What does the Bible say about church-shopping/church-hopping?

The early church was a smattering of local congregations meeting in homes. The little groups had honest seekers (Acts 17:11), false teachers (Galatians 1:6-9), strong and sometimes clashing personalities (Philippians 4:2), and advocates for the needy (1 Corinthians 16:1-3). They sang songs (Colossians 3:16), listened to sermons—some of them quite lengthy (Acts 20:7-12)—held potlucks, and gave food to the hungry (Acts 6:1). Quite a few parallels to the modern church experience.

But the modern church has other, additional concerns. Building campaigns. Music styles. Sunday school curriculum. The color of the carpet. Plus, it's plagued with the phenomenon of people popping into and out of the congregation at a moment's notice. The early church did not have such "church-hopping," primarily because each town generally had only one church to begin with.

Church-hopping occurs for different reasons. Established Christians tend to leave a church because they've relocated or because they don't approve of a change in the teaching or direction of the church. Younger or less-established believers tend to leave a church because they are looking for more people in their age group or because they consider the church to be out of step with the world they live in. Whatever the case, the believer, once removed from his former congregation, seeks a new place of worship.

When looking for a new body of believers, some church-hopping is normal. A mature believer will enter the process with the intent of finding a new, permanent church home. He will analyze the preaching to see if it adheres to the Scriptures. He will consider the overall personality and ministry of the church to see if there is a place for him to serve. This may take some time. God may use an extended period of searching to work in a believer's heart.

Unbiblical church-hopping is done to avoid connection and responsibility. An avoidant church-hopper flits from church to church without the intent of finding a permanent home. He may criticize the preaching or the worship style or a myriad of other things, but the main issue remains the heart of the critic. An avoidant church-hopper may be steering clear of the effort required to live within a body of believers. He might be trying to avoid being confronted about his sinful lifestyle or unorthodox beliefs. Or he may have a "consumer" mindset that causes him to reject any church that doesn't give him exactly what he wants.

God designed us to live in community with a body of believers. Studies show that people who are unattached to a conventional church are more stressed, less concerned about the moral condition of the nation, less likely to believe they're making a difference in the world, less optimistic about the future, and less educated about the Bible. Involvement in a local body of believers is imperative for mutual exhortation (Hebrews 10:24-25), spiritual growth (James 5:16), and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in us (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11). It is important to find a church body that preaches the gospel and can develop us spiritually. The search for a church should be done with the expectation of finding one that fits, but also with the realization that churches are filled with people, and for that reason no church is going to be perfect.

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