It happens easily; we get disillusioned and refuse to attend church because it fails to meet our expectations—or even its own professions of love and grace. Not all that is done in the name of Christ reflects Christ, and so I would never argue with anyone’s experience.
At the same time, we are in desperate need of wisdom if we are to make the best of our negative experiences. A person’s basic analysis of a situation might be correct even as his or her response is painfully wrong.
Below are three reasons that people do not attend church, along with an explanation of why their excuses aren’t as valid as they might seem.
Church People Are Hypocrites.
This was my primary argument to not attend church during my teen years. Do you know what? I was right! I knew a large number of church attendees whose lifestyles contradicted the teachings of Christ. However, my huge mistake was to use their actions as attempted justification for my own self-willed lifestyle.
At the end of John’s gospel, Jesus was having a “one-on-one” session with Peter to correct his mindset in preparation for what was to come (John 21:15-22). After Jesus had pierced the depths of Peter’s heart with uncomfortable questions, Peter turned to look at John and said, “Lord, what about this man?” In response, Jesus essentially said, “He is My concern. You follow Me!”
Standing before God on Judgement Day, those who used the bad behavior of others to justify their own negligence will suddenly feel very stupid. I attend church because I have chosen to follow Jesus regardless of what others do or don’t do.
I’ve Been Hurt.
My wife and I have been actively involved in the same church since 1983, and I could probably write a book about the times we’ve been hurt. The reasons for our pain and disappointment have been varied, but by God’s grace, we have always managed to work through our negative emotions.
Why did we continue to attend church despite the hardships? We understood that the church is not a building but rather the body of Christ designed by God to advance His purposes on earth (1 Corinthians 12:12-31).
During times of struggle, I have found the Hebrews 11 account of Moses’ faith to be especially encouraging:
By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. Hebrews 11:24-26 (NASB)
Through His encounter with the Almighty, Moses understood a vital truth: imperfect fellowship with the people of God far surpasses what might be seen as perfect fellowship with the culturally elite of this world. I attend church because I value the reproach of Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of this world.
I Can Be a Christian on My Own.
D.L. Moody was a highly successful pastor and evangelist of the 19th century. One cold winter day, Moody visited a prominent citizen in Chicago to encourage him to become a Christian. The man was especially resistant to attending church and made the age-old argument that he could be a good Christian without church involvement.
As they sat there in the warmth of the man’s home, Moody chose not to argue, but rather stood up and grabbed the tongs from the fireplace. He then took a single coal from the blazing fire and placed it on the hearth alone by itself.
It took only a short time for the coal’s flame to die out. D.L. Moody had made his point. While many aspects of Christianity can be lived out individually, there are no substitutes for corporate worship, fellowship, and service. I attend church because I know I can’t be fully alive without being connected to other believers.
I can say with confidence that church involvement is central to our spiritual vitality. The Lord never designed us to live in spiritual isolation. Furthermore, I have learned that church relationships can enrich our lives and that God will work even hurtful situations to our benefit if we can learn to respond with faith and love.
In closing, I must also point out that all “church” is not church. What I mean is that not all churches provide an environment that reflects the true grace of God. In my next post, I’ll provide a few tips about what to look for in a local fellowship.