When you’re part of more than one church. Guest column by Anita Wing-Lee
When people ask me, "What church do you go to?" I have an answer prepared. "Catch the Fire Church, but right now I go there half-time and the other weeks I visit churches with my friends in the Toronto area. Or, if I’m tired, I do church online."
That seems to satisfy most questioners, but it rarely satisfies me. Is it bad to be part of more than one church? What if I can’t help it?
People are experiencing discipleship through multiple avenues.
More and more people watch sermons from one church, listen to podcasts of another and read books by the pastor of yet another. We have informal, patchwork social gatherings with Christian friends that resemble small groups. We attend events organized by parachurch organizations, follow Christian influencers on social media and practise Christian contemplation at retreats.
There’s meaningful Christian fellowship outside formal church.
Church experiences are not just found in a black-walled theatre with strobe lights on a Sunday. Lately I’ve found them in lunch with friends planting an online church, others who recently left their megachurch over leadership issues and others starting house churches. I’m also studying at seminary in a cohort that has journeyed together for three years. I feel no shortage of God’s presence manifested through my relationships with other believers. Over lattes, Chinese takeout and pancakes we discern, dream, pray, hold each other accountable and listen for God’s movements in each other’s lives. Church for me is now any gathering with believers where we invite God to speak to us and through us.
Our mobility and digital connectedness affects our loyalty.
The Great Resignation – the trend of people leaving jobs during the pandemic – has implications for the Church. The same impulse that compels us to look for a better job also compels us to look for a church that is the right fit. One study found young people are the keenest to change jobs, with 62 per cent of those aged 18–34 intending to change jobs in 2022, compared to 48 per cent of those aged 35–54. Another study found Canadians will hold about 15 jobs in their careers. Even if you’re not changing jobs, cities or churches, your closest friends are.
Embracing the multichurch life.
Someone like me might annoy the person counting attendance on Sunday morning as I show up erratically. However, I notice when I come around people seem encouraged. I’m making friends across churches, towns and denominations. I strike up conversations with strangers and mix up social circles. I’m able to encourage church leaders that what they have is unique and needed, a word they might not hear often from their own congregants.
Christians were never limited to only being part of one congregation. The Apostle Paul’s ministry was all about sowing into churches scattered across the Mediterranean. He travelled frequently to visit other churches and sow into them.
I’m making friends across churches, towns and denominations.
Rather than being afraid of this new behaviour, we can see it as an invitation to have grace for those walking through transitions.
When you hear my answer to "What church do you go to?" I hope you’ll understand I’m not a nomad afraid of commitment. Just as there are itinerant preachers, so I also travel between different social circles, denominations and regions, trying to bring God’s grace wherever I’m led.
is a creative producer, director, digital strategist and show host. She is currently completing a master’s of divinity at Tyndale University. Find more of these columns at