They’re fed up with the unchurched and the dechurched. They’re sick and tired of their lame excuses for avoiding church.
Whenever anyone reports on the growing majority of people who choose to stay away from church, many church leaders put the blame on the lost sheep. For example, after my article, “4 Reasons the Majority Stay Away from Church” appeared, I heard from numerous leaders who reacted with contempt:
- “People prefer to hear what they want to hear and will turn away from truth.”
- “People love the darkness more than the light. People stay away from church because that means their sin, their selfishness, their shame all have to be dealt with.”
- “People avoid church because they are – in their own way – avoiding Christ.”
- “I believe that most people avoid church because they are trying to avoid being told – or found out – what they really are: sinners in need of redemption.”
- “Three of the four reasons people don’t want to be in church are completely self centered.”
- “Those not attending are often looking for excuses to not go rather than reasons to go.”
- “Well, too bad, you need to be lectured.”
- “Get over yourself.”
It’s not uncommon to feel attacked when others reject the structures in which we’ve invested our lives. The knee-jerk reaction is to attack back. Is it any wonder that 87 percent of the unchurched view Christians as judgmental?
After spending the last few years talking with and befriending hundreds of people who don’t go to church, these church leaders’ judgmental responses just hurt my soul. And they prompt me to ask some questions:
1. Do you know any unchurched people? Do you spend time listening to them? Are they your friends? Do you like them? Do you love them?
2. How is the condemnation thing working for you to bring in the condemned multitudes?
3. How would it work if businesses and other organizations took a similar approach? In the face of a downturn, would they gain ground by blaming and deriding their customers and prospects?
4. How will you ever improve and increase your effectiveness if you automatically blame others and find no room for self-improvement?
Condemning the lost sheep tends to convince leaders that they bear no responsibility for negative trends. And slamming the sheep–even if some of the accusations are valid–accomplishes nothing. It only wastes time, drives the sheep further away, and prevents the church from improving.
Please understand. I’m not suggesting we alter the message. I’m not suggesting that church outsiders (or insiders) are guiltless. I’m not denying that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I’m simply suggesting we muster the humility to re-evaluate our methodology and old habits.
In our new book, Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore, we suggest some practical ways to pursue lost sheep: Radical Hospitality, Fearless Conversation, Genuine Humility, and Divine Anticipation. Each of these solutions focuses on what any church can do, proactively, to follow Jesus’ examples of effective ministry.
When faced with growing numbers of people who reject the church, it’s easy to get frustrated. It’s tempting to bite back. But that won’t help. What will help is this:
- Don’t blame others. Refrain from finding the speck in the other’s eye. Take responsibility for the work God has given you.
- Curb the defensiveness. Rather than bunkering in with the status quo, ask, “What can I learn? How can I improve?”
- Lead with love. As Jesus did.
We will never retrieve lost sheep by attacking them, calling them ugly names, and blaming them for sagging ministry effectiveness.
All the defensiveness points to one thing I believe. The church is not the church. Nowhere in the NT do we see that church is going to a meeting. it is a whole of life experience and church is what we do, not where we go to.
If I am drinking coffee in a cafe and two Christian friends turn up and we spend an hour blessing each other and building each other up we have just experienced church.
If I get into conversation with others on a train trip about the gospel, I am experiencing church.
If I visit a hospital and bring a comforting word or prayer to those who are injured or sick, I am experiencing church.
I know of a church that ditched its Sunday morning meeting, choosing instead to go to the elderly and shut ins and offering to do jobs around the house for them. That is church.
When we invest everything in a Sunday morning meeting, that is not church. That is religion.
That is a reality check we all need to hear buddy.
The church is not a building, it is the people who believe in, obey and serve Jesus, or genuinely try to on a daily basis. Shouldn’t churches be reaching out to people, non-believers, rather than condemning them? Isn’t that a surefire way of turning even more people off from what they see as religious people being judgemental?
