Saturday, 15 March 2014

The cure for church hopping

In our last post we considered the issue of Church hopping. Four observations were made on this matter. Firstly that it is a sign of theological shallowness; we have surely little depth to our faith if we are able and content to regularly move from church to church. Secondly, it does not produce useful Christians; those who cannot settle in a church are rarely of much use in the churches they frequent. Thirdly, it is discouraging to other believers; the constant to-ing and fro-ing benefits no-one. Finally it is detrimental to the children of believing parents who need stability in spiritual matters as much as anything else. Having considered these things it would be wrong not to consider what can be done to cure the problem of church hopping. For those who are guilty of it, what can they do to stop themselves continuing in this course, and for those who have never done it how can they prevent themselves from falling into this fault.

Before we consider the cure we will again define what when mean by church hopping. It does not refer to those who change church for a genuine reason such as the church falling away from the gospel or their moving home to a new location. It is the regular moving from one church to another, and never staying anywhere for more than a couple of years. It also refers to the practice of attending your 'home church' on a Sunday morning, yet going to any multitude of locations on a Sunday evening. And indeed it can be used to refer to a general flitting between meetings rather than attending one place or worship consistently. As it is not a practice that can be commended we would desire to mitigate against it being a feature of our Christian lives. What then are the cures for church hopping?

1. A solid foundation to our faith
Since one of the main causes of church hopping is theological shallowness, then it surely stands to reason that to have a solid foundation to our faith will greatly help us to keep from this habit. It was the desire of the Apostle Paul that the church at Colosse 'continue in the faith grounded and settled', and every believer should seek to be well grounded in the truth of the gospel. Whilst our faith is not simply a matter of head knowledge, an intellectual understanding of the truths of the gospel is necessary. Too many Christians, despite being supposedly mature in the faith, cannot describe their faith in any more depth than having 'asked Jesus into their heart'. The doctrines of grace are essentially a mystery to them. Theology is not to be derided but cherished for we cannot grow in our walk with the Lord if we have little knowledge of him.The fundamentals of the faith are naturally of the greatest importance, yet this does not mean that all other issues are to be disregarded.

There is where confessions of faith are of great benefit. While they may only be man made documents they can provide a clear detailed summary of what we actually believe. To reject all man made confessions and simply say that we believe the bible sounds good, but what do we actualy believe about the bible? Are we Calvinist? Arminian? What do we believe about church government or about baptism? If we do not have a clear understanding on what we believe on a partiular matter then we will be so much more susceptible to moving from church to church on a regular basis. There is a need to be distinct in our faith, not vague, and to know what we believe. There is also a need to be determined, to be 'steadfast, unmovable'. We need to have conviction about why we believe what we do. A solid foundation to our faith will prevent us being 'carried about with every wind of doctrine' and hopefuly keep us from church hopping.

2. Right priorities in choosing a church
What is your main reason for choosing a church? Does it have plenty to keep the children entertained? So does Disneyworld. Does it do a lot of good work in helping the poor? So does Oxfam. Does it attact a big crowd? The same crowd may go elsewhere tomorrow. Do you consider what the church teaches, how high a priority is that for you? Our number one priority in choosing a church should not be what the church does, but what it believes. Do you go to a church because your friend goes there? To some extent it is understandable, yet this approach to choosing a church carries many dangers, one of these being that your will spend your Christian life simply following other people. We ought to have a desire for sound doctrine and teaching, and this is the most important factor in choosing what church we attend.

If our priority in choosing a church is what it teaches, then we will be less likely to engage in church hopping than if we chose a church for other reasons. Going to a church because it is popular may seem good at the time, but what if its popularity fades, as is often the case in today's fickle society. If that was our reason for going there in the first place then there will be great temptation to go with the crowd and move elsewhere. Likewise if we chose a church because of the activities and events that it provides, other more exiting events may be commenced elsewhere and will soon draw us away. If however we have chosen the church because of its beliefs, then we are much less likely to be easily moved from one denomination to another, unless we, or the church, changes its convictions.

3. An active involvement in the work of the church
One of the saddest truths about those who engage in church hopping is that they rarely need replaced in the churches that they leave. To a great extent the only meetings that are affected are the Sunday services. A few empty seats on a Sunday is generally all that results from their absence. It is rare to find Sunday School teachers, youth leaders or members of the outreach team being guilty of church hopping. An involvement in the work of the local church is surely then a good cure for church hopping for it brings a sense of responsibility and of loyalty. (Though we should never be so loyal to any church that we would not leave were it to fall into apostasy, for our primary loyalty is to Christ and the truth of the gospel). An involvement in the work of the church will also bring a sense of belonging; we will never truly feel part of the church if we only frequent it one day a week and contribute nothing to it. The common complaint that people get nothing out of the church would be well cured by their putting something into the church.

Whilst there are opportunities for Christians to serve the Lord outside their own congregation, unless they are engaged in full time service their local church should take priority. We are to be witnesses for the Lord in 'in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth', but Jerusalem comes first. If you are seeking to get out of the habit of church hopping, or want to prevent yourself from falling into it, then get involved in the work of your church and do a work at home. The work that you can do may seem small compared to others, but the Lord will bless it and reward you for it. Doing everyone else's work before that of your own congregation is likely to make church hopping easier for you. Start the work at home and keep yourself from that habit.

4. Church membership
What church do you belong to? Many people attend a church, but do not actually belong to it, having never taken up membership. As such they feel no great attachment to the church and are more likely than those who are in membership to move from one church to another. Space does not permit us to consider all the benefits of church membership, nor to detail the biblical support for it, however we are instructed to 'obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls'. As with an involvement in the work of the church, being a member will bring with it a greater sense of responsibility, or belonging and of loyalty. Church membership brings responsibility, yet it also brings privileges; the privilege of holding office in the church, voting privileges, and the privileges of leadership in some aspect of the work.

To submit ourselves to the oversight of the church is scriptural, and will surely be a great preventative against the problem of church hopping. Perhaps the reason so many do not become members of the church they attend is that they want to make it easy for themselves to be regularly absent from the services, and to move on elsewhere when the notion takes them. They know that church membership will mean that they are subject to the authority of the leadership of the church, and so reject it, having the desire to go where they please. Church membership will help to remind us that it is not all about ourselves, an attitude which is very often apparent in church hopping.

If we will seek to follow after good doctrine, understand the right priority in choosing a church, become involved in the work and take up church membership then it will greatly mitigate against us falling into the habit of church hopping. Pray that the Lord would make use useful, dependable members of our congregations, and that we would not be given over to this habit.

No comments:

Post a Comment