But I don’t want to go church… Part 2

Before we start let me say something about myself: I am a born again, Spirit filled, blood washed, Bible believing, Jesus following, Devil resisting, child of the living God. By His grace I have been sanctified, justified, liberated, adopted, proposed to and I am waiting for the appearing of Jesus and the resurrection of my body to be like His glorious body. My point? I am a believer, a Jesus follower; I don’t think I am backslidden or have grown cold (no more than before anyway) and I truly believe that Jesus is the answer to mankind’s terminal sin.

Why say all that? Because of my views on what the church is you could be tempted to think that I have been shipwrecked or have lost the faith; these couldn’t be further from the truth. Jesus is alive! His kingdom is among us, if you are a believer His Spirit is in you and you have been delivered from the wrath of God that is to come. We have some very good news to share.

I take God’s call on my life very seriously, so seriously in fact that I would rather be misunderstood by the majority than betray the One who called me. If you read this and disagree with my views that’s fine but don’t be tempted to think that it is written by an angry little man who is disillusioned and disappointed by the hand life has dealt him; far from it, I am alive, I am free, I am part of what God is doing which is exciting, dangerous as well as mysterious and possibly terrifying all at once.

The thing that has changed for me after 25 years of church life, international itinerant preaching, pastoring for 10 years and generally being a card carrying church goer is that church doesn’t work. No really, in the vast majority of cases church does not deliver on what it promises; actually there is no mystery here, an institution cannot through its systems do what only the Holy Spirit can do. No amount of model changes, programs, organisational adjustments will make a difference; these changes might attract more believers from other churches but that is not church growth. Seeing a hundred believers join a church just means the saints are singing their songs with a different band not that the Kingdom has advanced in their community.

I am very aware at this point that some of the learned among you will already know this and sincerely want to see God do His work and be glorified in it, but… (Sorry but there has to be a but) listen to the language and observe the behaviour of the typical believer in any style of church or denomination and we will discover clues as to why our current view of church cannot work. How many of the following have we heard over the years?:

“Why doesn’t the church do more about the poor?”
“The church should do more evangelism”
“The church isn’t very loving”
“The church didn’t care or visit when I was sick.”
“Why doesn’t the church have a better children’s ministry?”
“Regular church attendance is very important.”
“What’s the church doing with my money?”
“Our church has a great worship ministry”

The language people use tells us how they view the church and the examples we have just read show that people see the church as something separate from themselves. This view point then provides an excuse for inactivity concerning kingdom business. For example very few church goers see visiting the sick as their responsibility but they expect to be looked after when they are ill, they say the poor should be catered for but aren’t prepared to be personally generous. Those in leadership then respond to this indifference by promoting ‘ministries’ to undertake that which should simply be done as a matter of course; we then calm any worried consciences with messages about moral behaviour and promises of worldly success.

The stark and scary truth is that most believers do not pray for God to use them as witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus, they do not train their children nor do they see themselves as full time priests of God in their sphere. On the contrary they have contracted out their spiritual responsibilities to their spiritual service provider- the church. The result is passive believers who believe zealous church going is what the Lord requires of them.

As a spiritual service provider the modern church has in most cases become an entity in its own right apart from the believers; it has in effect become a corporation, a company, an institution that can accept, reject and dictate to the people who belong to it. Consider this, a church can fire its pastor. We might say “no it didn’t, the elders voted him out” but we need to ask where did the elders get the right to vote and the authority to have the pastor dismissed? The authority comes from the institution which was created by the misguided ideologies of the people who started it.

If in a rare case a church is growing through people coming to know Christ then that is not the result of a certain kind of church it is the fruit of effective believers who are in that church. When there is fruit we mustn’t give in to the temptation to believe that the believers are effective because of the church they go to, not so. Effective believers are that way because of their relationship with Jesus, they would be effective in any church and they will in the overwhelming majority of cases be a minority within their church.

Why don’t I want to go to church? One of the reasons is it doesn’t work and for that reason I will not support it with my valuable time and money. Don’t misunderstand me, I love the church, I believe in the church but I don’t accept that much of what passes as church today is what God is looking for. Perhaps we should ask Him to show us what He means when He says church and allow that revelation to mould our beliefs and expectations.



About Mark Neale

Husband to Sandra, dad, grandpa, Christian educator, and a John Maxwell Team Member.
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5 Responses to But I don’t want to go church… Part 2

  1. Lenny says:

    As one who has heard you teach and have been effected by your teaching. (Thank God For a friend who shared Radical Grace with me!) I agree with what you are saying. I believe that “the church” as we know it now has given us an excuse of lazyness in the sense that we can be comfortable in the fact that we know some that “know God” and in turn we tend to feel that is enough and we don’t really pursue ourselves to know God because it is easier to be around those who do on Sunday mornings or what have you. A message I heard yesterday got me to think about what is our calling? Everybody has the same calling in this one sense. To share the love of Jesus. That is at the grocery store,restaraunt,at home,everywhere we go that should be the number one priority. Second we should be discipling those around us to do the same thing. So if we go to church and share this love of Jesus with other church people why aren’t we individually going out in this love and sharing it with the homeless,fatherless,husbandless,wifeless? That is why so many of those who don’t know Jesus want nothing to do with “the church”. We make it to be too much about the four walls and those ministries within them that we often forget about or don’t have time for the one’s outside of them. I love that you put yourself out there like this Mark and hope and pray that we all will wakeup to the fact that “the church” Is a body of believers who Love Jesus and seek to love the unlovable,feed the hungry,cloth the naked,father the fatherless,give company to the lonely,care for the sick, and pray for more than our children and family’s. He is soon returning and I believe His first question to us will be. Did you learn how to love? And when you are standing there with those eyes of fire looking upon you will you be able to say yes LORD.
    Loving God
    Loving People

  2. Mags says:


  3. Adrian says:

    Well very very good, of course the last line gives it away, what do we mean by church – like you I love the church Christ died for the church, the problem is that what we call church often isn’t! As I often respond when people ask me if I go to church, I say that impossible you can’t do that? Of course you can only be it!

  4. charlotte says:

    I recommend going to a charastmatic/evangelical church for years, then moving to a Presbyterian rural Kirk….. you are suddenly catapulted into a closer relationship with Jesus and a fervour to reach people and make a difference in a way you will probably not have had whilst in your ‘proper’ church 😉 I agree, church has little to do with someone’s heart, it’s all about Jesus.

  5. oikoskrk says:

    Great blog! I think you might like mine too.
    Been relational housechurching and planting for 30 years now.
    My blog is about Jesus, Church, and life in general

    Christopher “Captain” Kirk

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