There are many people with all kinds of issues, and often the churches just don’t seem to want to know. Is that the attitude Jesus would take? Did He obsess over worship and doctrines and theological moot points, or did He get out there and preach love, forgiveness, tolerance, mercy, compassion and love thy neighbour??? Not much about churches or religion in any of that.
In the US and the UK, at worst the church has become a social club for the well to do and respectable who think or feel that they are better than everyone else. That is the perception I get as a Christian; what non-Christians think goodness only knows!
Why can’t people meet in pubs and cafes and even on park benches and preach the Gospel and call that church? Or anywhere else for that matter. Maybe not a topless bar though!!!!
Thom, we church leaders never get defensive! (insert sarcasm here). Thanks for the post.
Thom, you remind me of a guy [radio preacher] who decided to stop cursing the darkness and started lighting a candles in the darkness.
Amen, AMEN, A-M-E-N!
Grace and Peace † † †
Pastor Rob Nedbalek
Freedom in Christ Prison Ministry
I’ve recently been thinking how ironic it is that many in the Church always have a ready (and defensive) response. That suggests that there’s nothing wrong and if someone is in deep pain, responding with defensiveness and empty platitudes does nothing for that person. When confronted by those who are hurting, all too often the response is to move on and get over it. It’s actually antithetical to a Church whose message is one of love and ministering to the hurting. Seldom are the abusers in the situation confronted and little is done in the way of attempting reconciliation, much less reform. WE’VE GOT TO DO BETTER.
Ordered the book and cannot wait to read and digest it. The church lay people also need to address this issue also; not only the clergy. Thom and Joani, thanks for putting your time, energy, passion, and solution oriented approach to this vital topic.
Boy, talk about making the point! What I hear in the responses are symptoms of the larger problem. Power and control, and the fear of losing it.
More often than not, pastors and “church leaders” mistakenly believe they are what their title suggests; “leaders.” Leadership roles come with power and authority “over” people. However, leadership in the church looks different. Leadership, as we know it, is a role reserved for Christ, alone. Jesus told the disciples not to allow people to call them rabbi, teacher, or pastor, because we are ALL brothers, and have a teacher, which is Christ, Himself. Yet, we install people in such roles all the time. I think that one of the biggest problems we face in the church today is that Christ’s leadership has been subjugated by man. We no longer are led by His Spirit, but by Bible teaching filtered through man’s own wisdom. Let me be clear; I’m not saying that the Bible is the problem, but that what we read in the Bible has not been “rightly divided,” by individuals, pastors, seminaries, etc.; so much so that we don’t even know what it means to be led and taught by Christ, anymore.
I believe the Spirit is moving greatly in people today, which is leading to the mass exodus from the weekly gatherings. People are realizing that “church” attendance is not the same thing as being “THE CHURCH.” People have a sense that there is much more to this thing we call “Christianity,” and when we compare what Christ said His Church would look like, to what we see, it is clear that this is not what He was establishing. The Church is not about controlling people by conforming them to a pattern of behaviors. It’s not about sifting out all the “dos and don’ts” from the Bible and applying them to life. It’s about allowing Christ to conform our hearts and minds to His, and following His lead. HE is does that job; not me, and not you.
Buildings, flashy lights, meeting times, leaders (other than Christ), programs, curriculums, etc., can and have distracted us from Christ. They have become stumbling blocks. It’s time to repent (change our minds), refocus, and reorient our minds and hearts on Him!
Amen bro. You said it all. And so did ‘Reality check’ above. Didn’t early Christians meet in all kinds of situations? Where they could and when they could. Why a church building and singing hymns and listening to sermons anyway?
That’s good. nothing else is needed to be said. Amen.
What a GREAT POST 2trakmind.
I could be wrong but I believe that you produce after your own kind just as God did for all of creation. An acorn can only produce an oak tree. It cannot produce a peach tree.
