Hey Brother!

I hope you don’t mind me being a bit kaypoh, but can I ask you: Are you thinking of changing church?

Letter from an ex-Church Hopper

When our cell group met on Zoom last week, I couldn’t help but notice that you were talking quite a bit about what our church is missing, and how other churches seem to be better. You also talked about what you saw when you attended other churches’ online services.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that! With most churches going online as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s become so much easier to “visit” other churches. In fact, I’ve done the same myself, joining another church’s Sunday service and watching sermons by other pastors.

I don’t know about you, but having compared our church services with those of others, I can’t help but feel that sometimes, our church comes up short. Other preachers seem so much more inspiring and insightful. Their churches seem more dynamic, and their members seem more passionate and enthusiastic in their worship.

If these thoughts sound familiar to you, let me confess: they’re always on my mind.

Letter from an ex-Church Hopper

Yes, if you didn’t know it, I used to be a Church Hopper. Over the past 15 years or so, I’ve changed churches quite a few times. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve decided to stay put.

Why?

One of the biggest things I’ve discovered is how true the old saying is: that no church is perfect. Of course, I’ve always known this—but somewhere deep inside me, the idealistic part of myself was still hoping to find a near-perfect church.

Needless to say, my journey was one of disappointment after disappointment. Within 6 months of joining a “better” church, I would inevitably find its flaws and failures. In the end, I realised I really had to accept the fact that no church is perfect, because the Holy Spirit is still working in every one of us, to mould us into a Christlike person. If I’m not perfect, then I guess it’s hard to expect anyone else to be, too.

Perhaps that’s why Paul exhorts believers in Philippians 2:1–3 to be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind”. I’m guessing that he wouldn’t have needed to say this if they were already perfectly united!

As I learnt to accept this difficult truth (and it was indeed difficult to accept!), I started to see going to church as a commitment—not to other men nor to an organisation, but to God. Commitment means doing something even when there are days when you don’t feel like doing it. It means sticking to it because you know it’s right and it pleases God.

Letter from an ex-Church Hopper

It wasn’t easy, of course. There were many times when I felt like throwing in the towel whenever the preaching irked or bored me or when people around me were petty or hurtful. But I also learnt to see how I could still be part of an imperfect body being perfected by Jesus. As long as I could grow in my walk and help someone else do the same, I could see myself being part of an imperfect but growing community.

What helped me was learning to think of my choice of church in terms of joining a class of learners, rather than “shopping” for the best place that would serve my purpose and my needs.

What also helped me was realising that growing spiritually was ultimately my personal responsibility. Galatians 6:5 reminded me that “each one should carry their own load”—a message to me that I was accountable for my walk of faith. Clearly, I couldn’t blame the church if I didn’t spend enough time on God’s Word and in prayer.

Of course, I’m not saying you should doggedly stay in our church, if you truly feel you can grow elsewhere. Sometimes, our season in a church may be ending, and God may be calling us to move somewhere else, according to His will. But I hope you will give it careful thought and prayer before doing so, that you might be moving in step with the Holy Spirit.

I pray that you will continue to put God first in your deliberations and let Him guide your thoughts and actions.

A Former Church Hopper

Leslie Koh spent more than 15 years as a journalist in The Straits Times before moving to Our Daily Bread Ministries. He’s found moving from bad news to good news most rewarding, and still believes that nothing reaches out to people better than a good, compelling story. He likes eating (a lot), travelling, running, editing, and writing.