Relax Christian, You Don’t Have to Go to Church

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Sunday is coming, and millions of people all over the world will find themselves in local churches; participating in worship services, Bible studies, and age-based ministries, and finding great encouragement and community and joy there.

You might well be one of those people.

But you might not.

For all sorts of reasons; either because you’ve been excluded or damaged or made to feel unwelcome, or because your faith is shaken or your pain is too great or your heart is too weary, you might find yourself outside the walls of a church.

It’s okay, God is there too—I promise you.

Most of us have grown up believing that the Church was a building, and that you went to worship as a weekly activity. Faith and life and spiritual growth were all about getting to that building, because that building was where your encountered God.

That is only partially true.

But the greater, far more glorious truth dear friend, is that you are the Church; that God is all around and ever-present and within you. And so wherever you find yourself this morning, that ground is holy. When your mind and heart are oriented toward the things of God, your very life is an act of worship.

This Sunday:
You may be snuggled in your bed with your family and dog, telling stories and giggling away the morning.
You may be jogging with your best friend through the wooded paths just coming to life in the early morning sun.
You may be driving through the empty back roads with the roof open, blasting the 80’s metal that reminds you of when you had hair for the breeze to blow through.
You might be having breakfast with friends giving thanks for life and family and the day.
You might be in the garden, your knees pressed to the damp soil, smelling the leaves just popping up through the ground.

These places are all sacred.
They are waiting sanctuaries for God to be seen and heard and experienced.
They are common cathedrals, fully saturated with the presence of the Divine.

Church-less Sundays can bring a great deal of guilt, especially if you grew up in organized religion. When you find your spiritual life being defined outside of the local church, you can tend to feel like you’re doing it wrong, or that the experience is somehow counterfeit—less spiritual. You either hear an alarm go of in your own head, or from well-meaning church friends or from pushy pastors that you need to get back to church

Well, you may and you may not.
You may just need to stay right where you are.

For many people, because of the struggles we mentioned above, organized religion is the very barrier they need to overcome to get closer proximity to Jesus. It is the thing that most hinders their pursuit of peace. It actually creates unrest within them. And in this way, for those people, “church” is the wrong answer to the question of “How do I grow spiritually?”

If you can’t or won’t find your way into a brick and mortar building this Sunday, be encouraged. You can fully love God without going to a church. Obviously community is one of the ways we blossom. As we navigate relationships, as we love and seek love, as we give and receive compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and kindness—we grow in ways we never would otherwise. There is value in sharing life with other people who are seeking to be the best version of themselves. But these opportunities are not confined to the church building, waiting for you to show up and receive them there.

God is always close by and easily accessible. Divinity often comes disguised as ordinary days, uneventful moments, and typical conversations: making breakfast with your kids, playing with your dog, getting a rare quiet pause with your teenager, reading a book you love, sleeping in because you’re completely exhausted, catching up with an old friend over coffee. These can all be rich, beautiful, faith-affirming experiences that do more for your soul than an hour worship service ever could.

Everything God has for you is available to you right where you are; in the woods, in bed, around your table, at the game, having coffee with your spouse, pruning the flowers, driving down the Interstate.

These can be the places you fully commune with God and with God’s people; where you reflect and pray and learn and study and mediate and feel gratitude and seek guidance. Anything we do that is intentionally done with an awareness of God and others—that is Church because we are the Church.

There is nowhere in Scripture where Jesus commands us to go to a building called “Church”. It was always about sharing life with people. All that existed in the New Testament were house churches where people were already living together in deep, relational community. The idea that we need to travel to sit in a space with strangers and consume religious entertainment is not at all Biblical. So while it may be helpful (and to many it is), it is not necessary. If people try to make you feel guilty for not attending a church building, know that they have missed the point, not you.

There may be a time in the near future when you once again find your home in a local church community. But you might also never get back there again. And either way, your faith can be rich and real and fully life-giving.