I am a retired teacher and I worked very hard to make the lessons relevant and up to date which was important as I taught Business, Economics, I.T., Politics and Law. I was enthusiastic about my subjects and do you know what? Most of my students were enthusiastic and worked hard. Their assessment of me was that I made them work hard and I knew my stuff and I was fair.
If you invest everything in Sunday morning meetings, then your congregation will as well and that means they will be deprived of a 24/7 experience of God.
Praise the Lord. There is nothing else to write about. you said it all that needs to be said.
On Facebook, Yaholo wrote: A teacher can complain forever about bad students and nothing will change. But if a teacher improves their methods, the students are guaranteed to respond.
A coach can complain forever about a bad team and nothing will change. But if a coach examines his methods, the team will most certainly improve.
A pastor can complain about his community forever…
There’s a reason they fire the coach of a losing team….maybe there’s a painful reality in that for some churches.
Very good assessment.
You say in your original posting that you do not deny that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”. I believe that this in itself may be what is leading some to become unchurched/de-churched. At least it has for me (in among other things).
As Christians we say that Christ died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, yet we are constantly reminded that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Is that truly forgiveness?
If I were to wrong you and you say you forgive me, yet at everyturn remind me of what I’ve done to wrong you, have you truly forgiven me?
Please let that sit before responding with “you must accept the forgiveness”.
I do, however, give you kudos for trying. 🙂
Michael, thank you. Actually, I included that line in the article because commenters often say that my advice against judgmentalism is ignoring the existence of sin. So, I wanted to be clear that I acknowledge that people (insiders and outsiders alike) sin. But sin should not be the church’s focal point. And your sentiments illustrate why. As I said in the piece, we must lead with love. As Jesus did.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” is a direct quote from Romans 3:23. Scripture often reminds us that we’re sinners because we must realize we are a sinner and repent of that sin and believe in Jesus Christ, who never sinned. Once we’ve done that, then the reminder we are sinners continually points us back to Christ, because we are forgetful creatures… we need reminding that our righteousness is not found in ourselves but only in Him. And only by the power of the Holy Spirit living inside us can we walk in His ways and do the good works he’s prepared in advance for us. If we forget that, then we often become self-reliant rather than God-reliant. I agree that we shouldn’t just say, “We’re all sinners,” and leave it at that. That’s the bad news. You’ve got to follow it with the good news of Jesus dying in our place. But without the bad news, you won’t know you need the good news. And for those who believe already, we need to remember what we’ve been saved from… that we have been saved from eternity apart from God… that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” That prompts our thanksgiving and praise!
I felt my blood pressure go up as I read your post. Not because I disagree, but rather because what you say is true and I’ve lived it. Church individuals have literally turned away a junior high friend we brought to the Bible club since she didn’t fit the mold and they wanted to protect their Christian homeschooled children. Our church plant was shut down because it wasn’t self-sustaining in 3 years – yet we had a core of 30 regular unchurched people meeting. Had we merely stolen Christians from other churches and grown it to a “respectable” number, the denomination would have categorized us as a “flagship church” despite no new souls having come to know Jesus. 30 unchurched meeting regularly and coming to know Jesus just wasn’t good enough.
I truly hope your book will not be shelved by those who most need to read it and turn from their broken ways of leadership.
Love it, love it, love it… Another great article.. Felt I was alone in this way of thinking… So glad I’m not
It seems we are in danger of throwing out sound theology about the human condition in favor of showing love, mercy and justice, all of which are theological words. Every statement made above is true. Jesus said that we love darkness more than light. Mankind avoids Jesus for fear of our deeds being exposed. We are constantly making excuses. Making these statements are not about condemning people, because the lost are already condemned. However, this should not cause us to throw up our hands and be content to let the lost stay that way. The truth about the human condition should cause us to love people even more and to feel even more compassion. The gospel is good news because we are dead in sin and God has loved us greatly. Our methodology should reflect both sides of the gospel.
