This is probably not a relevant question for most of you. Today, it’s pretty much the standard for each church to meet once a week on Sunday–if not more. However, there are leftovers from a bygone age among us.
Let me explain
There was a time when local churches abounded but pastors did not. When faced with this dilemma, most congregations opted to share a preacher rather than officially combine their churches. So, the churches would alternate weeks when they met. Pastor “Bob” would preach at Church A one Sunday, then preach at Church B the next Sunday. The members of both churches would go wherever he was preaching that week.
Was it a bad idea? I don’t think so. It was a practical solution to a real problem that fit well within the realm of Christian liberty. However, not all things lawful are necessarily expedient (1 Corinthians 10:23). Today, this type of “church-hopping” is not a matter of right or wrong. It’s really a matter of what’s most practical.
First, the purpose of the church
The Lord has given us the church for our benefit. As strangers and foreigners on this earth, it is to our advantage to meet regularly with our brothers and sisters in Christ (Ephesians 2:19-22). In fact, we’re commanded to do so (Hebrews 10:22-25).
We cannot fulfill our obligations to one another nor can we receive the full benefit of church membership unless we meet together on a consistent basis and with the same people.
How can we watch over one another if we’re not together or if we’re practically strangers (Hebrews 12:15)? How can we guide one another (Philippians 3:17)? How can we share one another’s burdens (1 Corinthians 12:26)?
Well, we can’t. We need to meet regularly with a church family. Furthermore, we have to be much more than acquaintances with those we worship with.
“Church-hoppers” can have that, right?
Yes, they absolutely can with a few exceptions. Obviously, if the same congregation with the same pastor is merely jumping from one building to the next, it’s pretty much one church with multiple meeting places.
The exception would be those who are “church-hopping” but visiting a variety of churches week after week. Instead of going with the members of Church A to Church B every other Sunday, they visit Church C or Church D or wherever they feel like going. In some cases, they don’t go at all if their home church isn’t meeting.
Does this break some commandment of God? Not directly–except for those not going at all–but again, without consistently meeting with the same people, it becomes all the more difficult to fulfill our obligations to one another in the church.
Besides the exceptions, what’s the problem?
That’s really the wrong question to ask. If it’s a matter of liberty, where there is no moral issue, then we should be looking for what’s most expedient.
Believe it or not, the church should adapt to the culture of the day. (That’s not the same thing as worldliness or trendiness, by the way.) Even the apostle Paul appropriately tweaked his ministry for whatever crowd he was laboring with (1 Corinthians 9:20-22).
He made the same case in 1 Corinthians 11 concerning head coverings. When the culture fits within the commandments of God, we go with the culture. If it doesn’t, ignore the culture and follow the commandments.
Truth be told, the culture of our communities expects our church doors to be open each and every Sunday. The whole point of a church building–something not commanded in the Bible–is for sake of expediency. It gives us a convenient place to meet week after week.
But if we’re not going to take advantage of it, we might as well save the time and money required to maintain multiple buildings and go back to meeting in homes like they did in the early church.
Been there, done that
I grew up in a “church-hopping” environment and I want to mention a few things I’ve experienced or witnessed.
First, I’ve known a handful of people that opted out of worship on the days their home church wasn’t meeting. Why not, right? There’s no accountability when your brethren are scattered.
Second, I’ve known visitors to show up on a Sunday and we weren’t there. Do you know how confusing it is for someone to learn the “church-hopping” schedule? Well, on the first Sunday of every month, we meet at…On the second Sunday…But when there’s a fifth Sunday in the month… Not expedient.
Third, I’ve seen church buildings become idols to people. If such a wonderful artifact as Moses’ brazen serpent can be an idol (2 Kings 18:4), so can a church house. When we refuse to do what is most practical because we don’t want to give up that old building–such as combining churches when necessary–that building has become an idol.
Fourth, fellowship does not cease when congregations return to their original locations. It’s a common argument though. Outside of the apostles and their traveling companions, how often did 1st Century Christians travel from church to church?
Have you experienced this type of “church-hopping” before? Are you in favor of it?
(If you have a Bible question, don’t hesitate to ask.)