**Guest post by Demian Farnworth at Fallen and Flawed.**
Let’s talk about people who don’t go to church.
At first blush, you could lump those who don’t go to church into atheists, agnostics and spiritualists [people who commune with God on the ridge of a mountain rather than in a church].
What’s definitive about this group of non-church goers is that they do not embrace the evangelical Protestant view of God.
They either outright reject it, shrug their shoulders to it or simply neglect it for a stiff hike in the woods.
We could say a lot about that, but what I really want to talk about are the frank, honest evangelical Protestants who stiff-arm the church, the institution and the preacher at the podium.
It’s a strange phenomenon, I know: Bible-believing Christians refusing a blood-bought gift of God’s grace. A phenomenon rooted in something marginally sinister. [I'll explain what I mean by "sinister" in a minute.]
Granted, these evangelical Christians have their reasons for being gun shy about church:
- Wounds from wicked pastors.
- Insults from vicious church members.
- Let-down-after-chronic-let-down by delusional optimistic youth leaders.
- Threats from seething fundamentalist fathers to NEVER miss a church service, prayer meeting or worship service.
Who wouldn’t cut a wide swath around churches after suffering through one of those experiences? It’s a sad thing that they suffered such. Indeed, it breaks my heart. For them, the greater church and Christ.
If you fall into that camp, I urge you not to give up your search for a church community. Understand: You may visit twenty churches before you find one you can join. But once you do, it will be worth it.
Church community is a tender, precious earthly gift grounded in Christ. It provides ample benefits to the believers, benefits like:
Community. The church is a metaphor for the body. That means we are intended to work together. And worship together. And commune together. As demonstrated in God’s original plan for man through creation, we are built for relationships. What best way to find and develop those relationships but in a congregation of believers?
Correction. Sounds counter-intuitive, but church provides a means to keep us in line when we stray. If you don’t have a church body you belong to, who is going to correct you when you sin? Who is going to keep you from falling into error?
Care. In a Christ-centered church, the pastors and elders will support you and your family with spiritual, physical and even financial help. In addition, members will descend upon your home when a family member dies. They will pitch in to help you move. They’ll even walk you through an ugly divorce.
Counsel. The Bible teaches that wisdom comes from the counsel of many. And that counsel starts at the top with the pastor and cascades to those sitting in the pew. Whether marriage concerns or career plans, counsel found in the community of a church will allow you to approach God and your decisions with wisdom and biblical insight.
Church membership is more than most of us realize. It’s a life-sustaining, faith-strengthening, joy-preserving means of God’s mercy to us.
I urge you not to cut yourself off from this blessing.
But what about those people who resist church membership based on a misleading and perplexing belief that looks something like this: Well, the early church movement met in houses. Not buildings.
They might even argue that formal teaching by a pastor was absent.
They argue early church didn’t look like contemporary church with it’s Sunday service in an auditorium. They do have a point.
But that doesn’t excuse us from an obligation to submit to church leadership, leadership Paul goes to great lengths in First Timothy to define.
Yes, the early church didn’t meet in a large auditorium. But they did submit to the teaching of a pastor.
In the end, what lies at the root of this behavior is not a harmless personal idiosyncrasy. What lies at the root is pure and simple rebellion.
And that’s why I’d argue it’s sinister.
First, on three different occasions, the Bible urges us to submit to and obey our leaders. That means our pastors and elders.
Why would the Bible encourage us to give double honor to our leaders in the church if they didn’t expect us to be in the church?
Furthermore, there is an assumption prevalent in the Bible that you will be part of a church congregation.
Letters are written to entire churches–recognized bodies of believers. In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John writes seven letters to churches spread across Asia.
Granted, these churches weren’t organized as we know churches today. But what remained the same is a body of believers who sat underneath the teachings of Jesus Christ.
If you fall into this second category [Christians who don't go to church because they refuse to conform to a church congregation] you need to recognize your error, repent, seek forgiveness and then hunt down a church to attend.
Because not only are you missing out on the rich treasure that is the local church body, but you are also tinkering with damnation as your stiff-arming may be indicative of a larger issue: a heart refusing TOTAL submission to Christ.
You don’t want that hanging over your head.