4 Advantages and 4 Disadvantages of Chronic Church Hopping

Jessica Brodie

Award-winning Christian Novelist and Journalist
Updated Jun 26, 2024
4 Advantages and 4 Disadvantages of Chronic Church Hopping
Brought to you by Christianity.com

Many of us have heard the stories of church stagnation—when you stay in a church so long that everything becomes routine, commonplace, and expected, with little room for Holy Spirit-inspired change and godly passion. But what about church hopping? Is there a danger in this less-commonly understood practice? Church hopping is just that: hopping from one church to the next, all in the same general community, one after another, without committing to or settling down in a church on a long-term basis.

Church hopping is different from church “shopping” when you are seeking a church home and might try a number of worship experiences and denominations until you find the right fit. Church hopping is a frequent state of motion. Perhaps you settle at a church for a short time, but then something bothers you—the music, the cliques, or even an offhanded remark by the pastor—and you decide it’s time to move on. Ultimately, you move around so often the church never really feels like home or family.

Some people church hop because they have trouble committing or suffer from pain caused by church people. Other churches hop out of necessity—perhaps they are a military family or traveling medical worker who cannot stay in one place very long. Is this a bad thing or a good thing? Does the Bible address church hopping? Let’s take a look at four advantages and 4 disadvantages of chronic church hopping.

Photo Credit:  Image created using DALL.E 2024  AI technology and subsequently edited and reviewed by our editorial team.

What Does the Bible Say about Church Hopping?

God’s Word does not mention church hopping. The first-century church started small and often involved groups of people gathering together in homes or in public places. At first, in Jerusalem, before widespread persecution and the death of the first martyr prompted a change, the Bible tells us “all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade” (Acts 5:12 NIV). They shared meals and possessions with each other as one big family. But the church later scattered throughout Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1-4) and ultimately spread throughout Asia Minor. As Paul and other apostles spread the Gospel, church communities cropped up in cities such as Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, and elsewhere.

Back then, when the Bible was written, church hopping didn’t exist. Christianity was a dangerous and often subversive faith, with its followers often persecuted and executed. People felt blessed simply to be able to gather with other believers. While some differing theology did occur, as well as infighting around issues such as whether Gentile believers needed to be circumcised (Acts 15), the Bible doesn’t mention people searching around for the right church. We’re simply told the people gathered in the Spirit wherever they were.

Today, however, particularly in the United States, we have an abundance of church options, from denominations to styles. There are churches that meet in coffee shops and movie theaters, churches that meet in grandiose cathedrals, churches that play only hymns on a pipe organ and churches that have rock-concert-style praise bands, churches where people dress in suits and formal dresses, and churches where everyone wears jeans or athletic clothing, with vast theological differences.

However, the Bible does address other things that do occur with church hopping, and we can infer godly wisdom from this.

Advantage 1: Church Hopping Can Help Us Focus on the Most Important Aspects of Church

One important thing to remember is that, as Christians, we are members of the church universal—God’s church. There’s a saying: In heaven, there will be no denominations, no sects, and no divisions. We will all be one, united in Christ our savior. As Jesus prayed in John 17:11:

“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.”

As Christians, we truly are one. Colossians 1:18 says that Christ is the head of the church, and the church is his body. As the body of Christ, it shouldn’t matter where we worship or gather, for all of us are connected and one in the Holy Spirit. All Christian brothers and sisters are our siblings, not just the ones who sit next to us in church.

Church hopping can help clarify this because we begin seeing other Christians less as strangers and more as neighbors and siblings in Christ.

Instead of looking up to the pastor as some superhuman, we can recognize the pastor is a human just like us, though called and equipped by the Lord to preach or exhort or teach or otherwise help strengthen us on our journey in the faith. We can focus on what is truly important about Christianity: the fact that Jesus is our savior, that he is the Son of God, that we are all called to repent and believe in Christ, that we are saved by God’s grace and not our own works, that Jesus was crucified to pay our sin-debt, etc.

Sometimes, churches start to get inward-focused and pay more attention to smaller-scale arguments and differences among believers, but church hopping enables us to avoid getting stuck in the stagnant mire that can be petty church in-fighting and instead focus on Jesus’s big picture call to go, make disciples, and spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Advantage 2: Church Hopping Can Help Us Appreciate Different Styles of Worship

When we go to one church only, things can become very familiar. We might sing the same hymns over and over, sit in the same place each week, talk to the same people, and even hear the same messages from the same pastor over and over. While this is not a bad thing, there is a danger that routine will dull the senses or that you will become so accustomed to a certain style of worship that it doesn’t feel special anymore. Or perhaps you will develop the idea that only hymns written in the 1700s and played on a pipe organ are the only “proper” way to worship the Lord, or only sermons preached from your pastor’s lips are truly “correct.”

