As we wrap up this mini-series (Read Part 1, Read Part 2), I wanted to offer some of my insights into some of these excuses. I want you to know (again) that my aim is to help us see the importance of the role we play in our church. By no means are these global answers to every person who has these excuses for not going to church. And that is leads to the biggest false reasoning we use for not going to church – that we don’t get anything out of it.
So, once again, here is the list:
- I just didn’t feel like it.
- I don’t fit in/I’m not connected (I don’t feel like I add anything.)
- I don’t get anything out of it.
- I don’t want to go by myself
- I’m kind of sick
- I’m tired/I didn’t Sleep Well/Am running late.
- It’s just full of hypocrites.
- Family Commitments
- Drama/Conflict with people at the church or among the people at the church.
- I’m an introvert/Too many people
- I don’t feel like I belong/No one will miss me anyway/Not connected when I’m there.
- I’m too messed up/not perfect enough to go to church.
Let’s start by dealing with # 1 – #3
If effort ≠ gain – we don’t go.
The #1 reason we don’t go to church is because of our selfishness. We feel like the reason we’re going to church is what we get out of it. And if we don’t think that what we’re going to get out of it is equal to the amount of inconvenience we will incur in going, then we just decide not to go.
No matter who you are, it takes some kind of effort to get to church. Even if you just roll out of bed and drive to church…you had to roll out of bed. We don’t want to go through the effort of getting dressed, getting our family dressed, fighting on the way there and then trying to walk in like everything’s okay. So, we don’t. We sit at home and watch football. Or we watch unicorns prance through fields of 4-leaf clover in our dreams. What? Don’t pretend like you don’t dream about that too.
But here’s where I think the fault in that argument can lie. We think the effort we expend in getting to church won’t be equal to what we get out of church once we get there. But, what about the effort we expend in making church a meaningful experience once we get there?
In other words, I think our general perception of church is that once we get there, the effort on our part stops and we are just to sit there and consume whatever is presented to us. And there could not be a more wrong way of thinking on the planet. “Whoah there church man – ease up!”
What I would propose is that if you simply swapped the effort you spend in getting ready to put on a good show or facade for church for the effort you spend while you’re at church – your church experience would be much more meaningful. I would rather you come in your PJ’s and be an active part of the community than to come looking like you’re ready to walk the red carpet and be disengaged.
I would ask you, if you don’t feel connected, what have you done to reach out. I don’t think it can or should be the church’s responsibility to facilitate any and every interpersonal connection in our church. If we don’t make any effort in connecting to others, we don’t have a right to complain about not being connected.
Now, I want to offer this – if you’ve tried to reach out (and I mean you’ve really tried a lot) to your church and there just isn’t any reciprocation, then the problem could be with your church. And since church is a community of believers, not an organization or building, then you’re not really a part of church. If that’s the case, what keeps you at that church? Don’t hear me wrong, I’m not condoning or supporting church hopping, and I do think we should (whenever possible) be covenant members of our church. But, if we’re not a part of the community, wouldn’t it be better to find somewhere that you can thrive in community? Again, if you are a part of the community, but you’ve had some kind of conflict or are just bored, that’s not reason enough to leave the community.
The truth of that matter is somewhere in-between. Somewhere between the church not doing anything to help facilitate community and you not doing anything to reach out is reality. The burden can’t be all on the church. The burden can’t be all on the individual. True community will reach out to include people. People truly seeking community will try to work their way in.
One last thing, just because you don’t get something out of it, doesn’t mean there aren’t others who get (or could get) something out of you’re being there. And if you’ve never tried investing in someone at your church, give it a whirl and let me know how it turns out.
And just like everything in life, you get out of it what you put into it. It’s not everyone else’s responsibility to make your life great. That responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders.
Real quickly on #4 – I know it may feel awkward to go by yourself, but if you’re alone anyway, who will you be with at home? No the voices in your head don’t count. And if you’re not alone at home, but others in your house don’t/won’t go to church with you, why should that keep you from coming and being a part of a life-giving community of Christ?
#5 – #6 – I’m kind of sick, am tired, running late, didn’t sleep well.
First, if your reason for not sleeping well is because you were up until 4am playing video games – sorry that’s not a good enough excuse. If you’re running late because you slept in because you were up late playing video games – “I’ll take lame excuses for 400 Alex.” If you’ve got the sniffles – go to church (and work for that matter). If you’re running a 98.7 fever – be there. If you’re running a legit fever or have bronchitis or something – that’s different.
But, the real issue is that you don’t want to go to church. And as soon as you decide in your head that you don’t want to go, anyone can come up with a hundred reasons not to go. “I didn’t sleep well.” “It’s too far away and I can’t afford the extra gas.” “If I leave now, I’ll be 10 minutes late, and everyone will stare at me.” (Not that anyone at our church uses any of those excuses.:)
However, if something is really important to you, you’ll make the time for it.
#7 – The church is just full of hypocrites
We know. And you’re welcome to add your hypocrisy the ranks of the hypocritical. There is no perfect Christian who lives a perfect life anywhere on the planet. Including the pastor. So, that excuse carries no weight.
