|here are you going to church this morning?”
“Ah, I may go to Sardis. I hear Bartholomew is preaching there.”
“Bartholomew. Really? But you do know that Matthias is speaking at Thyatira.”
“Matthias? He’s my favorite.”
“Mine too. There’s a potluck at Smyrna.”
“Whew! They got great grub over there.”
“But you know Philadelphia is the in-place to go.”
“Yeah, you’re right about that.”
“Ephesus’ choir though.”
“But Pergamos is the closest.”
“True, but all the girls are at Laodicea.”
This is a common conversation on Sabbath mornings, especially between single Adventist young adults. In the span of a month, a good-sized percentage of Adventist young adults may go to three different churches in cities where there are enough options to do so. This is known as church hopping, and you may be a church hopper if you can identify with three of the following five statements:
- People ask you if you currently reside in the area in every church you attend.
- You receive tithe receipts from four different churches every two months.
- You feel an urge every Sabbath when the visitors are asked to stand.
- You do not remember exactly where your church membership is.
- You rotate between 10 churches but can only name the pastors of 3 of them.
People church hop for a number of reasons. Many appreciate different styles of worship, preaching, and alternate congregations. They may be hungry college students and go wherever there is an after-service potluck. Some may be searching for “the one.” Insecurities and shyness about not being liked may trouble others. Many may just have what I call church attention deficit disorder. The reasons are as numerous as the people who hop.
But there are some inherent problems with church hopping. The opposite of hopping of course, is to settle down with one congregation. As stifling as this may sound, this is ideal. Here are problems with church hopping in contrast with the benefits of settling with one congregation.
1. Relationships not developed: Church hopping does not foster relationships because the hopper is not consistently around to know and be known. She simply sees and is occasionally seen. Going to one church, however, provides an opportunity to know fellow members on a personal and consistent level.
2. No accountability: Hoppers are not spiritually accountable to anyone. They are spiritual desperadoes, wandering from town to town, only occasionally learning someone’s name. But when people get involved in a congregation, others can lovingly monitor their spiritual state.
3. Spiritual gifts not maximized: When one church hops, their spiritual gifts are rarely available to a congregation. In fact, no one ever knows them well enough to discover their talents. What could be a powerful tool in the hands of God and the church is often unused. Thus the capacity for service shrinks. But a person in a church family finds ministries to be involved in and can fully utilize his talents.
4. Mate harder to find: Believe it or not, a hopper has a harder time finding a mate than a settler. When one settles they can see, meet, and get to know potential prospects. They can also glimpse the hoppers who rotate to their church. Hoppers miss out because they move too fast.
5. Jesus did not hop: Jerusalem probably provided the opportunity to hop, but Jesus probably did not do it. Jesus likely was at the service shortly before it started, bringing others with him, and ready to help out anyway He could. He knew others in the congregation and worshipped with them each Sabbath. After church they ate together, Jesus conversing with whoever wanted to talk.
So my advice: Try to stay at the church of your choice, Sabbath after Sabbath, for a year. Instead of trying to get a blessing, be a blessing. Instead of being a consumer, produce service and love. After a year, if it doesn’t work out, hop like a bunny rabbit.
Benjamin J. Baker is currently pursuing a PhD at Howard University in Washington, D.C.