Church hopping, a natural outgrowth of felt needs ministry…

Found this (and had it sent to me by a friend) on the web the other day:  “Spirit moves ‘church hoppers'”.  The article is about a whole new class of folks who are going from one church to another to another, not minding the differences in belief, but instead going to get their spiritual needs (as they have determined their own) fulfilled.

Of course this article had to make reference to the LCMS.  In particular the notorious “Alley Midway” church, and Concordia College (presumably Concordia- St. Paul).

From the woman who is the center of the article, raised in the LCMS and graduated from Concordia – St. Paul:

“I didn’t want to necessarily tie myself to one specific denomination and church,” said Koscielniak, 22, who lives in St. Paul, where she attends the three churches. “They’re [denominations] important and distinctive, but in this time and age, it’s less so, especially for young people who didn’t grow up thinking their denomination was the absolutely correct one.”

Notice the selfish focus.  There is no acknowledgement that the Holy Spirit may be involved in joining her to a congregation.  Instead it is all about “I” and “myself”.  Also lost is the timelessness of the church (catholicity), which is no doubt heavily catechized against in churches which follow the latest fads.  They are constantly divorcing themselves from the past and making everything about “this time and age”.  What is funny (or sad) is that these folks would actually think they are being more catholic by including so many of the modern groups in their church touring schedule (all the while denying the true catholicity of it).

This is ultimately the result of the deadly “felt needs” ministry.  It creates folks who diagnose themselves and go to this place and that place as they see fit.  The problem with “felt needs” is that the Old Adam can come off very pious at times and direct a soul completely away from the medicine it needs.

“Sunday mornings can be a place of exploration to see how other brothers and sisters worship, connecting with people I would have never known if I just stick to one church every Sunday,” said Koscielniak, who teaches a Bible studies class to teenagers at Zion Ethiopian Evangelical.

“Centuries upon centuries, there’s been arguments among people of what’s the true doctrine and trying to figure it out. I think being connected to an institutional church … that’s very important and good. But … sometimes we get so tied up to where we will completely cut ourselves off to our brothers and sisters, who essentially believe the same thing, except that there’s some differences in either how we worship or how we interpret scripture.”

Please note the lack of concern here about what a person believes.  The quote actually minimizes the differences we have with others over “how we interpret scripture”.  So for one, Scripture can say Jesus is true God, for another it may not.  For one babies can and should be baptized, for another it is only meant for adults.  But these apparently are small differences.  For one the church relies upon the means of grace, found in Scripture, for another continuing revelations of the spirit tell them what to do and how to be forgiven (or receive a better “anointing”).  I for one do not “essentially believe the same thing” as those who decry the use of Creeds, thereby throwing away my three chief ways of confessing my faith and the faith of the catholic church throughout time.  Do you think we believe the same as those who would throw out the Apostles, Nicene, or Athansian Creeds?

Are differences in how we worship so minimal as this person contends?  I think that they are no more minimal than the way in which we interpret Scripture.  A person need only look to the historical development of the different styles of worship to find out that they have very different theological soils which they come out of.  But from the churches listed, this person probably only worships in one way, the “contemporary” way (but that would be just minimal anyways, right?).

Another gem from the article:

denomination loyalty is less important to churchgoers more concerned with meeting their spiritual needs

What is really the problem is that these churchgoers (hoppers) have no confessional loyalty.  They have self-diagnosed themselves to need something and will seek it out.  There is no emphasis on the care of souls done by a caretaker of souls (pastor).  Instead, the emphasis is on do-it-yourself spirituality.  How would this work in the medical field – I wonder if church hoppers are also doctor hoppers, seeking out whatever drugs they think they need from whoever will give it to them?

Here we find something that I think has been an issue for the LCMS.  We have advertised the denomination “LCMS” so much that we forget our confessional loyalty is actually due to the Evangelical Lutheran Church, that is those churches which hold to the Lutheran Confessions.  The LCMS is a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, but only a small part.  That is why our baptisms mention the Evangelical Lutheran Church and our confirmations do as well (as do the ordination rites of our church body).  Has the overemphasis on the denomination LCMS caused others to become disturbed and overreact into a generic “every church is ok” attitude?

I will close with a good lesson from C.F.W Walther on this kind of view of attending church (demoting differences in belief into unnecessary things).  It comes from one of his addresses to new members of his congregation:

It is a settled fact that whoever is indifferent to false doctrine is indifferent also to pure doctrine and his soul’s salvation, and has no right to bear the name Lutheran and the name of Christ.


About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


Church hopping, a natural outgrowth of felt needs ministry… — 56 Comments

  1. I hopped around to churches before I found my current and hopfully lifelong church. Growing up ELCA I checked up the local ELCA churches but didn’t like any of them. Then decided to start s
    Attending my wife’s grandparents church which was LCMS – at the time I didn’t really know the differences. I really liked the pastor and what I called then, an old school service. I realize now I love my church because it’s confessional, liturgical and my pastor preaches solid law and gospel and properly administers the sacraments. Redeemer Lutheran – St. Cloud MN

  2. “It is a settled fact that whoever is indifferent to false doctrine is indifferent also to pure doctrine and his soul’s salvation…”

    I’m not clear on how “settled” that is. Don’t some of those who believe that there are many roads to heaven still have a rather strong interest in getting there?

  3. @Carl H #3

    I have a strong interest in pure doctrine but am indifferent to what most around here call false doctrine (trivia?).  Examples:  women lectors, vestments, praise bands, etc.   I am learning to respect their opinions, however.

  4. Yes, it is desired that the individual quoted in the article would have expressed a deeper understanding of true doctrine. But people grow in faith and understanding in different ways and at a different pace. The comments would sound ridiculous from a seminarian, but not so ridiculous from a young person who is still learning.

    Let me give you an example of “positive” church hopping. I had an aunt who was a bit “different,” but she attended worship every Sunday. Except every three or four years she changed churches. Living in a small town this meant she also was regularly changing denominations, and her meandering became a point of ridicule among family members.

    Finally, after having been Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, etc., etc., she joined the Church of the Nazarene. And guess what, her husband, my uncle….who through his entire life refused to listen to the Gospel and never attended a worship service…finally met a pastor who was able to connect with him. Soon afterward my uncle died of a sudden heart attack. Having confessed his faith in Christ as his savior from sin and eternal death, I am assured that my uncle is in heaven today.

    At my uncle’s funeral the pastor related how, for many years, my aunt hopped from church to church to church, praying that she would find the place where her husband would finally meet his Savior. We never knew this was the reason for her church hopping.

    My aunt was not a deep thinker or a learned person. Did she sacrifice “pure doctrine” in moving about? Probably. Did God use it to his good purpose? Definitely!

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