Is Attending Multilple Churches OK?
I had a conversation with a friend recently about this very question. In 16 years of full time ministry I had never been asked or faced that question. The question arose because the family wanted to go to one church for worship and another for children's ministry events. I've done some research and this is what I have discovered (which falls in line with what my inital thoughts and gut feeling was). It basically boils down to do you see the "Body of Christ" as collection of people, picking a choosing where they want to give and take from, like a buffet bar? Or do you see the "Body of Christ" as a collection of churches, each seperate in function but collectively working together for the Kingdom of God?
Do you know anyone that attends two churches? Someone who goes to one church to get one thing and another church to get something else. Maybe, it's the teaching at one and the community at another. Maybe, there's obligation to attend one and but enjoy the other. Maybe, one has a great youth program and the other has a fun worship service. Maybe you're the one attending two churches.
The New Testament does not directly address the subject of attending two or more different churches. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians begins, “To the church of God in Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2), indicating one church, whereas the book of Galatians begins with “to the churches in Galatia” (Galatians 1:2), indicating more than one in the area. In any case, either people did not attend more than one gathering, or the issue did not warrant Paul’s attention. Today, however, with multiple local churches in cities—and even in small towns—the question of whether to attend more than one church on a regular basis does arise.
First, it is important to understand the purpose of church attendance and/or membership. When Christians unite with a local body of believers, they are following the model for the local church as seen in Acts 2:41-42: “Those who accepted his [Peter’s] message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” These early Christians met in the temple courts and in their own homes to continue in praise and worship (Acts 2:46-47). In addition, believers came together to minister to one another the gifts of the Holy Spirit, who distributes those gifts to His people in order for us to edify—build up—one another in the faith (Ephesians 4:7-13).
The question becomes whether we can effectively pray, fellowship, sit under teaching, and use our spiritual gifts with two or more groups of Christians at the same time. Because the Bible is silent on the issue, we cannot be dogmatic about it. But what we can do is address the issue of motivation—what prompts Christians to feel led to spread their church attendance around to multiple churches and what are the effects and implications of doing so.
Sadly, too often people “church hop” to more than one local body with the intention of picking and choosing something from each one because they feel they cannot find one church that “meets their needs” or gives them everything they think they should be getting from a church. They may attend one church for the music, another for the preaching, and a third for the social gatherings. The problem with this line of thinking is that Christians are to align themselves with a group of believers in order to give, not to get. We are to be actively serving and ministering to one another with the spiritual gift we have received from the Spirit, and when we spend minimal time in each group, we cannot do that effectively. In addition, we give the impression that we are not committed to the believers or the leadership in any one church, and that is a poor witness to others.
While there may be legitimate reasons for someone to attend two or more churches, and nothing in the Bible forbids it, it is hard to see how such a practice could fully benefit either the believer or the local churches he or she attends. The question might be raised, "What would it hurt?" but in reality that's the wrong question. The correct question is, "What would it help?" I see two fundamental problems with this that makes it a very unhealthy thing to do.
First, part of being a Christian is living in community with others and serving them. When someone attends two churches to get something different out of each church they aren't looking to serve others but be served. It's kinda like getting food at a restaurant. There are two favorite dishes at two different restaurants. So, sometimes it's one restaurant and other times it's the other one. But, restaurants aren't the same as Christian communities. Restaurants are about being served. Christian living is about serving others. This basic fundamental mentality of being served the favorite church dishes is the first problem.
Having great teaching, a loving and active community, an enjoyable worship, and all of these other good things is good to have in a church community. But, going out and looking for these in another church brings up the second big issue. God challenges us to serve each other and build up the church. When we go look at a different church to get some of what we don't get at the one we aren't serving others in that first church and we aren't building up the church. We are avoiding these very things God has called us to do.
Instead of going to another church to get that fellowship. Instead of going to another to have that enjoyable worship. Instead of going to another church to get all of these other things we should build them up in the church we are at. Otherwise, we aren't looking to live in a Christian community. We are just looking to get served.
If you are stuggling with this concept of what it means to belong to one local body of believers then I reccomend the following books: "Stop dating the church" by Joshua Harris http://www.amazon.com/Stop-Dating-Church-Family-Lifechange/dp/1590523652 and "Finding a Church You Can Love and Loving the Church You've Found" by Kevin Harney http://www.amazon.com/Finding-Church-Loving-Youve-Found/dp/0310246792