Why I’m Not Going To Church Today

church-692722_1280It’s Sunday morning and I’m not going to church. I used to feel guilty for that. I remember my freshman year of college at Abilene Christian University. Everyone would get up and go to church then either go eat out or come back to the cafeteria on campus. The days I slept in and skipped church, I’d still get up and put on my Sunday best so when I went to the cafeteria I’d look like I had been to church.

But, I don’t care as much as I used to. I’m not going today. In fact, I haven’t been in a while. But something is happening. I think I’m finding Jesus. How is it that I can be finding Christ outside of church? Maybe because I’ve had it wrong. Maybe church has it wrong. Religion definitely has it wrong. We wonder why millennials are leaving the church. An article on CNN (yes CNN, don’t write it off just because it’s not FOXNews) last month highlights a study on the matter. It notes, “In the meantime, almost every major branch of Christianity in the United States has lost a significant number of members, Pew found, mainly because millennials are leaving the fold.” Click here for the article. What if people are leaving because they’re finding Christians instead of Christ? Yikes, could there be a difference?

Citing what I think is the same study, Andy Braner wrote Tired of Religion? Me Too.  He said, “New churches are popping up all over the country, and each new pastor thinks he has the answer to this free fall of people leaving the faith.  And what’s crazy…each pastor looks exactly the same, with the same old wineskins, and the same old style.” I agree with his sentiment.

What if it’s not about getting people back to church and preserving our paradigm? What if things are going to be different? What if things are meant to be different? What if church isn’t about maintaining a massive and complex infrastructure, managing attendance, layers of leadership and breadth of programs?

Maybe I need to undo my long habits of doing church. Maybe Jesus got mad at the religious of his day for reasons we’re intended to notice. Maybe Jesus kept reminding people of who they are to be and not what they are to do.

I’ve been hung up on a few of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5. And I wonder, what if I just learned what it means to be poor in spirit, to mourn, to be gentle, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to be merciful, to be pure in heart, to be a peacemaker, to be persecuted? Look, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never had much to do with these things. I’ve easily been harsh, detached, unmerciful and anything but peaceful, but being outside of church I’m finding Jesus as maybe he intends for me to find him. And here, outside the walls of the church, I’m learning and changing.

What if Jesus was serious when he quotes Hosea 6:6 saying, “I desire compassion [or mercy], and not sacrifice”? He said this in response to the religious of his day who got upset with him for eating with those they considered outcasts (Mathew 9:10-13). Or when he says it again, “I desire compassion [or mercy], and not sacrifice” when the religious get bent out of shape that Jesus and his followers are not following their religious rules (Matthew 12: 1-7).

What if we’ve had it all wrong?

What if Jesus isn’t about religion?

What if Jesus isn’t about preserving our Christian subcultural paradigm?

What if Jesus isn’t about the way we’re doing things?

If Jesus got so upset with the religious of his day, how would he respond to us in our day?

What if we owe our world a living apology for the way we’ve huddled together in homogenous environments and evaded Jesus’ call to his likeness in the world around us? How would we live that out?

So, no, I’m not going to church today. But, today, I am learning more about Jesus growing one step closer to unlearning a lot of bad habits, warped perspective, routines and rituals. And, I’m one step closer to the person and way of Jesus.

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9 thoughts on “Why I’m Not Going To Church Today

  1. Adam – you have some interesting points, and ones that I have spent time studying in the past. Yes, church is changing. Yes, people are changing. Each group from the “Silent generation” to the new “gen Z” (yes there is a newer age group other than the millennials) has their own characteristics. From long term satisfaction for results to the instant gratification of the newest groups, society continues to try to change to meet their needs. Church services have gone from deep traditional ritual services to the “music production keep them entertained style”. However, one thing has not changed – and that is the purpose of the service and why Christians will continue to attend church. As Christians mature, they realize that the service is not about the style of the music, the types of instraments played, or the delivery of the message … they realize it is about Worship. It is not about them, or their likes or desires (yes this was very hard for me – I would often walk out complaining about the loud music), it is about Worshiping our Lord and Saviour. Large churches and small churches all have their place and that is to provide the opportunity for Worship. I find few individuals can adequately define the word “Worship”, but most Christians can tell you when they have experienced it.
    So why should Christians go to church? Take a few moments to read the entire chapter, but Ephesians 4:16 (He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love). tells us that we, as Christians, are needed in the church to support and help the “whole body” stay healthy and grow. It takes people, resources, planning, dedication, leadership and money to support the mission trips around the world (The Bible’s great commission). It takes the same to plant new churches in areas of great need. Churches need people to reach out and do the very things Jesus commanded us to do … when I have spent Sunday sitting on the beach, I didn’t see any of this happening.
    So why should Christians be in church on Sunday … first to Worship our Lord and Savior (yes you might be able to do that while fishing or on the beach) but more so that we will help our church remain healthy and grow so that they can reach even more for Jesus Christ. When I have done the “beach worshiping” it never compared to a morning sitting in our church feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit, surrounded by fellow Christians worshiping my Lord and Savior.
    Our pasor has often said – “if you ever find the perfect church – leave immediately because you will mess it up”. Our church is a refuge for sinners (including myself) – not a hotel for Saints. I don’t think you will ever find two churches identical … so if the one you are going to isn’t preaching the Gospel … if it is about anything other than the Holy Scripture … if it is not fulfilling your needs … then don’t give up on the church, go find another one that will.
    Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts …

