Connoisseurs Of Fine Churches

church hopping for dummies

This is Part 1 in a series of posts called “How To Leave A Church.”

After church services one Sunday, a couple greeted me on their way out the door. By their cliché Christian lingo, I knew they weren’t our typical nonreligious visitors.

“Pastor, what an anointed word from God you delivered today,” the husband said. I cringed. Normally the only people that talk that way are on really scary Christian television programs. I swallowed and said, “Hope to see you next week.”

His wife looked at me with a grin and said, “Nope. We won’t be back. Years ago the Lord told us to attend a different church every week. So we’ll be somewhere else next Sunday.”

I said, “Let me get this straight. You go to a different church every week?”

“Yep,” said her husband. “Been doing it for five years now.”

I said, “How sad.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because you never get a chance to experience real Christian community,” I replied. “You’re, like, connoisseurs of fine churches. My hunch is it wasn’t the Lord who called you to do this. Find a church and put down roots.”

We’ve become a nation of church shoppers, and unfortunately this couple wasn’t far from the norm. If the preaching gets boring at our church, we start Googling. If the worship style changes, we go to First Church’s early service. If our Sunday school class starts to get too impersonal, we don’t sweat it; we try the hot new church in town. We Christians change churches like we change favorite restaurants. I can’t help but think this must make God sad.

In the New Testament there are dozens and dozens of things Christians are told to do. Leaving one another is not one of them. In fact, we’re told to do the exact opposite.

  • Is there someone at your church you can’t stand? First John 3:11 tells us to “Love one another.”
  • Did the pastor at your fellowship hurt your feelings? Colossians 3:13 says, “Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.”
  • Do the attitudes of the people in your church family need to change? James 5:16 says, “Pray for each other.”

In other words, roll up your sleeves and do the hard work of building community where you are. Don’t go spiritually AWOL. Stick it out, through exciting times and boring times. Pray, serve, love, forgive, sacrifice, and resolve like authentic followers of Jesus. Christian community isn’t something that happens instantaneously. Real community is forged on the anvils of time and struggle. If you jump ship when things get tough, you’ll condemn yourself to one long journey of spiritual superficiality.

I know this from experience. My parents started attending Eastpointe Christian Church in Columbus, Ohio, when they were both teenagers. They’re now in their seventies. They’ve never joined another church. Over the past sixty years, they’ve seen quite a lot. They lived through the “clapping in church” controversy of 1976 as well as the mediocre church softball team of the early 1990s.

They’ve seen people get married, have children, and those children get married and have children. They’ve seen hundreds of people come to Christ and some of those people fall by the wayside. They’ve buried dear friends. They’ve served with great pastors and mediocre pastors and experienced great worship and boring worship. Through calm years and tumultuous years, my parents have given, served, and prayed their entire lives in that one church.

One day in the future, both my mom and dad will pass away, but right before that happens they’ll each be able to do something someone who has spent a whole life church shopping cannot—they’ll look back and savor the memories a lifetime of faithful participation in one congregation brings. They’ll look back and relish the dangerous conversations they didn’t avoid, sins they were encouraged to confront, and authentic Christian friendships it took a lifetime to develop. Jesus wants you to experience the same thing.

I’m sure you know this already, but it’s worth repeating: That “perfect church” you’re looking for already exists. You attended it last Sunday.

Therefore, the real question is: If this is the “norm” taught in scripture, is there ever a time when a Christian can (or should) leave a church?

What do you think?

I’ll address this in my next post.

Brian loves helping Christians live thoughtful, courageous lives. He's a popular blogger, author, and pastor at Christ's Church of the Valley in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

  • http://www.brianj33.virb.com/ Brian Jennings

    One of the most counter-intuitive things that I do is to encourage people to stay at their current church, if it is possible, instead of joining ours. But are there times when people need to leave a place? Yes. But there are fewer good reasons than most would think.

    I believe that parents grow dysfunctional families when they church hop. They teach their kids, “When things get rough or when you see something better, pack up and move.” The family develops zero relational skills and commitment is not learned. And we then they wonder why their kids have trouble staying in a relationship with a church, friend or spouse. 

    Thanks for this. 

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Well said.

    • Wadelongan

      Great article, Brian Jones. Really enjoyed your response as well, Brian Jennings.

    • NA

      Hmm….

    • Christine Henson

      Enjoying this blog series looking forward to part 2.

  • Grammynicholson

    when is your next post going to be….I need the answer now……

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Monday :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=622370741 Tina Kachmar

    very well written….as usual.  I’m here to stay and FILLED with the Holy Spirit!!  Looking forward to all the things you wrote about above!!

  • JustPreachTheWord

    It’s time to leave if the Word of God is not being Preached! If there is no fruit meaning changed hearts totally surrendered to Christ. Problem with many “New” churches is that they have a revolving door because the message is always evolving or tickling he ears of the visitor “non Christian’ that’s a social club not a church. A church is where the Word of God is Preached Unashamedly Boldly with no excuses… If you do that the revolving door stops and “real” community like your parents have exist because it is based on Christ and Christ Alone! Just Preach the Word!

    • YoungWhippersnapper

      Not trying to start a debate, but please don’t bash “new” churches. Often, the “new” churches are the ones that are preaching Jesus being the full embodiment of truth AND grace. Unfortunately, too many “established” churches preach only the law with NO grace. They disguise it, though, as being “bold” and having “real community” because the 10 people there are the ones that built the building in 1940. That church hasn’t experienced growth, and they’re too scared to do so. But, if you insist on this, just wait. The “new” church will come into town and grow to be multiple hundreds or thousands of people, changing lives and introducing Jesus to the city, while you are still grumbling about them.

  • Pingback: Good Stuff « Second Chance Pastor

  • Pingback: this went thru my mind |

  • Sean Moore

    Eastpointe Church? When did Norton come into play?

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Sean Norton changed its name to Eastpointe.

      • Sean Moore

        Yah, I looked it up out of curiosity. Thanks. Had great times at Norton. I miss those times with all of you.

  • Paul Bradford

    I joined my parish in 1970, and I’m still a member! Over those years I’ve had twelve different homes, but one parish. You’re right — Christianity requires community. As I say, it’s “not a do-it-yourself project”.

    On the other hand, Christ really has but one Church. I’m home wherever the LORD is worshipped.