What are the excuses we use for not going to church?
This is a mini-series I started yesterday. If you haven’t ready that post, you ought to go check it out! (You can also click here to see the conclusion in part 3)
Today we’re picking up with Part 2 – What is Church?
What is church?
One thing that I think has caused us a great deal of turmoil is having an incorrect definition of church. For instance: church services on TV, listening to podcasts or doing something else by yourself does not constitute church. (You can make a few exceptions for those who attend an actual online church – but even then I think the only real reason to go to an online church as your only church is if you have something that legitimately keeps you from leaving the house.) Are they good teaching? Some of them. Are the beneficial? Again – some of them. Do they replace church? No.
So, it seems like the natural response to that would be that I’m arguing we should be an Acts 2 kind of a church.
No, I’m not saying we should be like the Acts 2 Church.
Don’t get me wrong – I love what is documented in Acts 2 about the way the early church lived. And there are parts of me that would love to live that way.
But, (and it’s a big one) that is not a part of our American culture. So, I’m not arguing for us to sell all our possessions and live in the church basement. To me, for our culture, that’s a useless argument. It’s a waste of time. Yes, there are some people who are kind of starting to live that way again, but not in full reality like it was in Acts 2. And I have a hard time believing most of us would be willing to release all of our possessions and share them with those we live in community with. I just don’t think this is a plausible possibility for where we are.
And I think that fighting for that type of community (noble as it may be) is a fight that is going to take decades if not centuries to gain any ground on. Is it impossible to shape our American community into something that looks like that? Sure. Will it happen in our lifetime? Barring some cataclysmic event – I highly doubt it. Oh me of little faith. It’s going to take a long time to set us free from our possessions and privacy. If we even should.
So why waste our time fighting for something that’s not going to happen? What if we instead spent our time trying to build true community in the system we’ve been given? (By the way, I also think this is an excuse for many to disengage from a local community to try to regain a truly biblical community. I think there are a lot of people who just don’t like church, and they use the “home church” excuse as an answer for those who ask why they gave up on church. In my mind it’s malarky – especially when most of them never get beyond the theoretical to the actual implementation of an attempt. If you are making an attempt to live this way – Bravo! Let’s talk.)
Seriously, What is Church
Throughout the book of acts the word church is used in reference to the global church and the local churches. The other book that uses the word a lot is 1 Corinthians, where for the most part Paul uses the word to talk about what we would call the “local” church.
There is also a progression that can be observed about the use of the word. Initially the word church was used to describe the whole of everyone who had started following Christ. Then, as the movement spread, the word started to be used about local gatherings of Christians. So, you’d hear things like the church at Ephesus or the church at Philippi.
But, the church was always about the group of people not a building or even an organization. We have confused the church with being a thing we go to instead of being a thing we are.
As we gain a Biblical understanding of Church, we see that every local church is God’s representation of Christ to the people in that area. So, we see that God gives the people within each body the gifts they need to be able to make His name known to those who haven’t heard the good news of Jesus’ grace.
What that means is, being a part of the body means the only way the body is whole is if all of the parts are together. Yes, we can go out and be the body of Christ in the world. And yes we absolutely must do that. But, our gathering times are the only time the whole local body is together. It’s the only time all the parts of the body come together. That’s the only time the foot “sees” the hand.
“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
If you’re suffering why do you seclude yourself to suffer in isolation? You are a part of a body, let the body help you.
In large part, I think our biggest issue of the day is that we are far too selfish. There are a few good reasons not to come to church, that I will grant you, but certainly excuses 1-6 are selfishly driven.
We don’t just go to church because that’s what we’re supposed to do
Because of faulty theology that comes from other churches that is portrayed in the media, we have adopted the idea that going to church is something we’re supposed to do. It’s as if going to church earns God’s favor, and if we go enough times we will some how earn our way into heaven. I know a lot of people who do this. But that’s not the number one reason to go to church. The number one reason we go to church is to experience the body.
Hear me – I’m not a people person. If I had my choice, I’d probably spend the rest of my life on the couch watching reruns of The Office. But, I love being together with our body. And it’s not just because I’m the pastor. But, the number one reason we go to church is to be a part of the body.
I know a lot of people think it’s because of a time to worship together. And yes – to me that’s hugely important. But, it’s not a time for us to come together as a bunch of individuals and sing our individual worship to the Lord. It is our time as one body to come together and glorify God to the highest place. Since it’s the only time the whole body is gathered, it’s the only time we can offer our collective yet unified praise as one body.
I know a lot of people think it’s because of the sermon and teaching time. And yes – to me that’s also important. When we are gathered together, we can rally around the same teaching and concepts. This allows us to go out into the world and live as the body of Christ in a unified way. Even when we’re not together.
But, I think the biggest reason we gather is to play our part of the whole. And if we’re gathering for the whole, we can’t be selfishly motivated in our choice to come or not to come.
What that means is that when we’re deciding whether or not we go to church, a big part of the equation has to be how our absence will affect the rest of the body.
And this is now how most of us think. Most of us decide whether or not to go to church based on what we think we’re going to get out of it. We’re going to talk more about that tomorrow. But I just want to say today, that’s not the biggest factor in choosing whether we should go to church or not. The biggest factor is, how will my not being there affect the rest of the body’s ability to bring glory to God?
Try asking yourself that question when you think about going to church this week.
“How will my not being there affect the rest of the body’s ability to bring glory to God?”