We are not our grandparents generation. In that generation, when you found your local church, you more or less stayed there for life. Even if there was nothing great about that church; even if the message they disseminated was worse than irrelevant, it was your church, so you were pretty much stuck. Call it the loyalty factor or the playing out of low expectations in the spiritual realm or just sheer cultural momentum, whatever the reason, you would be going back again on Sunday, and the church leaders knew it.
Now the term church leader could be a little misleading here. For some the term means strictly the clergy or the ordained ministry, the priest or some minister, but really, the church leader is anyone who represents the church community. And when you put those goggles on, you realize that there are many in the community who help to form our idea of church and what we do there.
In Catholic parishes for example church leadership, from the pastor, to the secretary, to the parish council, have more often than not laboured under the assumption that no matter what we do or even how well we do it, people will be back next week. And when you think about it, this used to be true. Like a company with a monopoly on a limited supply of goods, the Catholic parish had those desirable things called the sacraments, and you needed to go there if you wanted them.
Needless to say, all of that has changed. Individuals are not nearly as localized as they used to be, and their experience of other churches has grown considerably. So practically speaking, my local church is not the only place that has those sacraments. And if the sensory experience where I have been worshipping really is that poor, I can quite easily check out what the Catholic Church fifteen minutes away is offering. Loyalty does not necessarily keep someone in a parish either. For those who are still moved by loyalty, it is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that they honour, and they are willing to leave one parish for another if they find its expression there more fully.
So what does Church hopping mean then? It means that people are not finding what they need exclusively at your parish. They want an experience, and as vague as that sounds, they are willing to keep moving until they actually find the church that provides it.
If publishing article online please attribute source Serviam Ministries with link to original article.
Check out Patrick and his ministry at http://evango.net/