Stop Going to Church


church-at-night-iceland_00449588Whenever I hear the phrase, “I need to start going to church” or “I go to church,” a little piece inside of me dies. It’s not that I don’t want people to be a part of the church. On the contrary, I believe everyone should be a part of the church.

But instead of people being a part of church, most people just go to church.

One of my fears as a pastor is that many people in the western evangelical world have the tendency to view church as a service to attend. Because of this line of thought, we focus extraordinary amounts of energy on crafting a service that people will want to attend. I’m not arguing against excellence. I do believe that we should do things with as much excellence as possible. As a person who has been involved in theatre, being a part of something done well draws me closer to God. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong about pursuing excellence in preaching, singing, teaching, or any other aspect to the gathering.

 But instead of people being a part of church, most people just go to church.

But church cannot be confined just to people gathering to view a service. It has to be so much more.

I, like many of you, have been guilty of using the phrase, “The service wasn’t that good today,” or “The service was really great today.” Our view of church is primarily based upon the quality of the songs or the emotional weight of the sermon. Because of this, our involvement within the church is shallow, at best. What I mean by this is that when things change or when a particular church doesn’t meet our standards, we are quick to abandon.

We treat the church like numerous whores with whom we divide our time.

There are various reasons we do this:

  1. We don’t like turmoil. We have an unrealistic utopian view of what the church should look like.
  2. We like to be surrounded by people with similar beliefs and opinions. It makes us feel more comfortable.
  3. Church is more of a hobby than a defining characteristic in our lives.

Church isn’t something that we can attend. Church is something that we must be. In our own lives, we all have good and bad days. There are days we wish that we could go back and and redo. There are days we celebrate milestones. There are days we mourn over missed opportunities. There are days we curse God. And then there are days we praise God.

 We treat the church like numerous whores with whom we divide our time.

And just like in our own lives, the church often functions the same way. Which is why we cannot just attend church. This is why church is something we must be. When we are the church, then we work together to prepare the bride for her bridegroom.

Christ is calling us to be part of the bridal party…not just attendees of the wedding. He wants us to be active. He wants us to serve. He wants us to remain faithful. But many of us are just sitting in the crowd waiting for the wedding to start while the bride remains in the back waiting for her faithful bridal party to join her in preparation for her big day.

Perhaps I am a bit optimistic in my belief that people can still gather and disagree yet partake of the Eucharist together. But wouldn’t that represent the Kingdom a bit more than what we have today? Wouldn’t Christ’s prayer in John 17 be a bit sweeter if we did that?

Christ is calling us to be part of the bridal party…not just attendees of the wedding.

Here is what I propose: we stop going to church.

We stop attending and we start participating. We stop sitting in on a service and we start helping. We stop looking to the church as a place and we start looking to the church as a people. Just like we have our good days and our bad days, so the church has her good days and her bad days. We wouldn’t abandon our own lives, so why do we abandon the life of the church?

In an age of consumeristic driven churches where there is a brand for everyone, we spend too much time shopping around and not seeing the damage that is doing to the bride. I said it before and I’ll say it again: we treat the church like numerous whore with whom we divide our time. This is the problem with simply going to church. It makes it easier to leave. It makes it easier to separate oneself from the life of the church (and I’m not talking about potlucks and game nights). It makes it easier for one to abandon when things get rough or when things don’t go “the right way.”

I have “left” 2 churches in my lifetime. I was heavily involved in both churches. One, I was active in the youth group. The other, I was serving with the worship team. Whereas both circumstances may have seemed right on paper, I cannot help but think, “is this what Jesus had in mind when He established His bride?” I never left the Church but I have left local churches. And how we view/treat local churches determines what our view is of the Church.

Just like all throughout the Bible, the life of the church (both local and universal) is going to be messy. There will be disagreements, fights, uneasiness, and pain. But aren’t these the signs of the earth groaning in labor? Aren’t these the signs that the Kingdom is “now but not yet?”

If we all stopped going to church and started being the church, perhaps things might change. If we remembered that Christ called us to serve His bride, perhaps reconciliation before desertion would be our first thought. If we remembered that one day we will be united in the Kingdom with the Church, perhaps that would change how we treated one another. Heaven could be awkward for many of us (myself included).

Let us begin serving through disagreements, fights, arguments, uneasiness, complacency, apathy, and anything else that stands in the way of us preparing the Bride for her Bridegroom. Let us begin being the Church that Christ called us to be.

Let Me Tell You Why You’re Wrong


For a while now, I’ve tossed around the idea of writing a book entitled, “Let Me Tell You Why You’re Wrong: A Plea for Church Unity.” But, as I have said previously in my blog, I cannot justify writing books that should remain blogs. So, perhaps this theme will just be a series of blog posts.

“I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” – John 17.23 (ESV)

This verse, by far, has impacted my view of ministry. For those of you that know me, I’m a little stubborn. I have my opinions. I voice my opinions. And many times, if you do not agree with my opinions, I am quick to tell you why you are wrong. I know this mindset is wrong. I hate this about myself. I think that we tend to divide ourselves into teams; and we want the most people on our team (or maybe I’m the only one who thinks this way…and if that’s the case, you can quite reading). 

Many of us are trying to cross the lines in the denominational world. However, our beliefs or theologies are stopping us from doing so. Our beliefs about God have gotten in the way of our call from God. Now before you begin to say “your beliefs about God determine your call from God,” let me ask you this: why is it that there are so many people passionately pursuing God and His Kingdom and still doing things that “you wouldn’t necessarily do?” This boils down to methodology. We agree on core beliefs, but not on practice. But churches still split over methodology. Or we publicly mock another church’s methodology (and I am as guilty of this as anyone).

I think we sometimes confuse doctrine, theology, and methodology. Follow me for a moment: Theology shapes our methodology, but theology is not doctrine. But when theology moves in the doctrine category, methodology then becomes doctrine. Now there are probably many intelligent people out there who will tell me why I’m wrong on this, or why this doesn’t add up. But can we entertain, for a bit, the thought that perhaps we hold our theologies/beliefs/practices so close, that we are willing to fight until everyone agrees with us?

I fear that we have become too content with saying things like:

“that’s fine, you should go to that church.” or

it works for them, but we would never do that.” or

“I don’t agree with them, but that’s not my church.”

I’ve said these things. In fact, yep, I’ve said all of these things. So I know that I fail at this daily. 

But can we begin to see that it’s never “another church?” It’s “our church.” It’s “the church.” We move as a body. We do things as one. 

We have become far too content with chopping off body parts. An arm here, a hand there, a leg a little bit later. Anytime we disagree, let’s split on it. And we justify it by saying “they’re still part of the body, they are just doing something that we don’t agree with.” We’re content with that? We’re content with not striving for church unity?

I remember reading the verse from John when I was a junior in college. It struck me. It was so simple and so profound. “Become perfectly one.” It became something that drove me. It became something that reshaped how I saw ministry.

Now I’m not close to achieving this. I still cling tightly to what I believe. But slowly, I see myself beginning to loosen my grip on things that I once thought extremely important (that really weren’t). Can we begin to live like Jesus prayed for us to live? As perfectly one? Are we willing to try this? Can we stop saying “that church” or “their church” or “my church” and instead say, “the church?” I know that I’m going to begin trying again.