Dean, I believe sound theology includes listening to the hurt, really listening and examining one’s self and church to see if there is a validity to the claim and then doing what can be done to correct what is wrong. I don’t believe the post speaks of throwing away one for the other. Perhaps balancing them out is more what is needed. Some churches have their methodology down to a T, so much so, grace can not be shown, even in the face of legitimate wrongdoing. To me, there’s something wrong with someone’s theology that won’t allow them to look inward and at least to attempt to fix what is broken.
The assumption that because you go to church you are a wonderful person and everybody who doesn’t is a wretched sinner is a dangerous one. We all have to keep examining our motives as Christians. Being a Christian is not the end of the struggle, but the beginning.
Pat, that’s what I was trying to say. 🙂 It’s a dangerous thing to throw out those statements as simply “judgmental” or from someone who thinks they’re perfect. Jesus said these things, but He also loved people. He was full of both grace and truth, not half of each. If someone’s methodology has no room for grace, then I wonder if their theology is nothing more words on paper.
Just today, a reader chastised our book, writing: “The Word of God tells us to be a separate people and to reprove, rebuke, exhort with long suffering and doctrine.” He went on to say that Christians should not accept people in their sinful “old man state.”
What do you think?
Well, it seems we as Christians do a lot of rebuking, exhorting, reproving …to the wrong people. This is intended for the assembly of believers (The Church). The message to unbeliever is not about what we do…it’s about who we are. The message to the unbeliever should be one that Christ saves you from who you are (that’s why we are born again).
Paul talks of bearing the infirmities of the weak, and spent an entire chapter in Romans (chapter 14 – I believe) discussing weaker brethren. To be totally honest, there is a time when Christians should withdraw their fellowship from a believer whose manner of conduct brings a legitimate reproach upon Christ (after going to said brother several times). This, however is not to be a cruel measure but a corrective one and doesn’t break the relationship (different from fellowship) that person has with Christ (related by blood).
The closer I get to God – the worse I see myself – and the more thankful I am for His grace. Titus 3:2-7 is something we should all keep in mind.
What is a rebuke? It’s interesting to me that Jesus saved most of his verbal rebukes for the religious. Otherwise, he was content to be light in a dark world. Jesus often let who he was rebuke the darkness. He was love and he let that shine, he was truth and he gently taught from the known to the unknown via story. Is it still true, that what we are speaks so much louder than what we say? Light attracts, judgment repels back into darkness.
Note: Paul was teaching a young preacher about dealing with unruly saints, not sinners, in the text referenced. Another case of a miss identified audience.
What many Christians and certainly many religious people don’t want to hear is indeed that Jesus condemned religious types like the Pharisees and the Sadducees for using religion for their own ends, and then hypocritically telling people who were not part of their groups to be religious and be morally upstanding when they were no such things themselves. Reminds me of politicians to be honest!
Being religious is not necessarily being a Christian; we are Christians by how we obey God and how we treat other people on a daily and ongoing basis, not by doing rituals or church going, though they are a part of our Christian walk. I refer all to the Good Samaritan.
Dan, I agree with you! I hope I didn’t come across wrong (I said the very same thing you did). Rebuke is not intended for the unbeliever – but for the sinning believer.
Not sure, but did not Jesus state, “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” (Joh 3:19-20 ESV)
John 6 would seem to be a bit harsher than the idea “he gently taught from the known to the unknown via story”. If fact, many left Jesus to the point that he asked the Twelve if they were going to leave him. There is a “both/and” to Christ that we seem to gloss over.
How many times did he rebuke the unbelief of Israel in opposition to faith he saw in the Gentiles? It would seem we need to keep context in focus regarding Jesus as well as the Pauline letter to Timothy.
I think one of Group’s core principles explains it best to me.
1. Relational – The church (the Body of Christ), for several hundred years wasn’t about a building; they were about being. They weren’t meeting. They were doing life together. And living as Christ became infectious to the communities around them. What ‘church’ today is willing to turn the focus away from ‘pulling off’ the Sunday event and focus on living Christ to their community?
