into fellowship with Christ.

2 Comments

  1. Hi Joshua, I found your post, Ironically because I am engaging (apologies) in the activity that you are concerned with. For me, I’ve been absent from any church regularly for 20 years, maybe more. I recognize all of your statements as certainly being of legitimate concern. The accountability issue, I would question that. Secret sin can live in the heart of anyone, and it probably depends largely on the individual. I guess my view is that shouldn’t your accountability be with God? But then I know that everyone has different levels of introversion or extroversion, and needs support in different ways. I’m hopping and then blogging about it, to share my experience with others in the communities of the churches, and to grow along the way. At this time this is the way I’m revisiting faith on my terms, and sure, I guess there’s selfishness in that. But hopefully my selfishness can shine a light on the altruism of the organizations I visit. As an aside I have been volunteering at a faith based soup kitchen for some “constant,” contact with faith in my life. Anyway, I’d implore you to consider that “hopping,” isn’t a complete negative. Maybe it can be a glass is half full situation. People who do it may not otherwise go at all, and it may be a bridge to permanence too. -Best

    1. Hi George,

      Thanks for your comment, I’m grateful for your perspective. It’s great to hear that you’re getting back into faith, and I think that in your case hopping to different churches is a really good place to start, especially if you’re coming from Catholicism into Protestantism. I also think there’s a big difference between what you’re doing and what I was writing to warn against. Let me explain:

      For everyone walking into a new phase of life (moving to a new city, exploring other religions, etc.), there will have to be a season of exploration. When I moved to Nashville I “hopped” to a different church every week for several months, mostly just to see what was here and figure out if I could belong to any of them. That’s normal, and there’s nothing harmful in that. The issue I’m seeing is long-time Christians who, for any number of reasons, don’t want to belong to a single church home; they’re not exploring because they’re in a new season, but because they don’t want to connect to a single place. I think that’s dangerous, because there are certain things we need in our faith that can really only be found by belonging to a single community of faith. That’s also what I was getting at with the section on accountability. You’re absolutely right in saying we’re accountable to God, but there are other aspects of accountability (beyond just accountability for sin) that a church can provide for us. Whether its a commitment to checking on our spiritual or emotional health, making sure we have a consistent place to worship and respond to God, or just providing friendships that give life rather than take it away, Church communities give opportunities for us to grow in our faith alongside like-minded believers who love God.

      So if you’ve been away from faith for 20+ years, church hopping is exactly the place to start. With this article, I really just wanted to point out that if we want to grow deeper in our faith, that season of exploration eventually has to end. I definitely respect what you’re doing, and wish you the best as you continue to explore what the community of faith is all about. Blessings! -Josh

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