“Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together”–unless, of course, the Lord reveals to you that you are the church, as one lady said to me. Or, that you are smarter than the preacher, the deacons are trying to run the church, or no one in the congregation will speak to you. Hebrews 10:25, sort of.
When you don’t want to do something, you shouldn’t have to have an excuse.
If you do not want to go to church, for instance, if you can skip church for a whole year and never miss it, you should “man up” and admit, “I’m not a Christian and don’t believe all that Bible stuff. Church is for people who take the Lord seriously. Not me. So, I don’t go.”
Hmm. That felt ‘mean,’ didn’t it? But it’s dead on accurate.
Please read on.
By “go to church,” we don’t necessarily mean a building with a steeple on it. It could be a group of God’s people gathered in a living room to sing and pray and study the Word. Or, fifty people in a storefront. The point is not the location or the structure but God’s people meeting on a regular basis for the work and worship of the Lord.
The redeemed of the Lord will be drawn to one another. They love each other. Jesus said so.
I heard of a pastor somewhere who collected excuses on “why people who call themselves Christians don’t go to church.” He did not make these up…
One. A lady in the hills of North Georgia said, “In the winter it’s too cold, and in the summer I’m afraid of rattlesnakes.”
Two. A farmer said, “One of my cows gets out of the pasture every Sunday. Keeps me home all four Sundays every month.” When asked about the 5th Sunday, he said, “They all get out on the fifth Sunday!”
Three. A lady told her pastor, “I’m a shut-in and I’m offended you haven’t been to visit me.” He kept trying, but she was never home.
Four. “We’re not settled in yet.” Oh, I’m sorry. How long have you lived here? “Only 7 years.”
Five. “We’re not going to church any more. There are so many churches that we haven’t been able to decide which one to attend. If there weren’t so many, we probably would have become active years ago.”
Six. “I enjoyed the sermon, the choir, and the singing. But I won’t be back. The sight of all those empty pews depressed me.”
Seven. This woman would not come because “I have to take care of my children.” When they grew up and left home, she declined again and said, “I reckon I won’t. I’ve never been much of a hand for gadding about.”
Why don’t Christians go to church? I think I know.
You’re not going to like my answer.
They’re probably not Christians. (I know. I said, “Why don’t Christians attend church” and then said they’re probably not Christians.)
Consider this brief analysis.
There is a social element to church-going, for both believers and unbelievers. We meet friends, enjoy fellowship, and help each other with various situations. God made us that way. We need people. “It is not good that (any one of us) should live alone.”
In this respect a church may fill much of the same function, in a way, as an Elks Club, American Legion, or lodge. Or even–for some people, I have heard–the friends at the pub.
In the earliest church, the believers gathered for “the apostles’ teaching, for fellowship, for breaking of bread, and prayer” (Acts 2:42). Fellowship was, and remains, a huge element in the function of a church.
But for believers–those who truly do take the things of God seriously–that fellowship element, as important as it is, is just the icing on the cake. Underneath it is the dead-serious work of the Kingdom–worshiping God, teaching His word, spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, supporting those doing the Lord’s work, reaching out to those in need, etc.
Don’t miss this. There are two strata in this soil, two flows in this river, two elements in church-going. The top one is social and we call it fellowship; it’s more visible as a rule. The other is spiritual, it’s underlying, and goes by a number of names–worship, ministry, outreach, and so forth. It’s what Jesus had in mind when He said, “Teaching them to observe all the things I have taught you” (Matthew 28:18-20).
New believers need the church, they hunger for it as a newborn does its mother’s milk. A solid Christian will be in church, doing the work of the Lord, meeting with God’s people, and they will do this whether the fellowship aspect is there or not. He/she needs ministry like a fish needs water, like we all need air.
A solid Christian loves the fellowship of a church, but even when he/she cannot find it in a church they visit, that’s not a deal-breaker. They are there for Jesus’ sake, not their own.
The Christian-In-Name-Only (CINO) tries some churches, looking for all the trappings of a great fellowship. They rate the churches by their friendliness, the attitude of the preacher (does he seem likeable, did he remember our names), the appearance of the buildings, the fun at the church gatherings, and such. And if the church is lacking in these areas, they move on. When no church in the area measures up, they simply do not go to church.
Because they’re there for the fellowship, not for Jesus Christ.
Is that brutal? Probably. And doubtless it’s not the whole story, not by any means. But it’s something to think about.
Our Lord said, “By this shall all men know you are my disciples, that you love one another” (John 13:35).
I’ll see you in church Sunday, brother, sister.