Church hopping exposes you to difference, and difference—while at first uncomfortable—can be very good.  

For instance, maybe you think you don’t like contemporary Christian music led by a praise band—until you try it. Maybe you think a church without stained glass can’t possibly feel like church—until it does. Maybe a particular passage of Scripture never made sense—until you heard it from the lips of a pastor with exactly the right life experience or analogy to drive the point home. Maybe deep down, you thought wearing jeans to church was disrespectful—until you experienced the powerful movement of the Holy Spirit among a throng of denim-clad believers. As John 4:24 says, 

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” 

Whatever worship style we participate in, it is proper as long as it is done in the Spirit and in truth—no matter if it feels strange and different.

Church hopping helps us appreciate different styles, preachers, music, people, and all the other different ways the church can be the beautiful, Spirit-led body of Christ.

Children's Ministry

Advantage 3: Church Hopping Can Allow Us to Discover Spiritual Gifts and Inspire New Ministry Ideas

If you only ever go to one church, you might not be aware of the ways other churches do ministry. And while this is not a bad thing, opening our eyes to new ideas and new ways of doing ministry can be very, very good.

For instance, let’s say you go to a church with very few children but with a thriving food bank. But then, for whatever reason, you start attending another church, and you discover all sorts of things God’s church is doing together—things you might never have imagined doing had you not been exposed to the new church. Some churches have thriving special needs ministries, or they have decided to turn a section of their fellowship area into a safe place where homeless people can sleep on cold winter nights while learning about Jesus. Some youth programs forego a youth choir for a hip-hop Gospel or even a mime performance to share the Good News. Other churches frequently send teams into the community to build wheelchair ramps for the disabled or disaster crews after a tornado so those impacted can feel the love and care of Christ through the hands and feet of the missioners.

Church hopping can help us generate new ideas and, ultimately, share and spread them in new areas. It can also help us break out of our routines and begin to turn over all aspects of our lives to God.

Church hopping can also help us develop new spiritual gifts or new ways to use our gifts. For instance, maybe we have the spiritual gift of teaching and have been using it to teach Bible study at a church. But maybe we hop around, and there is no need for Bible study teachers at our new church. So maybe we teach a different aspect of the faith or come up with an unorthodox way of teaching, or even end up receiving a new spiritual gift altogether. As Colossians 3:23 says, 

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” 

Whatever we do, these new ideas, new ministries, and new gifts can draw new people to Jesus.

Photo Credit: Image created using DALL.E 2024  AI technology and subsequently edited and reviewed by our editorial team.

Advantage 4: Church Hopping Can Help Us Focus on the Importance of God’s Word and Prayer

If we’re constantly hopping from church to church, we can begin to feel disconnected from other people and lonely. Being invested and involved in a steady church community enables us to build relationships with other believers and with the pastoral staff. When we church hop, those relationships become diminished, and we feel isolated.

Many of us can experience tremendous individual spiritual growth in times of isolation. We might seek the answers or community we crave through a deeper relationship with God. For instance, perhaps we begin to read the Bible for the first time, commit to reading it on a daily basis, or dive in with understanding and hunger like never before. Perhaps we can develop new and deeper prayer habits that enable us to form a personal relationship with Jesus Christ like never before, whatever this looks like.

Christian community is a blessing and a gift, but it can also be a distraction if we’re not getting enough alone time. Church hopping, because it has the potential to disconnect us or prevent the development of strong relationships, might lead to more alone time and, therefore, more opportunity for the hard work of individual spiritual growth. As James 1:2-4 urges us, 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Disadvantage 1: Church Hopping Can Lead to Isolation, with Negative Consequences

Of course, what can be an advantage can also be a huge detriment. Even though isolation caused by church hopping can become a trial that leads to bountiful individual spiritual growth, it can also make it incredibly easy for a person to stray from God’s path or God’s people.

In 1 Peter 5:8, we’re told to stay alert and ready for our enemy, the devil, “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Predators often isolate their prey from the safety of the pack, so one Christian alone on the fringes is an easier target.

God’s church was built for us to provide community and protection, as well as to enable the Holy Spirit to move and work in powerful and wonderful ways. When we hop from church to church, we don’t become as emotionally invested in our church community. We might participate in ministries, but when life’s struggles occur, we might find we don’t have a trusted person to talk with or help us stay accountable. We might become more susceptible to sin and temptation without this.

