I recently met a “done.” It was actually a great initial opportunity to chat with and pray for someone. The “done’s” refer to those who are done with church but who still consider themselves spiritual, if not Christian. This post is dedicated to the “done’s”; to encourage, challenge and equip both you and those of us who are the “not-done’s.” While not exhaustive I hope it gets us all thinking in a [correct] Biblical direction.
Often when you speak with a done they have a variety of reasons for not going to church and generally positively affirm: their belief in God or the divine, angels, prayer, the support they feel they receive from their faith, being spiritual vs. being church (or Christian), etc, etc.
Why did these people become “done”? The reasons vary as to the individual stories but a number of general observations could be noted: 1) they had a bad experience with “church,” 2) the hypocrisy in the church, 3) they were hurt or felt they were not supported in some way, 4) post-modernism- the rejection of institutions, 5) individualism- I can be “spiritual” by myself with no need of public worship or corporate Christianity, 6) acedia (that is spiritual laziness)- I don’t feel like going (or I have other things I could be doing), and that leads to 7) priorities. We could probably think of some others. Many of these are real reasons for being disgruntled with church. Many, even the more valid ones, also find their legitimacy in faulty thinking (which I hope to kindly and rationally challenge).
Let’s address some of these.
What type of church were you done with? Was it a healthy Bible believing, Gospel centred, Holy Spirit led, love and truth filled type of church? Were the ways of the world or the Kingdom most evident? If it was the former than you were actually not reacting against church at all, but a lesser replica. Often people say “I don’t believe in God.” I reply, “Tell me about the God you don’t believe in, I probably don’t believe in Him either.” The same applies to church. Are you reacting against a true picture of the church? If not, ask for the Lord’s help to get back up again and find a church like the one above.
But, even in the best case scenario where the church was all those things albeit imperfectly, we need to remember that the Bible teaches us we are broken. The Church represents the redeemed people of God whom He is perfecting for His glory. If I found The Perfect Church, I wouldn’t join it, because then it would no longer be perfect. The Church is made up of redeemed broken people who continue to be transformed into who they have been called to be by the grace of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. While the true Church, in ever growing degrees, should be more like Christ, we are not like Him yet. Therefore sin and hurt will still happen in the life of the church, however, in a healthy church it will be repented of and forgiveness and restoration sought. Do you have a naive view of human nature that might need altering so you are not disenchanted?
Lastly, are those reasons that are not necessarily someone else’s fault. Sometimes people are “done” because it is convenient, because of the lazy pride of our society. Sometimes being a done is because you are done with God, but still want to feel good as “spiritual,” but really your priorities are somewhere else. Really God is not number one, otherwise many things, including church going, would be different in your life. Is the priority of your life truly God?
Clearly, and I could go on, the topic is much deeper than meets the eye. Likewise to respond to it Biblically would require bringing in multitudes of passages, principles, etc. Let us look simply at one verse that cuts to the chase. Hebrews 10:25 says:
Let us not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another, all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
The apostle John would have wholeheartedly agreed! In His old age, when he had a plausible excuse for not attending public worship, he did the opposite. Church tradition tells us that when he was around 90 years old and could not physically carry himself to worship he would have others carry him. John loved worshipping the Lord, His Lord, with His brothers and sisters in Christ. He loved Jesus, he loved to worship and he loved the Church. He knew it was his duty to worship and engage, but more than that it was his joy. What are you neglecting that is causing you to retreat from the life in the Church you should be living?
You can go to church your whole life and not be a Christian. Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than going to the Mall makes you a commercial product, or sitting in a garage makes you a car. But if you truly have become a Christian through faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, you should want to engage in the life of the local church (and that means going too). As a beekeeper I always say, “you cannot have the bee without the hive.”
What does going to/ participating in the life of the local church accomplish?
- It indicates your highest allegiance and life priority,
- Our lives are recalibrated towards God,
- We receive spiritual teaching and food, encouragement, prayer and fellowship,
- We grow in Christ
- We are prepared for good works of mission and service in the world
- The list of blessings could truly go on…
At the end of the day though, more important than fooling ourselves by either believing we are okay outside or inside the visible church, is whether we are truly a part of the Church (the invisible or universal Church of Christ made up of all true Christians). Do you know and follow Jesus? The answer to that question will determine everything else. When we know and seek Him everything else that should be in place begins to fall into place, as we become undone.
*For more on the gathered and scattered church see a coming BLOG post.
The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,