Christianity isn’t a building or an hour-long Sunday morning activity. It’s you living with a desire to reflect Jesus.

Wherever you find yourself this Sunday, do this as best you can. God is with you.

Whether inside or outside the church building,
whether in your Sunday best or in ragged pajamas—be encouraged.

 

For further reading: Here’s why the Bible doesn’t call any building “The Church.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

177 thoughts on “Relax Christian, You Don’t Have to Go to Church

  1. Your words certainly ring true. God is indeed everywhere and we experience God in all things. Each and every moment of life can be filled with the sacred.

    Nevertheless we can not disregard that for those of us with a deep and abiding faith, our relationship with God was formed in and by community. Not the building, but by those who gather there and pass on the foundation of what it means to connect with and relate to God.

    Scripture cover to cover is far more about seeking and finding God in community than about doing so as an individual. Pursuing God is not either/or, it’s both/and. Without personal faith in God we bring little to the community of faith and without a community of faith for support and to help us grow our personal faith often takes a very real nose dive or detour.

    • For some people, we were part of a community of faith and because of something dramatic in our lives our community of faith let us down. For some of us it’s hard to go to that building because people, even Christians, make assumptions and listen to gossip and do not know what they think they know.

      • SES, I think you have gotten to the crux of the issue. We need to be reconciled to each other as brothers and sisters, as we are reconciled to God which is the purpose of the Gospel. Forgiveness and admitting where we are wrong (each and everyone of us) is the hardest thing we will ever do. I understand Grace (in the midst of offense and injustice ) to be the narrow path.

        • Sometimes, it’s just not possible to be reconciled to a large body of people who view an action as saying something about a body of knowledge. In my case it was walking out on a husband after 27 years of abuse. Abuse is not always recognized and noticed. I’ve had my own struggle for many years dealing with the trauma of all those years and one particular event right toward the end that sent me into PTSD and a breakdown of sorts. The response from “the church” was less than stellar. I had already undergone on undergone surgeries in the past, had babies and had family members in physical distress and had experienced loving out reach in the form of helping me do laundry or bringing me meals. When it comes to couples separating, the church generally has a knee-jerk reaction and it’s not pretty for the abused spouse. It has taken me many years to feel safe again in a church, and it’s not a conservative one. I’m experiencing more love for me then I did in the churches that I was part of many years ago. I’m getting back to ministry and becoming comfortable again in the sanctuary. There are still those from my former life who just plain ignore me or walk away because they’re uncomfortable. And I understand. But many people have never even approached me since I had the courage to walk out and begin the process of loss and grief. I have found my own fellowship in other gatherings online of Christians, particularly Christian women who have also suffered marital abuse and the lack of understanding in their conservative church bodies. What some of the readers of this message seemingly don’t understand is that there are cycles and seasons to life. Ecclesiastes points that out. Some of us might have sang in the choir or sat on boards or taught Sunday school or helped in the church nursery or made food for the homeless in our past. But there are also times when we need to step back. We might have disabilities we might have work overloads we might’ve become elderly without the ability to serve with the gusto we did in our youth. It is the knee-jerk reaction by judging that have sent many of us from the organized church building out into the world to sooth our wounds and yet minister at the same time to those who don’t know Christ.

          • JES, thanks for your patient reply to my comment. I appreciate what you said. It seems from many accounts church government often asks the victim to extend grace without holding the abuser responsible for their actions; that church government has allowed grace to be a haven for the abuser so they can hide their sins rather than a place of safety for the vulnerable and a place of justice for the wronged especially in cases of abuse in marriage.

            In many cases gossip can cause an air of condemnation in church environments; upholding cliquish behaviour, rather than fostering community. How can you have healthy fellowship in an air of mistrust and suspicion?

            I agree and neglected to add, we may not find reconciliation in this life for the damage or harm done. Where there is an opportunity for reconciliation let’s be reconciled and if not we can move on and away from the abuse and neglect.