A lack of real relationships with other Christian believers diminishes the impact of the church on our lives and the work of the church as a whole. Short-term, it might not be a problem, but long term, it can have terrible consequences.

We need each other. As the body of Christ, we are all connected. We stop being able to effectively “encourage one another,” as Hebrews 10:25 urges us to do when we are not in a real relationship with one another. Surface encouragement only goes so far.

Disadvantage 2: Church Hopping May Reveal an Idealistic Discontentment—and a Soul Problem

Consider why you might be church-hopping. Deep down, are you seeking the perfect church? In truth, on earth, we’re not likely to find a perfect church. This is because churches are made up of people—sinful, imperfect people who are struggling to live right by Christ. They struggle and sometimes veer off track, but together, they learn to look to Christ as their head and become a fully Spirit-led, Jesus-centered community doing its best to share the Gospel in a broken world.

You might like everything about a church except the pastor, so after a few weeks, you leave. At the next church, you might adore the pastor, but after a month or so, decide that the people around you are spiritually floundering and leave once more. Third, there’s no kids’ ministry, and fourth, the praise band’s singer didn’t make your heart soar with an angelic voice that rivals the one you hear on the radio. And so on, and so on.

In essence, church hopping because you think you’ll eventually find the “perfect” church is a lesson in futility. Instead, find a church you like and stick around. Embrace it. Get involved. Get to know people. If there’s no kids’ ministry, start one yourself.

Be the church you want to belong to. Give other people a chance.

As the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the early church in Corinth, God gives his people—the church—different spiritual gifts for a reason: “for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). You have to be part of a unit in order to experience a collective, a community, and ultimately, this common good.

Two men shaking hands in greeting

Disadvantage 3: Church Hopping Can Be a Form of Thrill Seeking and Emotional Immaturity 

Think about a new love relationship—it’s exciting and thrilling. You don’t know what to expect, and there’s a rush of newness and unfamiliarity that can be exhilarating. Eventually, you get to know the person better and better, and that new love deepens into real love, which most of us have discovered is far, far better than the rush of newness.

For many church hoppers, this rush of newness is why they go from church to church, never settling down. At first, the experience is exnihilating. The pastor’s words are different and exciting, and the music and people are fresh. You feel almost giddy as you enter the worship space. What will happen? The possibilities are endless.

Then the rush wears off, and the shiny surface starts to peel back just a bit. You discover a quirk in the pastor’s style that rubs you the wrong way, or maybe another churchgoer doesn’t smile back at you, which you take personally (if only you knew she has a migraine and even moving hurts). As soon as the drama and excitement fade, we’re gone, off to find the next shiny new place we think will fire up that rush inside us that we misinterpret as the movement of the Holy Spirit. In reality, it’s just adrenaline or discomfort. Just like people who get bored when the romance fades and leave, the church hopper seeking excitement in a new congregation is just as emotionally immature.

There’s something to be said about commitment, staying the course, and building something that's meant for the long haul. As Jesus said in Luke 9:62

“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” 

Dive in. Invest. Stick around.  

Related Resource: What Is the Purpose of the Church?

It has often been said that “the church is God’s Plan A for working in the world, and there is no Plan B.” We don’t disagree with that. Similarly, third-century theologian Cyprian of Carthage once said, “No one can have God for his Father, who does not have the church for his mother.”

Cyprian also said, “Outside the Church, there is no salvation.” While we don't take his meaning literally, this axiom offers important wisdom. There is no way for people in the world to experience Jesus and be formed by his way of life apart from walking alongside other Jesus people.

But what exactly is the church? What is its purpose and function in the world?

While most of us would agree upon a set of theological tenets regarding the church, many fundamental questions go unspoken. Even without us talking about them, they provide a rubric for the practical concerns we think are important.

In this episode of The Kainos Project Podcast we probe into some of those questions: Who is the church for? What should it be doing in the world? And where is allowable, and even healthy, to have disagreement over those questions? Listen in! And if you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple or Spotify so you never miss an episode!

Photo Credit:  Image created using DALL.E 2024  AI technology and subsequently edited and reviewed by our editorial team.

This article originally appeared on Christianity.com. For more faith-building resources, visit Christianity.com. Christianity.com

Jessica Brodie author photo headshotJessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Her newest release is an Advent daily devotional for those seeking true closeness with God, which you can find at https://www.jessicabrodie.com/advent. Learn more about Jessica’s fiction and read her faith blog at http://jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional and podcast. You can also connect with her on Facebook,Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed

Originally published Wednesday, 19 June 2024.