I am not a fan of Church hoppers and shoppers. I grow weary of people who change Churches over and over through their lives without ever actually connecting to one Church body.
With that said, let me tell you a story. When I was 5 years old, my parents changed Churches. Because of my age, I do not know all the details. I do know that my family had attended the local body of believers in our small town since they first moved there. My dad was saved in that little Church and took his first steps of Christian leadership in that building. Then when I was 5 years old, we attended a different Church. I distinctly remember the first day in the new Church because they had a group of children who were my age. They had special worship for me, and everyone was so glad I was in attendance. I told my parents how much I loved it. After that day, I never remember attending another Church. We connected to Woodland Heights, and my mom still attends today.
My life was significantly affected by a Church hop after my parents had done some Church shopping. I am thankful they moved so let me offer some thoughts from a person who has seen both sides of this issues.
1. Feel Free to Leave a Church When They Reject Biblical Teaching. This can take several forms. I have seen Churches openly embrace sin. I have seen other Churches deny clear Biblical teaching. Some have chased after a certain cultic teaching or cultic personality. I do not mean you are free to leave whenever they teach something with which you don’t completely agree. I have found no Church where everyone completely agrees on everything, in fact, if you found that type of unified thinking on everything it might just be a cult. Test all teaching against the Bible and ask for an explanation if you are unsure.
2. Don’t Leave If the Church Gets a New Minister. Honestly, preachers come and go. Connect to the people of the Church first and foremost. Quite often the people who don’t like the new minister are still healing from the old one leaving. They felt deeply connected and now that bond is broken. I have found that people who love the old minister eventually love the new one too. Sure, with each new leader there will be changes within the local Church setting, but the Bible is still true, God is still on his throne, and his people will move forward.
3. Never Leave if There Was a Conflict. Seek to heal. Pursue forgiveness. Fix what is broken. Christians do not run every time things get a little tough. Families have issues and so do Church families. In the book of Acts, whenever there is a conflict of any kind it is handled directly and gracefully. The statement that always follows is that the Lord added to their number. Working through our problems grows our faith and increases the work of the Lord as people see us working together through anything.
4. Consider Issues Involving Sin with Extreme Care. I have seen two sides of this issue. On one side is when someone in the Church, especially a leader, commits a continual sin and no one addresses it. There are numerous questions to answer in this situation. Who knew? When did they know? How was it handled? Was it handled? In many cases, you may need to consider leaving if sin and holiness are not being prioritized. The other side is when we have sinned. This is when I see people run and I think they should stay. One time a guy sinned and confessed it all to his wife and the Church leadership. Their lives were open at a level they had never experienced. Feeling vulnerable they left for another Church. I really thought they should have stayed and let us love them as Christ called us to do. When sin is exposed in the Church, it may require a move, or it might be best to stay. Choose wisely.
I will never know all the situations surrounding my parents moved in 1977, but it was a good move for my family. I do not think that is always true. Most of the people I encounter as a leader are running from something more than they are moving to something. Your Church experience will be best if you spend a lifetime in one faith community. I am not saying it will all be pleasant. I am saying that like in a long marriage you will never know the benefits of staying together until many years have passed. Then one day you will look back and see all the ways God has blessed your life.