    • I must say, I humbly disagree with what you stated. My family left the church building several years ago, and yes we were made to feel guilty for doing so, by many in the faith community, including family members. Pursuing God is a personal experience! And it must be respected in whatever way a person has a relationship with God. Unfortunately reading your post, although I respect your perspective I could feel the undertones of judgment and if I am wrong in my perception of your comment, I apologize. But that is what turned me away from the “church.” Other people trying to tell me how I must do this or that to be holy with God, my creator. There is no place for judging another’s perspective on how they choose to worship and love and have communion with their creator!
      When we made the final decision to remove ourselves from our church, I was at the point of leaving it all behind, including God. It wasn’t until I happened upon one of John’s blogs that the door to my personal relationship with God began to open again!
      It wasn’t God that was turning me away, it was the “church.”
      I have never had a better relationship with God than I do today! And I was in the church for many many years, serving in many capacities. Funny thing that I began to realize that church is a business and it is one of the few businesses that actually get so many to work for free! I have family members that work full-time jobs and still put in 20 – 25 hours a week on church stuff! They are exhausted and run ragged! I was like that until one day I woke up. I realized that I could take those hours and go serve the poor, the hungry, and the lonely and feel I was doing a lot more for God and the community than the entertainment spent on those Sunday Services. It truly is a personal choice and one that needs to be respected by all! If church serves you–go to church. If you find spirituality in a different way that is incredibly awesome too!
      Cheers in love and light!

      • Spot on Kelly. I was also one of those who has put in an untold number of hours “serving” my local “institutional” church. I walked away from a 9Marx church about 3 years ago and it was the best thing I could have ever done for my spiritual life.

      • Actually, pursuing God is both personal AND corporate. Not either/or. The Bible is clear that the Church should be gathering. And many a good Christian has died over the centuries to do so. Are we really so careless with our faith that we would devalue the purpose and scripture mandate to meet together as a church as something that is merely a “personal pursuit”?

        It is extremely embarrassing that a Pastor, of all people, would write such a theologically unsound blog.

        • Thing is, Brad, that it’s a bit pointless to gather with those who mostly haven’t a clue how to function together with Christ Jesus to rule and reign with Him in the heavens (where we are called to be, and where we are in truth already seated with Him) if all that’s corporately going on is religious entertainment. New stuff is happening these days via the Spirit of Truth into the earth from the heavens and christians can pursue that wherever they like, as led. Also, to ‘assemble’ has an aspect to it beyond traditional understanding of ‘gathering’ with others to where it means to let Jesus put you back into wholeness or oneness (from where we have been fractured or fragmented), to be assembled by Him, in order to be like Him and cognizant with Him where He is. If the church building et al can’t facillitate this then follow Him to where it can happen because He’s committed to you for that to take place.

          • The church is depicted as a body in the Bible. There are indeed many passages in the Bible dealing with purpose and unity of the church. When a part of our body rebels and acts out of coordination with the rest of the body, it is a drastic action to cut off the part of our body to correct the situation. Sometimes we simply have to learn to live with the body part that isn’t functioning. Sometimes we can nurse it back to health. When it is far gone that we have to amputate it, it is a dead piece of flesh, not able to survive on its own. No where does John ask God what he would have us do. God may graft you to a different body; He may heal you, reconcile you to the sick one. But whatever He does, you can be confident you have sought His power, His wisdom and have not disdained what He has ordained. When you do that, you demonstrate God’s love, you experience his beautiful ways, you appreciate His body all the more, and you have walked in faith and obedience. Indeed, you say rightly the church is not a building, it is the vehicle through which God acts corporately for both the benefit of those attending and those unbelievers watching. It is the Christian institution that shows the world that we can live with and love each other and endure through grave and forgiveness toward each other. If it fails, as Satan keeps trying to bring about, then the world has an opportunity to say that Jesus makes no difference and has no power, so why continue to worship Him. The truth is a church that dies has failed to love and obey Jesus. But an unknowledgeable world cannot see it that way. They can only see the physical. So the testimony of those who claim to know God will be turn people away from Jesus, to push them away from the lifeboat. The solution is to love Jesus and the body of Christ the way Jesus loved us: sacrificially, eternally and with grace. When we are willing to let God work in the lives of those who offend us, then his power, wisdom and grace can turn all things to good for those who love Him because we have acted in faith and obedience, putting ourselves aside for the endurance of a few paltry offences, so that others may enjoy an eternity in His presence. The importance of the church cannot be overestimated. Read the books of Ephesians, Acts, the Corinthian letters, and then the various epistles to churches, to see how many troubles erupted and how they were admonished to seek God’s help. I speak as one for whom the church had little use as a single woman. But God has His own ideas and has both allowed mistreatment and gone before me–all for my best. Take your eyes off yourself. God Bless.

