Stop going to church. Yes, I said that.
I can think of a thousand reasons to stop going. Hebrews 10:25 gives us a hint that already in the first century there were people who gave up meeting together. In fact, it says that people were "in the habit" of not meeting together. It seems that once you stop meeting together, it can become habitual to not meet together.
Hebrews 10:25 suggests that people stop going to church because they are not encouraged. Perhaps this is the ultimate reason. I'm a pastor… and yet there are days when I have considered bagging this whole meeting together thing. Honestly, I've had that thought more than once over the years. Looking back, the desire to stop going to church has come when I was feeling like I was wasting my time or when I was absolutely frustrated, exhausted, drained— in other words, discouraged— about "church".
There is a two-step process for dealing with this:
1. You don't "go" to church. Church is never truly a building nor is it ever truly a "service" at 9:30am on Sunday. Church is never truly "Baptist" or "Lutheran" or "Catholic". Church is those who are actively being changed because they find their identity in Jesus Christ- who, by the way, gave his life for us on the cross and offers forgiveness and restoration with God for us. Jesus is God with us… and the Church is truly Us with God. Church is a communion of people who are called by Jesus' name. Church is a chorus of people who talk with God, talk about God, love God, love this world. Church is people. So to truly "stop going to church" is a silly thing to do. If you follow Jesus, you honestly never stop going to church. You are the church. If you stop meeting together with others who call themselves followers of Jesus… then you have stopped meeting together… and the Church is a broken body. Perhaps the other Christians are broken… or perhaps you are broken… or perhaps we all are broken. No wonder we don't want to get together… there is too much breaking going on. (And that is a whole other post for another day.)
2. You must have your self-confidence in Jesus. Because of what Jesus has done we can have confidence to draw near to God. Notice I didn't say "Because of what Jesus has done we can go to church." That wouldn't be worth it. I'd rather go to a movie than "go to church". No wonder people stop going to church… if they think Jesus died on the cross gives them the privilege to sit for 1.5 hours each Sunday morning when they could be sleeping or having fun or doing house projects. Thanks alot. No, I said that "Because of what Jesus has done we can have confidence to draw near to God." Now that is worth while. WE NEED GOD. We need to be close to him. We desire that connection. We stop going to church because we get discouraged that "going to church" isn't helping us get closer to God… and therefore isn't helping us in life. If "going to church" didn't help me get closer to God I wouldn't be a pastor going to church anymore. No, the cool thing is that we can draw near to God with a sincere heart with full assurance that GOD WILL BE CLOSE to us. Because of Jesus we can draw near to God and be forgiven, be wiped clean, be washed, be filled with new hope and fullness. Because of Jesus we can be close to God… and we can hold onto something incredibly powerful that isn't permanently offered anywhere else in the world: HOPE! And when we draw close to God… and when we are able to grab ahold of hope… then we are ourselves spurred on to spur others in toward love and good deeds in life because we can't help but have our HOPE overflow. We love God… so we love others. We receive the best from God… so we want the best for others too. We draw near to God… so we want to draw near to others too. As we draw close to God… WE WANT TO MEET TOGETHER in nearness with others too.
All of this is in Hebrews 10:19-25. As we find our self-confidence in Jesus… then we find the desire to be with others. We don't stop going to church because we never started going there. We became a part of the Church when we discovered Jesus and started drawing near to God. As we draw near to God… so do millions of others around the world. With those others who are seeking after God – we should meet. With those others who are desiring the best from God – we should meet. We should not want a "club" to go to on Sunday mornings. We should not want a Board position for a religious corporation that competes with other religious corporations. We should not feel guilty if Sunday morning services stink and we quit going to them. WE SHOULD WANT TO BE NEAR TO GOD! And as we trust Jesus more… and as we find our confidence in him more and more… then we will want to be with others who are like minded too. Church is people who want to be close to God and who, as a result, want to be close with each other.
So if you are discouraged by "church" there are two things you must do. 1) Seek after Jesus, draw close to him and find your confidence in him. 2) As you do #1, find others who are also doing #1 and draw close to them too.
Hi “clink”. Thanks for the note. I understand your frustration. Yes, Sunday mornings “at church” can be quite hard to stomach sometimes. I’m certainly not encouraging that we stop “church”… just that we get over the idea that church is what we “go to on Sunday mornings”. Church never was supposed to be isolated to a once a week meeting. Church is more of who we are as followers of Jesus. As the church, we are a people who have been gathered by God and therefore have a responsibility as people who are sent out to spread God’s Good News and love.
The circle of people I’m in right now are trying to create a renewed understanding of what church means. It’s refreshing and gives me hope. Anyways, hope that helps a bit. Anything else on your mind regarding this?
Sorry, I’m confused… are you saying we SHOULD stop going to church (the building) or we shouldn’t? Not trying to be rude, I’m generally curious, since I’m going through the whole discouragement thing right now. I do feel that most churches (around here) are Christian Clubs financed by Christian Corporations, run by Boards of Directors, and are NOTHING near what Jesus intended with the concept of “church.” Frankly, on many Sunday mornings it’s a little hard to stomach. And yet, I miss the connection with other Christians and the deeper connection to God.
What is the solution?
Thanks for the encouragement Ken. any specific advice for finding seekers of Jesus amidst the sea of church attendee’s?