2. Experiential – I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I learn (Confucius). Anyone who has ever been on a mission trip knows what this means. In many churches today Sunday has become quite a performance…passive audience. I believe Scripture is very clear against this (1 Corinthians 12). And since many churches only gather the Body of Christ one hour a week, there is no place to live out our gifts.
3. Applicable – Since they were living life together (seven days a week) they could easily see that Jesus’ teaching was the perfect answer to their questions. And they were there to support and encourage each other along the way.
4. Learner Based – That’s the hard one. Knowing your student well enough to know what works best for them…NOT the teacher. If lecture is the least effective form of teaching, why is that the preferred method on Sunday?
People were drawn to the early believers. They didn’t have a website. They didn’t have a marketing plan. They didn’t have a building. They didn’t have paid staff. They didn’t have a budget. They lived Christ and changed the world.
The closest we’ve seen to a kind of communal church way of living in recent times were the Hippie communes of the 60’s in North America and Europe, and perhaps the Kibbutzim in Israel today. Different beliefs of course but I believe that some of those are close to that kind of church Paul and the early Christians experienced. If that is not possible, then a good church should be a useful part of the community where it is reaching out to all kinds of people, the religious and non religious and just those who couldn’t care less but need help in any number of ways. Being a Christian is more about what you do and how you live, rather than what you say you do.
Thom I really respect the work you do but was disappointed in this article. You give suggestions and thoughts for us to consider which we should, but then you label our thoughts as “contempt” and “knee-jerk” reactions. My observation which you quoted in your article was pretty much from the book of John. I am not blaming, slamming, or speaking poorly of anyone. I am merely stating a truth that always seems to get lost in our conversations about the unchurched – they like the darkness more than they like the light. I love unchurched people and I try my best to help the see and experience the love of Christ. And yet I also realize that some people don’t want what Jesus has to give and that’s just part of being in ministry. I appreciate you work Thom but this response was very disappointing.
Thank you, David, for your thoughts. And I am sorry that my thoughts in this article disappointed you.
When I use the term “unchurched” I’m including the de-churched, which is now a vast population, as well as the never-churched. When I think of all those in this category I’ve met, whom I call my friends, I would hesitate to universally characterize them as people who love the darkness more than the light. And I would really cringe to ever have them hear me characterize them that way. They would consider that characterization as contemptuous. I’m afraid that would only push them further away from the church.
But regardless of the accuracy of our judgments of the unchurched, I must ask, what’s to be gained by spending our time making negative assumptions about people with whom we are not in relationship? The more time we spend dismissing the decline of the church as the result of someone’s else’s problem, the less time and attention we spend on finding ways to improve how we do ministry.
‘…I would really cringe to ever have them hear me characterize them that way. They would consider that characterization as contemptuous. I’m afraid that would only push them further away from the church.’
Thom, you said more there than anyone really needs to say. Being judgemental drives people away from church, Jesus and Christianity faster than an office worker in an office who has a nasty cold!!!
Thom, thanks for the response I really appreciate that. First of all each individual is unique and different, so I would never put everyone who stays away from the church in that group. On the other hand I believe on honest approach to reaching people is recognizing what Jesus says about people. Jesus says we “like the darkness more than we like the light”. I don’t have a problem sharing that with my friends because it’s true about me. So I disagree with statement that it is a negative assumption, because it is not an assumption that I am making about people. It is a statement of truth that Jesus makes and is important to recognize. Do I believe that the church can do a better job, certainly. But no survey of the “unchurched” or even “dechurched” is going to accurate reflect all the reasons why people stay away from church. What survey is going to show I stay away from church because I am living with girlfriend and going to church means Jesus and I are going to have deal with that issue. And I don’t want to deal with that issue so I am going to stay away from church. So I think we need to be honest about our understanding of why people don’t go to church both from a human perspective “your survey and analysis” which is valid but also a spiritual/theological side as Jesus identifies. How does Jesus parable of the sower and the seeds shape our understanding of why people don’t go to church or want to embrace Jesus? If we don’t include that in the equation then our understanding incomplete.