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    • Roy, thanks for sharing your thoughts. They’re greatly appreciated. You clearly have a heart for engaging in worship and lifting up the name of Jesus. I think you have a great point when you say, “large churches and small churches all have their place” and “I don’t think you’ll ever find two churches identical”. You imply a need for and presence of diversity of approach and environment. Our western culture has established formal and sometimes institutional churches that are the norm. The time I’ve spent in West Africa, I gathered with 2 or 3 other believers under a tree and discussing the life and way of Jesus exposed me to greater diversity of environment than I had been used to previously. Outside of our western construct Church looks different, functions differently. I agree that gathering together with others to learn the way of Christ is incredibly important. How could church look different than the way we know it in the western world today?

      Thanks again for chiming in.

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    • I would also add that the Lord said, Heb.10.16-32.Nasb “This is the covenant(New Testament) that I will make with them After those days, says the Lord : I will put My laws upon their heart , And on their mind I will write them ,” He then says, “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more .” (the death, burial, & resurrection) Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer anymore need for the offering of sin. Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water of the living worday. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to Stimulate One Another to Love and Good Deeds, NOT FORSAKING OUR OWN ASSEMBLING TOGETHER as is THE HABIT OF SOME, but Encouraging One Another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries . But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings. For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries . But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings,

      IN THE CONTEXT of this chapter and the rest of the book of Hebrews God Word teaches that if one is in the habit of forsaking the Assembly of the Saints there is a warning to check themselves to be sure their in the faith. Being part of the Lord’s Body and He being the head of the Body assembels His believers together in different places in the world. There was the church or Ecclesia (Called out Ones) There was the Church of Ephesus, Thessalonica, Corinth, Laodica, etc and many more. A gathering or an assembling of the Saints. The Bible teaches us that Jesus was raised on the first day of the week, the first assembly of Saints was on the First day of the week. The Scripture call it the Lord’s dayhttp://bible.com/100/rev.1.9-11.nasb I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on The Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, saying, “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” That day being on Sunday! Over and over again you see the assembling of the Saints getting together on the Lords day to worship collectively. So the Lord sets that example for us. Also yiu cannot have a church without a God Called Pastor, and you cannot have a church without the Lords Saints worshiping, working, serving the Lord and each other. The gifts the Lord distributes to each individual Christian, is not for the Lost. The Gospel is for the Lost. But the gifts The Lord gives to individual believers are to be used to build the Body of Christ as our brother pointed out in Eph Ch 4. The word forsake in this chapter is the same word Jesus used when hanging on the cross. Jesus said, “My God, my God why has thou forsaken me.” It carries the idea of being Glued or welded together with other believers in the Assembly of ourselves together. John Macarthur’s said it well.by John MacArthur

      What’s so important about your local church? At a time when there’s more Bible teaching than you could ever consume available through radio, television, and the Internet, why should it matter where and how you’re taking in God’s truth? What’s wrong with virtual, web-based congregations for the digital-age church? Why can’t your iPod be your worship leader, your tablet be your pastor, and your friends your fellowship and accountability?
      The answer is simple: that’s not the way God designed it.
      The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes the importance of local assemblies. In fact, it was the pattern of Paul’s ministry to establish local congregations in the cities where he preached the gospel. Hebrews 10:24-25 commands every believer to be a part of such a local body and reveals why this is necessary.
      And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
      It is only in the local body to which one is committed that there can be the level of intimacy that is required for carefully stimulating fellow believers “to love and good deeds.” And it is only in this setting that we can encourage one another faithfully and biblically.
      The New Testament also teaches that every believer is to be under the protection and nurture of the leadership of the local church. These godly men can shepherd the believer by encouraging, admonishing, and teaching. Hebrews 13:7 and 17 help us to understand that God has graciously granted accountability to us through godly leadership.
      Furthermore, when Paul gave Timothy special instructions about the public meetings, he said, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). Part of the emphasis in public worship includes these three things: hearing the Word, being called to obedience and action through exhortation, and teaching. It is only in the context of the local assembly that these things can most effectively take place.
      Acts 2:42 shows us what the early church did when they met together: “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” They learned God’s Word and the implications of it in their lives, they joined to carry out acts of love and service to one another, they commemorated the Lord’s death and resurrection through the breaking of bread, and they prayed. Of course, we can do these things individually, but God has called us into His Body—the church is the local representation of that worldwide Body—and we should gladly minister and be ministered to among God’s people.
      Active involvement in your local church is imperative to living a life without compromise. It is only through the ministry of the local church that a believer can receive the kind of teaching, accountability, and encouragement that is necessary for him to stand firm in his convictions. God has ordained that the church provide the kind of environment where an uncompromising life can thrive and His people can grow spiritually.
      Over the next few weeks, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the fundamental institutions and functions of the church, and how they have a direct impact in your spiritual growth and your usefulness to the Lord. We’ll also look at God’s design for the church, and how that design is part of the foundation for your spiritual life.
      We frequently hear from conscientious, faithful believers struggling to find solid, Bible-teaching churches in their areas. My hope is this series will help you know what to look for in a local church, and how you can be most useful within your congregation.”

