Over the years, you’ve probably heard people say, “I love Jesus, but I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.” Recently, we asked some people why they aren’t involved with the church and got some pretty honest answers. Here are a few of the responses:
“My parents MADE me go as a kid. I stopped going as soon as I could. My feeling is that I don’t need a social event to communicate with God. We’ve got a good thing going privately.” – SC
“We finally stopped when my son hit the point where he felt more alone and like an outsider while at church than when at home. I had already spent several years feeling out of place and somewhat invisible, but stayed for my children. Once he hit that point, we stopped and haven’t attended since.” –DR
“I haven’t been in months. When you get involved with the church and the people, the people turn out to be fake. I was involved with a church for many years. They would preach it but they wouldn’t practice what they preached.” – KG
“We only have two days off work. There is a lot of stuff we have to do to get done before Monday rolls around again. We are so busy with the kids with their baseball, soccer, cheer, ballet, etc…There is not enough time to stop and spend 3 hours at church or even to go to a small group during the week.” – LD
There are certainly those who believe that the church is where you grow as a follower of Jesus. But, there are others who would also say that we can learn about God just as well from family, from reading books, from podcasts, or through school. There are those who say, “I don’t have to go to church to worship; I listen to Christian music in the car or on my iPod.”
A survey (in 2013) by Barna Group asked over 1,000 American adults the following question: “What do you think about going to church?” About 30 percent of Americans say attending church is very important, about 40 percent are ambivalent about attending church, and 30 percent say attending church is not important at all. Those who are ambivalent about attending church gave two top reasons for their ambivalence: “I find God elsewhere” (40 percent) and it’s not “personally relevant” (35 percent). Those who are opting out of church cite the following three factors with equal weight in their decision: the moral failures of church leaders, hypocrisy, and the church’s irrelevance. 20 percent say that “God is missing” from church and 10 percent sense that doubt is prohibited. Also, when asked to list “What made your faith grow?” the church didn’t even make the top ten.
Far fewer people attend church on Sunday than claim to follow Christ. Many share similar stories – they feel burned or even betrayed by a former church experience. Others simply “get nothing out of church.” Following Jesus is one thing – following other Christians is quite another.
The sad truth is that the church has been a legalistic, hypocritical, immoral, blasphemous, abusive, dictatorial, selfish, vindictive, uncommitted, cliquish, disbelieving, judgmental, introspective, mean-spirited, proud, manipulative institution. And worst of all, it has been these things while claiming to represent Jesus Christ. This is not by any means a recent or modern development. If we were to take a look at the church in Corinth or several of the churches mentioned in the letters to the churches in Revelation, we would find the church has serious problems. The best argument against the church has always been the church itself.
Why would anyone actually want to be a part of the church? Why would anyone want to keep going to church? Why bother with the church?
Rather than try to defend it or offer excuses for its failures, there is one argument for the church that trumps all the failures of the church. Jesus is building a unique, missional community by the Spirit for God’s glory and for humanity’s welfare. Christianity is not a purely intellectual, internal, or individual faith. Following Jesus as a disciple is about a personal relationship with God that can only thrive in community with God’s people.
Even with all our frustrations, we must always remember that Jesus created the church. It’s His idea! Jesus said, “I will build My church” (Matt. 16:18). Not only is He the Savior of the church – Jesus is the architect and the builder. In the Bible, we discover that the church is God’s field, God’s building, God’s temple, God’s family, the pillar of truth, the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, the fellowship of the Spirit, and so much more.
Perhaps you’ve been absent from the church for a few weeks or months or even years. Perhaps you have become tired of the church, been hurt by the church, or grown cold toward the church? You’re not alone.
When we overemphasize our expectations of people or our own personal preferences in the church, we will always be disappointed. But, when we focus our hearts and minds only on Jesus Christ, we will be deeply satisfied and God will be most glorified.
Get to church this Sunday and be the church of God’s people with His people every day. I’ll be at PlanoBibleChapel this weekend. Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.