David, you are correct that we all have that dark side that won’t want to embrace the light. But all the darkness is not necessarily a result of a person living in sin. Sometimes the staying away can be a result of deep hurts or disillusionment. Is that sin? Maybe, maybe not. But you are right that no survey will capture all the reasons, because the reason are as varied as the people themselves. Thus, boiling all the reasons down to simplistic explanations won’t help. I think a multi-pronged approach is needed. The questions remains, is the Church up for this project?
Thom, maybe there’s a new conversation to be started. I agree that the unchurched and de-churched have been hurt by the world and in many cases by the church. I agree that we should have friends who are lost and far from Jesus, people whom we are loving and serving even if they hate the church.
But at what point in the relationship do people need to hear that they are more than hurting and broken but have committed high treason against the God who made them? They have treated Jesus with apathy and contempt. It is not judgmental to tell people this any more than it is judgmental for the doctor to tell me I’m sick, so long as I’m humble enough to admit my own sinfulness. People need more than Jesus the Therapist who makes life work. They need the Lamb of God who dies a gruesome death for traitors who are His enemies. Jesus didn’t jump into the kiddie pool to save people who were in pain up to their knees. He dove to the bottom of the deep end to save people who had already drowned and were dead in sin. I think most of us struggle with this. We all know we cannot relate people into faith, but we also know it takes both love and courage to share the bad news that makes the good news so good.
Thanks, Dean. I understand the point to confront sin. Sin is real. And Jesus redeems us from the “wages of sin.” My concern comes with efforts to attempt to initiate a relationship with condemnation.
When you look at Jesus’ ministry, do you see an approach that begins principally with condemnation–or with acceptance and love?
Exactly and Amen. I want to begin with love and grace. The bible describes the gospel as an offense and a stumbling block. So when the conversation comes to the gospel I want to make sure I haven’t allowed my lack of love to be the offense. I’ve known men who talked of being persecuted for the gospel when in fact they were simply jerks. So to apply this to the church, radical hospitality is believers working together to show love and acceptance first so that every charge of hypocrisy can be cleared out of the way before the bad and good news is ever heard.
The first thing Jesus did in his public ministry was call people to “repent and believe.” So… he didn’t just accept people… he called them to repent first, turn from their sins to him. He knew they were condemned already. They needed a Savior. And it is loving to tell people the truth, as long as we do it with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8
He didn’t ignore the problem. But neither did he condemn. He simply and lovingly offered a solution.
We’re warned in Romans 2 that when we judge others when we condemn ourselves. It is God’s kindness that leads to repentance. If the kindness of God leads people to Him, why do we insist on getting in His way with our human condemnation?
It is not our job to condemn and judge. It is our job to love. The mark of a follower of Christ is to be our love for each other.
The Holy Spirit does the convicting. In the context of relationship, when I’ve earned the right to speak into another’s life and have made myself accountable to their criticism as well – THEN I can lovingly encourage my friend away from sin. If mutual encouragement and accountability doesn’t define my relationship with them, then I best keep my mouth shut and show God’s love and kindness.
I offer a Reformed perspective: The Reformation taught us that the church is found where 1) The Word is preached rightly, and 2)Where the sacraments are administered rightly. Word and sacrament are where we receive the gospel (the church gathered), the world is where we live out our gratitude for the gospel (the church sent). So we would maintain that when we visit a sick person in the hospital, that is not “church” it is expressing our gratitude for the good news we have received in Christ. I feel this distinction helps to see the necessity of both worship and action. It is not either/or it is both/and.
I’m jumping in without reading all the comment’s offered. But in my experience, and in what I see with friends and people in my community it’s the church (the ways we chose to organize) and it’s behavior (how we act as an organized group) that has turned people off. It isn’t the love of Jesus, the simple power of the gospel. With many un/de churched folks I not only find a openness to faith and the teachings of Jesus – but a greater desire to know it that churches are simply failing to teach, know or reflect. People are sick of dead religion, they will never tire of grace or people whose faith is taken seriously enough to not become passive cultural observers of their religion.
