In my mind there is a difference between being the church, (God’s people on earth and in heaven) and going to church (a religious exercise sometimes attached to self-righteousness and a sense of well-being). As I have progressed in my journey I have come to question many of the things I used to take for granted, including the habit of church going.
Of course I am not against people going to church but I am questioning the reasons behind it and how effective it is in bringing the people of God to maturity; it is probably worth noting that I have been a ‘pastor’ for over ten years, I have planted two works and have preached in any number of churches around the world, I am forty eight years old, married with two married sons and two daughters at home. Along with my wife I oversee two Christian schools as well as the churches and I am asking the question “why would I go to church?”
- To hear the Word of God? – Well maybe, but I have an excellent library of both books and audio by some of the best preachers and teachers in history. I can read far more in forty minutes than anyone can preach and I don’t have to leave home.
- To worship God? – Hmm, I guess we mean singing here. This I do already. On the road, in the kitchen with my friends and with headphones on. Whilst corporate worship can be fun (as well as dire) I don’t really need it.
- To fellowship with other believers? – I do fellowship with other believers; they are my friends, we meet, we hang out and sometimes we get very ‘real’ with one another. To be honest telling someone “I’m fine” over a drink in a plastic cup isn’t really fellowship in my books.
- To express my faith in God? – I think Jesus said people would see how genuine our discipleship was through our love for one another and the good works we do in His Name.
- To please God? – How does my going to church please God?
- Our children need to learn about God in ‘Kids Church‘ – My daughters go to a Christian School, they know more Bible than most Bible school students and I teach them at home (or McDonalds!).
- The Bible commands us to go to church – No it doesn’t; the book of Hebrews tells us to not stop meeting together which is another thing entirely. I meet with other believers in pubs, restaurants and our homes; we share with each other what God is showing us, we sometimes confess our faults to one another, sometimes we pray, other times we talk about what we have read in the Bible, sometimes we eat together, sing together, laugh together and even cry together.
I could extend the list by talking about corporate identity, fund raising and mobilising workers but I don’t think they are any more legitimate than the ones I have already discussed.
Let’s do another list; this time about what church can’t do for you.
- Going to church won’t make God love you.
- Going to church won’t put you right with God.
- Going to church won’t earn you favour with God.
- Going to church won’t make people like you.
- Going to church won’t ‘meet your needs’.
- Going to church won’t make your children believers, (it is more likely to do the opposite).
- Going to church won’t make you a disciple.
- Going to church won’t make you a mature believer.
- Going to church won’t change your community.
All that I have listed here are simply parts of the normal Christian life that exist and work apart from us going to church; for example God loves you not because you are lovely or go to church but because He is love.
Am I saying that you should not go to church? No not really, but I am saying that we should be clear about why we do it and what we should expect. The church can meet in all sorts of ways that can be helpful and valid but they are not church; a church service is not church. We can come together for a seminar, a concert, a conference, a praise party, a stadium full of believers, a Sunday meeting with a preacher as long as we understand that these things are what they are and that non of these are commanded in Scripture. In fact the only description of an expected meeting in the New Testament is in 1 Corinthians which had no professional ministry, no preaching and no chairs in rows but instead an expectancy that every believer would be used by the Holy Spirit to minister to the rest of the group. A far cry from what we call church today.
If we can clearly define what our meetings are and what we can realistically expect then we can choose to attend and enjoy them; or alternatively we can choose to stay at home without feeling guilty.
Go well 🙂