      Related Resources:

      John MacArthur on the Importance of Church Membership (blog)
      The Local Church and Why It Matters (blog)

      God also likens us, the Church and Christ being the head of His body, with our physical body. “Can the Eye say to the ear, I have no need of you?” Or the foot say to the hand I have no need of you?” “No!”

      So if my hand were to say to me, I belong to your body! But then my hand let’s say had the ability to detach itself from my the rest of my body and say to me, “I don’t have to be attached to you to be a part of your body. I am sick of the routine of you ooening and closing me. I am sick of the week after week of you using me to grab things, hold the steering wheel, tie the shoe laces on Mr. Foot, hold on to things so you don’t fall, or even being used to break your falls. I am sick of being used to wash the rest of your body, pull out splinters out of your body, and etc” If that were true, that hand that claimed to truly be apart of my body could not make that claim. My hand is permanently a part my body. It may get tired, weak, even dirty sometimes, but it is still a vital part of my body like all my other body parts are that are given to serve one another. Just like we are a permanent part of the Lord’s body. Just has my life would be hampered greatly without my hand serving me and my body. So it is with the Lord who has gifted Js and made us to be a specific part of His body to serve the rest of His body (Other Believer) assembled toghether as well! 🙂 I hope this helps! God Bless Dave Ungar.

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      • Dave, thanks for all the resources in your response. I have a bit of a hard time determining which are your words and which are John MacArthur’s, but that may just be breaks in my screen. There’s no doubt that MacArthur is a seasoned pastor, teacher and academic in the evangelical world. Definitely a resource. Thanks again for taking the time to point to so many references.

        And, do you know what? I totally agree with you that it is imperative that Christians gather together to read Jesus’ words, pray, encourage and admonish one another. I think we differ on how that’s defined. My question to you is, what is church?

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  2. Great thoughts! And I love that you wrote them down. I fell in love with Jesus at a church in London after college, when I spend six months living abroad. That church taught the Alpha course, which teaches the basis of the Christian faith to those seeking. One thing I learned at that church is that the people of Christ ARE the church. So going to church or not, we need to be the church. Which means being in community with believers to encourage each other and keep each other accountable in the things that matter. I would encourage you to find a way to be with other Christians, on Sunday morning or whenever. Not necessarily to dress up, check the church box and move on, but to be transformed. Jesus works in lots of ways, but he surely does use his people. So let him use those people to keep bringing you along. And vice versa.

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    • Chelsea, Any chance you’re talking about HTB London? My wife also lived in London for 6 months after undergrad. She attended HTB and is a huge fan of Nicky Gumbel and the artist Charlie Mackesy. I hear it’s a great place and what they’ve done with the Alpha course is incredible! I completely agree that sharing community with others is of great importance. We strive to engage in those relationships! My words are more about the church as an institution more than the body of Christ. Just as you said, the people of Christ are the church. What if the church was never meant to be an institution, but rather a movement of people joined together in community and communion? Thanks so much for your thoughts. And if you were talking about Holy Trinity Brompton please let me know. My wife would be thrilled!

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  3. Yep, yep, yep. I’ve stayed home from church and written a similar post. Going to church can really get in the way of my relationship with Jesus.

    I noticed something interesting when I was reading Matthew 5 one day: Jesus didn’t give the sermon on the mount to the crowd, as is depicted in the movies. Jesus saw the crowd, climbed up a hill and His disciples came to Him. He was teaching His DISCIPLES, not the crowd. And He wasn’t teaching His disciples to be poor, humble, merciful peacemakers. He was looking down at the crowd – some of them poor in spirit, some of them in mourning, some of them humble, some of them peacemakers, some of them hungering and thirsting for righteousness – and He was saying, “Look at them. They don’t yet realize how blessed they are. But the kingdom of heaven is upon them, and they are going to be comforted, they are going to be shown mercy, they are going to inherit heaven, they are going to inherit earth….”

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