With everything you have said Thom – to put it plain and simple – we are to accept people where they are. Does this mean that we approve of what sinning believers do? God forbid. But we do know that even when we are faithless he remains faithful and can’t deny or reject himself….that’s some type of Love there!
I also want to make it clear – I believe it’s no our job or duty to correct an unbelievers behavior – its our job to tell them about Jesus and display the love of Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can correct and change behavior. Sixteen years in the Pastoral ministry taught me one great lesson – I can’t change anyone …. only God can.
I like to remember the encounter Jesus had with the woman caught in adultery. He accepted and loved her. He did not condone her adultery. Acceptance and endorsement are two different things. We’re called to accept all people. But that does not require us to endorse their every behavior. That goes for believers as well as not-yet-believers. And I’m thankful it goes for me as well–that the Lord accepts me and loves me totally, even though he does not endorse my every behavior. Thank God.
Neither the Commandments and the Law nor the teachings of the New Covenant were given to condemn sinners or despise the efforts of failed believers. They were given for those who trust in the living God to live out as an example of his love and justice.
Our love for others is to be what convicts them of their need for Jesus.
Over the last three years I’ve been out of church I have gotten many negative things said to me because I can’t get myself to go back to church. I don’t get upset because I understand church going people having been one. When you go to church all the time, you have a certain mentality, different from those who don’t go. Habits of any kind are a mental trap. If someone would feel guilty to just not go one Sunday when they very well could, that is mental bondage. This is a subtle thing that happens with people who have gone to church their whole life. Like any addiction, it is hard to break free. It took me over a year to break free of the mental bondage of church. Withdraws of church were nasty. I said a lot of angry nasty things about church on some web pages. It took a year to break free of the desire of cigarettes years ago and literally over 2 1/2 years for the desire of church to completely disappear. Now I don’t think about or consider going any more. I had gotten so burnt out from being trapped in church ministries for so long, when I move to another state for a job and tried out a church, I blew up at God at the though of being trapped in ministry again and said, “I have had enough!… No more!” It was the Sunday morning ‘production’ I grew to hate so much mostly. I was always so busy getting to church early getting the sound system and mics set for the praise team, working the sound and computer screen stuff and then staying late making CD’s of service, I couldn’t even enjoy church, let alone spend time talking to anyone. It was a big unpaid job as I was one of many volunteers. I worked other ministries during the week and was stretched thin. I was involved in 8 different ministries at the end. As I would look back at all that stuff, it really wasn’t value added. My relationship with God was and has always been outside of church, not in church. I was too busy. So a lot of what kept me from going back was God showed me I don’t need church. It may be that God let me burn myself out so I would quit wasting my time. Jesus didn’t free me from sin to become a slave to someone’s church. So Jesus freed me twice. The basis of Christianity is not about going to church and getting to heaven. Jesus died to restore the relationship that was broken because of Adam and Eve. I have that relationship, even now passing 3 years out of church. People can’t just be happy for me. No. They think I should go back to being a slave to some business called “The ____ Church of _____” Fill in the prospective name. “When Jesus is all you have, you find Jesus is all you need.” Church has its place and it is good for people to go for a time, but not for everyone for life. You don’t spend your whole life in school and the hospital is for the sick, not meant for people to live their.
Hebrews 10 says “24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” No one is saying you have to be involved in 8 ministries. What the Bible is saying is that you shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water… that it’s right and good to meet together regularly with believers. Furthermore, you can’t love God but hate his bride, the Church.
I have been having this same conversation with my parents for a decade. I can’t help feeling they have missed out on so much encouragement, fellowship, and opportunities to love others and earn rewards for heaven because of their disobedience to God in this area. Please, don’t take my word for it… search the Scriptures yourself and take it before God. Do you really think it’s ok with Him that you aren’t a part of a healthy church? Maybe the one you were at before monopolized your time… that doesn’t mean the next one will. But even if it did, do you think that in eternity you will have regrets about serving the church? Do you think in heaven that you’ll be wishing you’d had more time for yourself on earth? I pretty sure that in heaven, we will all wish we had lived more for Christ on earth.
