A man approached one of our Guest Services volunteers and asked, “Where are the Sno-Cones?”
For the past few summers, we’ve offered Sno-Cones following our weekend services as part of our Guest Services experience. The goal was to give exiting kids a final pleasant memory of their time at Meck (Mecklenburg Community Church), as well as create a “linger” factor for parents to connect with each other and the staff.
This summer, we’ve been offering them as a “surprise” on select weekends, but not every weekend.
“I go to another church,” he continued, “but during the summer I come here for the Sno-Cones. So where are they?”
The volunteer explained to him our current approach to Sno-Cones, and he became rather indignant. “Is there any way you can let people know in advance when it’s a Sno-Cone weekend so that we know when to come?”
I guess people really like crushed ice and syrup.
Let’s talk church hopping, shall we?
Actually, I’m not the one bringing the subject up. It was surprising to find two articles on the matter get picked up and carried nationally – in the same week, no less – this past month.
First, a working definition: church hopping is going from one church to another without committing to any one church for any significant period of time (which makes it different than legitimate church “shopping”).
As Betsy Hart writes, hoppers reflect a growing tendency to 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,” or “I really am not crazy about that new children’s church director.”
The hard-core hopper never even makes an initial commitment. They perpetually float between churches, pursuing a Beth Moore study at First Baptist, youth group at First Methodist, weekend services at Hope, Grace, or Community Church, marriage enrichment events at …w ell, you get the picture.
For some, it’s simply the consumer mindset of our culture at work.
As Hart writes, “Church ‘hopping’ is the ultimate ‘all about me’ experience.” They take from various churches whatever it is they perceive to be of value without committing to any one church either to serve or support.
They have to be wherever they think it’s “happening” in the Christian world. I know of pastors who joke about a “migratory flow pattern” among Christians in their community who are constantly church-hopping to the “next” thing in church life.
They move from one church to another, looking for the next hot singles group, the next hot church plant, the next hot speaker, the next hot youth group.
Many times they end up full circle where they began, because their original church suddenly became “next.”
They want nothing more than to be “fed,” and when they feel they’ve eaten all a church has to offer, they move on where there is the potential for more food – as if that is what constitutes growing in Christ or being connected to Christ.
A pattern of sin is pursued, or a choice made, and they leave for a place where no one knows, and no one asks.
If they are not committed to any one church, there is no obligation to give or serve at any one church. They can float above sacrifice without guilt.
A decision is made they don’t agree with, a building campaign is initiated they didn’t vote for, a staff change is made they didn’t like, so they take their marbles and go play somewhere else.
I know, I know. None of these reflect well on the person leaving, which intimates that anyone who leaves a church is somehow in the wrong, and that is not fair.
In truth, there can be times to not simply hop, but leap. If there is scandal that is simply not addressed, doctrinal heresy, or patterns of abuse, you should leave.
But for the typical hopper, it’s not time for self-justification, but loving admonishment.
First, church isn’t about you. Sorry, but it’s not. It isn’t one of many stores in a mall that exists to serve your spiritual shopping list. Church is a gathered community of believers who are pooling together their time, talent and resources to further the Great Commission.
Find one and start investing your life.
Second, the very nature of authentic community is found in the “one anothers.” Love one another, serve one another, encourage one another; this cannot happen apart from doing life with people.
You need community.
Third, the absence of a ministry you desire may be God’s call on your life to start it, rather than leave to find a church that has it. Remember, every member is a minister, and has been given at least one spiritual gift for service in the life and mission of the church.
Fourth, you aren’t going to agree with every decision the leadership of any church makes, regardless of its structure or decision-making process. You either feel you can trust the character of the leadership, or you can’t.
And being able to trust that leadership doesn’t mean they will always do things the way you think they should. In other words, don’t hop every time you disagree. That’s immature.
(And for goodness sake, don’t stay and pout or politic, either. Either get on board once the decision is made, if it was one that didn’t breach doctrine or ethics, or find a place where you can.)
Fifth, don’t worry about being fed as much as learning to feed yourself. Even more, concern yourself with taking what you already know and applying it to your life, and then helping to feed others who are new to the faith!
Finally, spiritual depth isn’t fostered by satiating your sense of felt needs. It’s receiving a balanced diet of teaching and challenge, investing in service and mission, living in community and diversity that you probably would not select for yourself.
If you simply go to where you are drawn, you will miss out on addressing those areas of life where you are blind.
All to say, if you’re ever at Meck, have a Sno-Cone.
But don’t leave your church to come for it.
Start serving them there.
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, N.C., and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter @JamesEmeryWhite
How have you counseled one who has no wisdom?
And how have you declared sound advice to many? Job 26:3 (NKJV)
Much of what I do as I work with churches is “to give advice” about a number of matters as it pertains to churches and ministries. I learned early on in my own ministry to listen to advice given and I think doing that, 30 years of experience as a pastor and keeping well read on issues of the church has been vital.
Being a Pastor to Pastors the thought of “œpastors giving advice to other pastors” seemed important to me, so I collected a number of comments that would be considered general advice from one pastor to another.
Then it dawned on me. Perhaps advice from church people to pastors as well as advice from pastors to church people would be good reading for each of us.
So, here’s what I collected. Do you have anything to add in any of the following 3 areas?
Advice from Pastors to Other Pastors
Advice from Pastors to Church People
Advice from Church People to Pastors
Welcome to the informational and interactive side of Multiplication Ministries.
There is nothing fancy about our blog with all the whistles and bells and spinning graphics. It’s this simple This blog is dedicated to sharing articles and news that will strengthen the church, make disciples and encourage pastors, church leaders and members alike.
Our ministry is committed to being available to churches and their leaders worldwide for the purpose of assisting them in fulfilling
The Great Commission.
As a pastor for over 30 years, I love sharing from the knowledge, training and experience that God has allowed me to gain. Myself and a number of our staff are available to serve your church anywhere you may be, no matter what size your church is€¦and we’re only an email or phone call away.