Confessions of a Church Hopper
Written by Lynn H. Pryor This article is courtesy of HomeLife.
“My name is Murray and … well, I’m a church hopper.”
Applause broke out in the support group I lead for church hoppers. There are seven in my group … no, six. (One recently left us to join another hoppers’ support group.)I encouraged Murray to continue. “Tell us your story, Murray.”
“I used to go to First Church, but I really didn’t like the preacher’s style. He was getting a little too personal, you know? So I went to Lakeside.”
“The one by the lake?”
“Yeah, on the side. Anyway, I liked it at first, but the potluck dinners always had too much spice. Seemed a little Episcopalian. So I went to Grant Avenue Church, but I got tired of the way the pastor’s wife dressed.”
“I left that church because it was too cold,” Leonard interjected.
Lucinda said, “Funny, I left there because it was always too hot.”
Before Leonard and Lucinda got into their usual tirade over the proper reason to leave a church, I said, “Thank you, Leonard. Someone tell me what type of church hopper Murray is.”
Alice spoke up, albeit hesitantly, “He’s a ... Happy Hopper?”
“Now, wait a minute,” Murray protested.
“No, Murray, Alice is right,” I said, “She knows you’re a Happy Hopper because she is, too. Many of us are. We expect the church to make us happy. If something isn’t to our liking, we move on to the next church ... until something there doesn’t make us happy.”
Murray got a little defensive. “But shouldn’t I be happy at church?”
All eyes were on me. “We’ll come back to that. First, let’s review the other types of church hoppers. There’s the Hungry Hopper who says … what?”
“I’m not being fed.”
“Right. And there’s the Healthy Hopper who leaves a church because he thinks it’s dying. He wants to be a part of a growing church.”
“Aren’t we supposed to be part of a healthy, growing church?” Murray asked.
I skirted the question as I finished writing the church hopper types on the marker board.
“Each of these excuses for changing churches has a common problem. Do you see it?”
“It’s the ‘I,’ ” Alice said.
“Very good,” I said as I wrote the word self-centered on the board. “You’ll never be happy or content in any church so long as the focus is on what’s in it for you. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your church can do for you ...”
“But what you can do for your church,” the group chimed in.
“There will always be little things that irritate you at church because it’s made up of people,” I explained. “It’s like family — no, it is family — and families learn to live together with their quirks. God might want to use that person who bugs you to teach you patience or forgiveness.
“Now let’s move on to this thing about not being fed. Who’s supposed to be feeding you anyway? You are! If you only ate once a week, you’d starve. You must feed yourself — with daily Bible reading, study, and, of course, prayer. It makes an incredible difference if you pray before a worship service, asking God to speak to you, then expecting and listening for His voice. God speaks through even the driest sermon.
“No one wants to be in a dying church,” I continued. “Why don’t you stay in the church and change that? Maybe it’s dying because people keep leaving. A healthy church doesn’t just happen; its members continually seek Christ and change those things that need changing.
“Hebrews 10:25 tells us not to give up meeting together, but to encourage each other. Sure, you go to church for encouragement through worship and Bible study, but what are you doing to encourage others? Encouragement goes both ways.”
Murray and Leonard were getting fidgety, so I drew our meeting to a close. “Here’s your homework for the week. Ask yourself: How does God want to change me through the things I experience — good, bad, and just plain irritating — at church? What do I need to do to feed myself spiritually? How can I help my church grow?How can I encourage others in the church?”
Within minutes, the room cleared as the church hoppers disappeared into the night. Hopefully, their church hopping would, too.
Lynn H. Pryor and his wife, Mary, are happily involved in their local church.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Confessions of a Church Hopper