What’s ‘church-hopping’ all about?
“Don’t be a church-hopper” I was always hearing. “Oh you know them, they’re church-hoppers, they never stay in the one place for long….”people would say. “They’re not stayers….they’re always moving around”.
*By the word ‘church’ in this context, I am referring to the building/denomination where you attend a Sunday or Saturday service to hear a sermon and sing worship and praise songs etc, in the company of a congregation where there are positions of authority and programs and man-made traditions.
I realise there’s a myriad of reasons why people ‘leave’ or ‘change churches’ and many of those reasons are let’s say, less than Christ-like. Things like, not liking the music or some of the people there or there’s not enough activity for the children or there’s a disagreement with someone and so on. Jesus and His apostles teach us in the Word of God to love our enemies, to daily encourage one another in the brethren, to bear with one another in patience and forgiveness, and to love others as Christ has loved us and we could go on. I myself, am guilty of ‘changing’ churches for such reasons. But is there a right reason to leave church?
In my humble opinion, the best reason to leave church is because you are dissatisfied with your spiritual growth. Brother or sister, do you feel like you need to leave church for good because no matter how many different churches you ‘check out’ or ‘sow into’, as they say, you remain spiritually dissatisfied? Are you at your “this is my last try” and find you have not experienced any significant spiritual growth?
A lack of personal spiritual growth might be interpreted through not finding the sermons meaty enough, finding the worship shallow, feeling controlled by the leadership, feeling stifled in being able to move freely in the Spirit, feeling unable to contribute, feeling you just don’t fit in, having a sense that all is not well in the church but feeling it must just be you with the problem. All these things can be indicators that you are not growing spiritually and would leave you feeling that this church thing just isn’t working. At that point, many up and go and look for another church congregation to see if they offer something more (note the emphasis on ‘my’ needs) and hence the term ‘church-hopping’.
However, if you are of the conviction that you are not growing spiritually in church life as you’ve known it and have a deepening holy dissatisfaction, and if you are sensing that it is in fact the Lord who is calling you out, (though many you fellowship with would contend this – especially those in leadership) then I’m excited for you! I am excited for the Lord and for the whole body of Christ! Because that calling out will ultimately lead to a calling in! And the ‘calling in’ will be into the Life of the Body of Christ that fulfils the Father’s deepest desire – the full expression of His Son through the Church!
Well 13 years ago I was called out too! And after some years in the ‘wilderness’ (ie not going to or being part of any church fellowship yet deeply desiring to know God more) and then being called in to an organic expression of Jesus Christ amongst other believers, man, things have changed for me. Or should I say, ‘in’ me.
Someone asked me the other day, has my view of Jesus changed since leaving the organized or institutional church system 13 years ago. My answer was an unequivocal and resounding yes!
So here are just four ways I see Christ differently now, since He called me out to call me in.
1.I used to see Jesus as external to me.
I saw Him as the Son of God, my invisible friend and I loved Him because He was God’s Son and I loved God.
Now I see Jesus as this Christ who lives in me and through me. He expresses His own life through me and He fills my being. He lives and breathes through every believer! So I have millions and millions of brothers and sisters who He lives in and through as well! He is no longer external but has become this Life giving spirit who indwells all believers, His church, His body of which I am just one member. I see Him as enormous and filling all things with Himself, and whose life, peace and government will continue to increase throughout all eternity! (Isaiah 9:6-7) He is huge!!
2. I used to see Jesus as a figure
Now I see Jesus as a person, the Son of Man as well as the Son of God, and a person whom I know very well but am still getting to know and to whom there is no end. We are in relationship with one another. He is closer to me than anybody could ever be and we are intricately connected as one! We can’t get any closer than that! He knows me completely and because He dwells in me, He knows me from the inside out! I now see that this person Jesus Christ, is my purpose, my whole heart and my whole reason for existence.
3. I used to see Jesus as God’s Son but not much more to God than that
Now I see that Jesus is God’s obsession! He is God the Father’s consuming passion and desire! The Father is captivated by His Son and wants all things for Him. The Son is equally captivated with the Father and wants all things for Him! The two are inseparable! They are completely one – as Jesus has now made me (and you, believer) one with Him! (John 17…)
4. I used to see Jesus as the middle ranking member of the Godhead
Now I see how the Godhead dwells inside Christ! It pleased the fullness to dwell in Him! Christ contains the Father and the Holy Spirit, they are both inside of Him and it is their pleasure to have it this way. I see now that they are not separate from one another, there is no hierarchy because their relationship is love and this love is giving their lives for one another. There is no jealousy within the Godhead, they love to dwell inside the Son and the Son loves to dwell inside them – just the same way that Paul describes us as being in Christ and Christ in us! The whole of the fullness of God dwells inside the Son and the Son dwells inside the fullness – they are One!
Brother or sister, I share this with you to encourage you. If it is the Lord who is calling you out, you can be assured that it is to call you in. He will take you through a wilderness experience more than likely (it seems to be the way of every believer I know who has walked this path) and He will eventually but in His good time, bring you in. What will He bring you into?
Just like the Israelites, which are a shadow and type of the church, they were brought out of Egypt through the wilderness and into the Promised Land (though only two of them remained faithful and received the Promised Land – yes, the Wilderness is a time of testing our faithfulness). This place the Lord is calling you into is the Promised Land of His Son Jesus Christ.
Whilst you and many others you may be ‘in church’ with, are already in this Christ since you are born again, there is a mystery that is this gospel we live by and that mystery revealed is Christ in you (that word ‘you’ is plural, it’s corporate), the hope of glory! We have a Promised Land to inherit, the mystery of God revealed to us by the Holy Spirit of God the Father, Christ indwelling His body, His church, and we therefore can live by His indwelling life. This is more than attending church services and singing 3 fast songs and 3 slow ones! This is an indwelling Lord living in and through His church! Now, that’s a vast expanse of land flowing with milk and honey!
A holy dissatisfaction with where you are should lead to a desperate heart and intentional pursuit of the Lord, to seek to see Him and know Him more. There has to be a ‘seeing’ before there is a ‘knowing’. This desperation will delight the heart of the Father because it is His desperation in you. It is the Father’s heart-cry! God the Father, wants more than anything (it is His ultimate intention and His eternal purpose) to have you, me and everyone who is called, see and know Christ the Son of God, the Son of His love in His fullness and this life of Christ in His Church. In fact the scriptures tell us that the church IS the fullness of Christ!
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything FOR the church, which is his body, the FULLNESS OF HIM who fills EVERYTHING in EVERY way (Ephesians 1:23).
Wow!! Is that our experience of the church?
So once again, may I encourage you brother or sister, that if you sense the Lord is calling you out of church as you’ve known it, with its hierarchy, traditions and programs, He has put a cry in your heart for the very thing that is the obsession of His own heart and that is for you to see and know Christ Jesus in His fullness.
There is a holy exodus, people, and those who thirst and hunger for the Promised Land, remaining in Him, will find it because it is the Father’s good pleasure to reveal His Son in us. It is not about us, it is about CHRIST IN us. Amen.
Be bold and courageous!
Please go to this link to read more on this same exciting subject with great richness of insight from a sister in the United States at 3rd Race.