Disclaimer: this is not a post to tell you to stop going to church, this is a post to encourage you to know why you go to church and to demand reform where it needs it.
I grew up going to church every single week, rarely missing a week other than extreme illness or being out-of-town. Up until college, I could probably count the number of times I missed a Sunday on the fingers of my hands. Some may call it a blessing, some a curse. I consider it neither. I raise up a flag declaring my indifference towards going to church.
For me going to church has been a part of life, I never questioned it and many times saw it as my “Christian duty.” It’s not like going to church was hard for me or a tedious task. I actually enjoyed most services and going to church gave me consistency. I could always count on being encouraged after each service.
I’ll admit though, college changed things. I’m in my third year and I still haven’t found a church at school to go to. I have however, found a Church.
The difference between church and Church is that church is a building where people congregate, and the capital ‘C’ Church is the body of Christ.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that my church family before college wasn’t part of the Church. Many people there were prime examples of what it means to live out a Godly life and I am honored and blessed to have known them and do call them family.
What I’m trying to say is that the differences between church and Church were head knowledge to me growing up. Once I obtained my freedom and independence away from my parents and friends at home, I started to truly experience and understand personally the difference.
I don’t see it as a problem that I don’t go to church every Sunday nor do I feel guilty. I’m still experiencing fellowship, community, and accountability among the Church even though I’m not sitting in the fourth row from a pastor every Sunday. I loathe it when people say “I should probably go to church” or feel ashamed that they’re “a bad Christian (or Catholic)” for not going to church very often. This mindset should not exist, and I blame its existence on the modern-day church. The whole notion of church has been corrupted. People feel that it is required of them to go to church and see it as a task on their checklist of “daily Christian activities.” The church is a made-up institution. Christ didn’t say, “go to church every Sunday,” and you’ll be saved, but he does describe what the church should actually be.
“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations” – Mark 11:17 ESV
We read in Acts about the early Church:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” – Acts 2:42-47 ESV
Numbers are an important role in churches, we cannot deny it. However I believe we’re focusing on the wrong number. I believe many churches focus so much on the number of attendance as opposed to the number being saved. We see here in Acts, that the “Lord added to their numbers day by day those who were being saved” not the number going to church.
The Church was created to be a fellowship of believers and to bear fruit, influencing and changing the world for the better, and I believe going to church was supposed to be in reflection of that.
I spent this past summer in southern California going to a mega church with one of the most prominent pastors in America. In London, I’ve been going to probably the most famous church in the world. The teaching is great, the worship is phenomenal, the stage design, bulletins, videos, buildings, etc. all wonderful, but all I could get away from all this “megachurchynes” was a failed sense of fellowship. I’m sorry, but the two minutes of saying “hello” to your neighbor before the sermon does not count.
I desired to relinquish this struggle throughout college (and the end of summer) to find a church that I wanted to become a part of. I “church-hopped” throughout the end of summer trying to find a church to become a part of, but left empty-handed. I realized that I could go to a hundred different churches, and for some reason they all felt the same to me. What I was searching for wasn’t church, but rather Church and it was right in front of me the entire time.
The Church is the compilation of brothers and sisters in Christ that care for me and make me want to be a better person. They challenge me in every single aspect of my life and show me what it means to be a follower of Christ. And the kicker is that we all go to different churches.
I remember sitting in church this summer in southern California with women carrying designer bags and men with overpriced leather shoes. Sermon after sermon, the speaker would talk about taking up your cross and following Jesus whole-heartedly and these people would raise their hands up with a holler of “Amen.” I can’t help but feel a sense of hypocrisy in all this. The mentality of “I’m sharing the gospel by giving my money to people actually sharing the gospel” doesn’t work. You got to get your hands and feet dirty. The prosperity gospel doesn’t work. You can’t sit in your $50,000 BMW and say you’re suffering for the Lord.
