Monday, July 23, 2007

Church Hopping or Hoping?

A friend sent me this article. It appeared in the Chicago Sun Times. I found my self saying "yes" and "amen" several times. When will this stop and people get committed. It really is not "me-church." Let me know what you think.


Church hopping a selfish act

July 8, 2007
Church hopping is the ultimate ''all about me'' experience.
I'm not talking about church shopping -- moving into a new community or deciding to start attending church and then visiting churches until becoming a member as soon as reasonably possible. And I'm not talking about leaving one's church after finding unaddressed scandal in a church's leadership.

I'm talking about the growing tendency in America's evangelical churches for folks who decide, after they have officially joined a particular church, that ''Oh, that pastor down the street is a little more high-energy than mine,'' or ''Gee, the music here isn't really meeting my needs right now.'' They just up and leave and go to a new church. Until they hop from that one.

Respected Christian pollster George Barna, the Christian Science Monitor and other publications, and any Protestant pastor will tell you that church hopping is an increasing and insidious trend. Here's where I really agree with my Roman Catholic friends when they say: ''You Protestants are so focused on your 'personal relationship with Christ' that you forget it's not all about you.''

Exactly. I see people come and go from my own congregation. Sometimes I know the reason, and sometimes I don't. But I do know that every time a person who has made a public vow of membership leaves for superficial reasons, he leaves a unique hole. The departure dispirits the pastor and often the children and other members.

Hopping from a church when a desire, or even a real need, isn't being met in the moment means that person can't ultimately be held accountable in his religious life. He just hops if he doesn't want anyone reaching out to him.

One of the best ways to discourage hopping is for the receiving church to encourage him to return to his home church, but there are a lot of unfortunate disincentives to doing that.

Unlike a job, or a neighborhood, or a school, the sentiment of Christian Scripture is that, barring something extraordinary, church members really don't have a right to hop. We have little sense anymore that we are to join a church body and submit to its authority. Even when there are things that don't suit our fancy in the church. Sure, we often can and should try to change those things for what we consider the better.

Submission may even entail suffering, like dealing with conflict with other church members instead of just walking away.

We treat our church membership a lot like we treat our marriages. Hey, if I'm not ''happy'' in the moment, just move on, right? The impact on others or a pledge to something bigger than ourselves doesn't matter because ''it's all about me.''

Hoppers are typically unsatisfied no matter where they hop -- because perfection doesn't exist in this world.

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