I’M A CHRISTIAN BUT I DON’T GO TO CHURCH

Phil D is a blogger who publishes THE UNKNOWN.  From his archives from August 2010 comes this thoughtful post.

 

I’m a Christian but I don’t go to church…

This is a frequent statement from Christians who don’t want to be part of that ‘crowd’ that they see in the media. You know, the ones who picket funerals and scream out God’s condemnation on everyone. There are so many testimonies of people who have left Christianity because of the church and there are many people who call themselves Christians but don’t go to church. Though I agree, Christians can be annoying, there is quite a lot to be said for the church biblically and spiritually, as well as emotionally and socially. If you agree with the title, please read on and feel free to comment if you disagree with this post. I would love to have a discussion about it.

What is church?
Before we go into any sort of discussion, I want to define church as I see it biblically. Church is a community of Christians coming together in the presence of God (Matthew 18:20, Acts 2:42-47), focused on Christ (1 Corinthians 4, Colossians 1:15-23), worshipping (1 Corinthians 14:26), teaching (2 Timothy 4:1-2), discussing and learning, challenging (1 Corinthians 5) and allowing the Holy Spirit to work which can open the church up to spiritual gifts such as prophecy, healing and speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 12). The community of Christians (Church) should also be a place where needs are met, where the widows and orphans are cared for (1 Timothy 5:3-8), where the poor are helped with their needs and people share their belongings without question or expectation of return (Acts 2:42-47, Acts 4:32-37). Divisions within the church should also be dealt with quickly and gracefully (Matthew 18:16-18, 1 Corinthians 1:10-17). Notice there isn’t much in the bible about the building in the bible but more about the people. This gives us a lot of flexibility about how church is done, hence why there are so many different churches around. As long as you have a community of Christians meeting together and seeking, worshipping and learning about Christ then you have a church.

Often this isn’t the case with church and I have many friends who are like me and look at the bible and see a completely different type of church from the ones we often attend. I am fortunate to be part of a family of churches that seek to be biblical in their teaching and in their structure. They don’t always get it right but that is part of being human. Before all else, we need to remember that the church is managed by humans who are seeking Christ, this means there tends to be mistakes. There is no such thing as a perfect church, BUT, the church leadership should be led by Christ (by the Holy Spirit, by prayer and by the bible) and by this, as long as mistakes are learnt from, we can encourage our leaders rather than pull them down. Many churches struggle with an imbalance, many focus too heavily on the miraculous or the blessings (see my post on the prosperity gospel), many focus too much on the social action and others focus just on themselves rather than looking outward. The parts of church you struggle with are probably parts that you are called to help out in, just turn that frustration into a passion to see something change for good.

Why should we be part of a church?

Biblically: As you can see in the previous section there is a lot in the bible about the church. I want to challenge you to read around the links above and find how important the church is to Christ.

Pastorally: Children who grow up on their own without love or care from others tend to grow up angry, distrustful and with other various issues that take years to resolve if they get resolved at all. So it is with young Christians. If a young Christian’s faith does not grow up in a community of varying ages and experiences then it is bound to take on various ideas and issues unchallenged. A lone Christian not only finds it hard to stand up against persecution but also finds it easy to justify anything they want to do because they are their own leader. If you align yourself with a church (remember the definition of church) you are more likely to learn more about who Christ is and more likely to stand firm in your faith without taking on strange ideas unquestioned.

Spiritually: Spending time with other Christians is one of the best ways for your faith to grow. If you are struggling with something in the bible, you have people to ask and find answers. If you are struggling with something personally, you have people to go and seek advice from. If you need prayer, there are people there to lift you up. If you are slacking off on spending time with God, you have people to challenge you. Self-motivation is all well and good, but it is better to be able to share your burdens and your blessings with others.

Socially: In a church you will meet people you never would have met anywhere else, let alone talk to. Immediately you have something in common with people in church and it should be the most welcoming place on earth. Churches are all about the people.


Have you been hurt by the church?
Unfortunately many Christians and non-Christians can look back and find a time where the church has not treated them fairly. Church splits happen and again it is an unfortunate part of having humans involved. It is important, no matter what the church has done, to remember that Christ died for all and because of that forgiveness must be given even if it is not asked for. I am not saying go back to the community that hurt you, but don’t give up on a) all churches and b) Christ.

I don’t like what the church stands for?
Many Christians like to back away from the Christians they see in the media. They like to stay quiet and not align themselves with a church in case they are seen as weird and in case they are insulted by friends. As a Christian you have made a choice that the world sees as foolish (1 Corinthians 3:18-23). You are called as a Christian to live differently from the world and so you must make a stand and it is easier to do so with a good church community around you. Obviously if the church you attend is not handling sensitive subjects with the grace of God then you need to ask questions and seek change in the church, don’t just give up on it.


In conclusion:
Church is an awesome community to be part of. It is an amazing place of friendship and love, a place to seek and learn more about Jesus. Sometimes it goes wrong, but hopefully forgiveness and patience rule out from those mistakes. We don’t need to be legalistic about going to church, but if you truly seek Christ as your saviour and you want to become more of an adult in your faith, church is the place to go. Learn from the Christians that have already been through what you are going through. Meet with other Christians regularly, it doesn’t have to be every Sunday, but make sure you are sharing in worshipping, learning and seeking Christ and seeing how an awesome God can affect the community around you