I admit, I fall victim to this (literally right now). I’m sitting on my “L” shaped sofa typing on my $2000 laptop while telling people to give up their luxury lifestyle.
And this is exactly the problem. There’s very few people actually living the lifestyle being preached.
The early Church “had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” I’m not saying that we should all be selling everything we have, but we should understand the extremity of the Church’s original intention. If so many people are going to church, but are not being changed then this indicates that the church is not pushing God’s intentions through church.
Fellowship should be evident throughout, not only when you seek after it. I am a firm believer that Christians need to have their community of believers, otherwise how do you expect to grow in your faith if you have no one to follow life after? Yes we should be constantly searching for fellowship, but fellowship should be seeking after others as well. We sometimes focus too much on sharing the gospel and having people come to Christ that we forget about making sure their lives are engulfed by the presence of God through believers.
The church I go to in London always has an altar call after the sermon, and quickly as an after thought, they sneak in the “come out on Wednesday nights to learn more” or “come find one of the people in ___ shirts to learn more.” This all demands action from the individual. There is little of the Church seeking the lost, it’s the lost seeking the Church. And this is backwards. The last thing that Christ said while on earth was:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20 ESV
This is the bottom line for Christians, the last command that Christians are called to do. This is our calling and we do all this for the glory of God. But how many of us are actually fulfilling the Great Commission? How many people are actually being sent by going to church?
Going to church has created an erroneous Christian lifestyle that subconsciously teaches idleness. We are being taught that by giving a sum of our income or by bringing people to church with us, we are somehow indirectly spreading the love of God. And guess what, we can do this all in the comfort of our heated sanctuaries and padded seats. But Jesus didn’t say “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you indirectly.” He’s literally calling us to get off our lazy bums and do something. It’s the same idea that people think by liking a post on Facebook or retweeting a tweet about starving children in Africa will somehow cure world hunger.
I’m not saying that churches aren’t helping the world, I know the two mega churches I went to have amazing social justice programs that are funded by people tithing. I’m calling out the majority of those who hear these messages week after week, but go back to their two-story homes, beautiful wife, and 2.5 kids forgetting what they were taught literally an hour ago.
I see this everywhere I go, and somehow churches all over have not managed to change the mindset of this majority.
Our perception of church is all wrong too. I’m all for the modernization of the Church, after all, Jesus met people where they were at, why shouldn’t the Church? A friend actually raised an interesting point the other day. She mentioned that she thinks church should be a sacred place and thus her system of representation leads her to believe that sacredness is equivalent to that of a somber and reflective atmosphere. I believe many people hold this belief as well. I see where she is coming from, but without hesitation, I disagree completely (respectfully of course). Traveling throughout Europe and visiting ancient churches, I see signs all around saying “Silence” or “No shorts.” If I’m not mistaken, Jesus wore sandals and walked around wrecking havoc. Who are we to deny someone entry into God’s house because they’re not wearing the right clothes?
Ironically, Jesus flipped the tables of the temple because people are forgetting what God’s house is supposed to be.
“And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” – Mark 11:15-17 ESV
The church I went to over the summer had restaurants, bookstores, and cafés. I sometimes had the urge to flip over their slushy machine. Granted, the money went back to the church and not their pockets, but regardless, why do we need thousand dollar spotlights or NBA regulation size basketball courts? How does that waterfall by the entrance lead people to Christ?
I guess what I’m just trying to say is that the modern church needs a refocus and the focus needs to be back on God and his people. If I can’t find fellowship from the church, but rather elsewhere, then maybe it’s an indication that there is a problem. I think my seemingly never-ending search for a church is a sign that something’s not right. It shouldn’t be this hard to find a church. Maybe it’s in part because I’m picky or a perfectionist. I’ll let you know when I find a church that is equivalent to the Church. Maybe we need to take a step back from condemning those who will never understand or getting our fingers all over politics and focus on internal change. I don’t have the solution, but I think acknowledging that the corruption of the church exists much more evidently than we would like to admit is the first step.