Very Good, You said a lot. and that is GREAT!!! I wish you could say more. Maybe God has it in you to write a book. I see you have the passion for Jesus. With all your ministry skills I see being unpaid was not honorable. You have a mission still and I do believe you know what that is- as a LEADER!!!.
Thom, two things we know are true: First, there are unhealthy churches, and second, sinners exist.
To not accept the truth of your piece is to deny the first, and to fail to defend the church is to deny the second.
Everyone has seen an unhealthy church at one point or another. These places create atheists and anti-Christians in droves. The trouble is, I have never seen one reform. Have you? it seems to me that we must encourage people to leave, and forthwith, an unhealthy church. If people are not kind, if they are not repentant, if they do not love others and actively seek the good in others, if they do not help the less fortunate, if they gossip and backbite and have cliques, just leave. We need to make it more acceptable to leave sick churches. They do not serve God and many serve the enemy of souls. Love-talk will not work with them. Leave.
But what you did not address, and very few people are willing to address is that there are many people who have been terribly mistreated by sick churches who are solid, regular members at healthy churches. The difference between them, and those who reject church, are the key to this issue. It is not important that you attend a certain church, but it is vitally important that we worship together. Those who reject church, if they follow the Spirit, will eventually return to worshipping with others in some form or another. But, if they follow their anger and bitterness they will likely become atheists and new-agers, rejecting Christ along with the church. We need to be the welcoming and kind churches that Jesus would use for His glory, so that they will want to be with us. On that, you are right.
But, (and here comes the hard part) when they reject the church, they reject the Body of Christ as well, and it is right to remind them of this instead of allowing them to smear the Body with the actions of the sick churches. Satan has a hell of a racket here. He wins either way. Only we can stop that. Condemn? of course not. Judge? never! But enlighten? You bet! Because the lines the enemy is telling them about the church, they they then tell us, are about their very souls. This trashing of the very Body of Christ has a demonic source. Some of it comes from without, and sadly, some of it comes from within.
Sad 1, bt we must pray 4 them this is wht God want…
Sometimes, it happens that a person leaves a church because they are not being fed. And some churches remain milk-feeding churches, never really inspiring spiritual maturity.
I was an outreach minister for the LCMS, but it became clear to me that reaching inactive members was just as important. Only a handful of churches complied, the rest blaming the inactives for being disloyal, and thin-skinned, and much more. I also heard arguments about how unchurched people might bring in new ideas.
I came away from the experience feeling that each church was a club, and the rules for membership were quite strict.
I agree. I would like to say also, being a Christian for over 20 years and have a BS Church ministry, ordained minister – I have experienced the pain on both sides. Sadly to say as leaders we tend to blame the sheep. The problem I see is that we as shepherds have a tight cliché small inner core group that may or maybe not be spiritual that Jesus and Paul talk about. So, we see that everyone else not in the Pastors inner circle as Irrelevant. A “No-Body”. Love is truly the Greatest Gift. We are so caught up with ourselves, and what we have accomplished, that we don’t stop and build a relationship with our church members. We come to the conclusion that the sheep know nothing about spiritual things or how the church can grow. I believe this is part of our thinking is that if any sheep were as knowledgeable with spiritual things (church growth) then, God would have made them the Pastor. This type of thinking is dangers and wrong.
Thank you, for all your hard work and True Love.
AMERICAN GOTHIC CHURCH: Changing the Way People See the Church, a new book by Jeffery Warren Scott suggests that the unchurched are not likely to be reached unless believers change the mental image of Christians embedded in the minds of the unchurched. Churches which are encouraging, joyful, and compassionate are more likely to reach and retain the unchurched.