#8 – Family Commitments
This is a tougher one. A lot of family things happen on Sundays. A lot of soccer games and kids sports games now take place on Sunday mornings. And while I want you to have a strong family, I also understand that longevity for a family is greatly increased by a healthy connection to a community of believers. Not to boil it down too much, but which is more important? That your kids get to play soccer with their friends or that they build a foundation for God and biblical community into the core of who they are? Which is going to pay greater dividends for the rest of their life? Again, I’m not trying to downplay kids sports, I think there can be some value there. But is it the most valuable thing for them?
You should also know, that I would also argue that there are times when you need to do a family thing instead of a church thing. Your family is more important than going to church on Sunday. Yes, that’s what I meant to say. But, if the norm is for you to miss church because you think that’s family time, your family is going to miss out a greater level of meaning that can only be found in community with believers. We call it our church family. And we really think of them that way.
#9 – Drama/conflict with people at church or among the people at church.
I’m not a drama guy. I don’t do drama. Drives me nuts! So, my tolerance for drama and drama related excuses is pretty low. And it doesn’t take much to cross the threshold. So, my initial, gut-level instinct is to respond with “really?!” “Get over it, buck up and and show up!”
But, I know for some people this is a big deal. So, first, let me ask – if there is drama what have you done to resolve it? Have you done everything you can to fix the problem? If not – do whatever you can. “But, it’s not my drama!” So… That didn’t stop Paul from making an appeal for Onesimus. It wasn’t Paul’s battle to fight, but he still got involved. If there is drama in the church that’s not getting resolved and is keeping you (and likely others) from going to church – do whatever you can to solve the problem. Everyone will thank you.
And if you’re just holding a grudge, get over it. Move on. It’s time.
#10 – Too many people/I’m an introvert
I get this one. I’m not a people person. Typically, when I’m with a lot of people, I get drained. For years I would crash after a Sunday morning because I was just so tired.
What I would say to this though is, just because we’re introverts, doesn’t mean we still don’t have a longing for significant relationships and community. I know some of you would say that you’re perfectly happy to sit at home on the couch and watch TV and never have to interact with another human being ever again. But I don’t buy that. It is within the fabric of our being to want relationships. That’s why God made Eve for Adam, because God recognized that it’s not good for man to be alone. And no, that’s not a dig on men. It’s not good for any of us to be alone.
It may feel overwhelming for you to be there, but if you invest yourself in someone there, and you begin to develop life-giving relationships with others, isn’t that worth the risk?
#11 – I don’t feel like I belong/No one will miss me anyway/Not connected when I’m there.
I know what this feels like. I’ve felt this way for much of my life. And it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve finally started to feel like I do belong. So, for those who feel like they don’t belong I say, hang in there. Your sense of belonging might be just around the corner. Also, to tie in with other points, could your lack of belonging be related to the lack of investment on your part? Are you waiting for others to reach out to you instead of reaching out to them?
I know it doesn’t feel like you’re missed when you’re not there. But, from my perspective, that’s just not true. (unless you’re a drama-maker – just kidding) You may feel like you’re not missed because no one says anything. But often the reason people don’t say anything is because they don’t know how to say something without being rude and they don’t want to offend you. I know from experience that even saying the words “we missed you last week” can turn into an awkward conversation. “Well, what do you mean by that!? Sometimes family is more important than church! And frankly, it’s none of your business where I was last week.” I’m sure none of you would ever answer the we missed you question that way, but…
Plus, we all live such busy lives that we don’t necessarily mean not to reach out to you when you’re not there, it just gets missed. We get home from church, and there are a thousand things that need our attention, and it just gets away from us. Isn’t it true that it was one of those thousands of things that kept you from church in the first place? I suppose if we all had a little more understanding, we could get past some of this stuff and just get to being the community of Christ.
#12 – I’m too messed up/not perfect enough to go to church
If that’s what you think, then you’ve allowed church to be defined by people outside the church. Because, once you’re connected to a community of believers, you quickly understand that perfection is not a requirement. 🙂 God is not going to strike you dead for going to church. God doesn’t expect you to get your life together before you enter the doors. God isn’t going to stir up a thunderstorm on your account. The earth isn’t going to open up and swallow you into the abyss. The church isn’t where perfect people gather. It’s where imperfect people gather. So, if you think you’re too messed up to go to church, give us a try.
The bottom line is: we don’t go to church for what we get out of it. We go to church to be a part of a community. And when we decide not to go, it’s not just us that suffers – the whole community suffers.
I hope I haven’t offended you too much. But at the same time, I hope if you were comfortable in your avoidance of community with believers, I hope I have said something that helps you think about why. But, it all boils down to who we start with. If we start with loving ourselves, we will always be disappointed. But, if we start with loving God and loving others, we’re find meaning and value in our church experience.
All that to say, SixEight church is striving to be a community of grace. We are not perfect. We will mess up. We will probably let you down. But, we are trying to be a place where the imperfect can come and find acceptance. We are trying to lead people into meaningful community with others. We try to deal with conflict head-on as it arises – we may not end up on your side of the conflict – but we do our best to find the best resolution. We try to support your family and do things to build a biblical foundation for your family. We try to live as best we can according to God’s word, but understand we are all hypocrites about something in our lives and it’s only by the grace of God that we have the hope of heaven in us – not because we were able to live perfectly.
Wherever you are, I hope you will take some time to think about making a little bit more effort in being a more integral part of your community or our community. If you don’t have a community to call home, come to our home. You will be welcomed with open arms. That’s the reason I love our church – because we have done everything we can up to this point to be a place where people who have struggled with churches in the past can come and find connection.
I <3 my church!