        • Brad.I believe you are correct. I think overall it is laziness that keeps a lot of Christians (including myself sometimes) out of church. We are commanded in Hebrews to assemble, and that doesn’t mean meeting at a bar, in front of the t.v., etc. , because it is for the purpose of worship.

        • I think you may be missing the whole point here…Pursuing God, reaching out to our neighbors, spreading the love of Christ and growing in our faith can be done outside the walls of the church. We can be so bogged down by religion that we are unable to live our faith. Being the Church in our community, in our jobs, with our families, neighbors and friends is where we grow. Not necessarily in a church building or within a religious activity.

      • Yes and Amen. I totally agree. We are the church because the Greater One lives in us. Think about it. If the church buildings burned down, this cannot stop us, because we have the Word on the inside of us. The building may be gone, but the Word of God never cease to exist. In essence, we (the church) are the walking Word.

    • Wow John, you really picked a good one this time! I love that you professed it first with “RELAX” I can see many didn’t heed the warning.

    • It seems that much of the article speaks beyond individual seeking? In bed with spouse, a friend over for coffee, breakfast with the kiddos…..

    • Speak for yourself if that’s how you prefer to live as a believer. You have a right to do that…but there is more. Community can be toxic. Christian toxic. The whole gospel is that a personal response is needed. That response continues in depth beyond ‘community’ which many people get stuck in instead of continuing to respond to Jesus’ call to “come to Me” outside the camp. There is therefore little real spiritual depth and growth into Christ in the heavens (yes, that’s where he primarilly is!) amongst the fellowship-at-any-price people who are ‘fed’ (largely nonsense) by a one-man (could be one-woman) ‘ministry’ instead of maturing to a place in direct individual relationship with Jesus that there can be true community that incorporates a genuine heavenly aspect…where the priesthood of all believers functioning effectively in relationship with responsibility actually takes shape…not as any earthly understanding of community would have it!

  2. I can vouch for this. I spent fifteen years out of church being detoxed from all the damage and poison I’d taken in there (see http://tinyurl.com/pchrmq8 for my take on it). God was with me the whole time, and each time I went into a church, it reminded me of why I didn’t!

    After that fifteen years out, Father called me back into church, along with my new attitudes, and it felt as if I’d come home. But He never told me to lose the freedom! Now I go to church because I want to, because I love the company of the people there, not because I am compelled to. If I miss church, I do feel I’ve missed the service and the company. But usually I find God in another way at that time; in fact, He’s with me all the time anyway.

    I am free now like I’ve never been before, walking closely with Jesus and doing the things He does (Jn 5:19). Church is good, and the freedom to go or not to go is now an integral part of my total freedom. I have saints around me to serve, and for them to serve me when I need it. Life is good; despite my awful circumstances (my wife is seriously ill), God is close to me like He never was before my fifteen-year hiatus!

    I have realised that, in all that ‘Dark Night’ time, God had been showing me freedom, real freedom, and teaching me it, for the entire fifteen years. He then brought me back into the Church mainstream – and He never told me that it was time for the freedom to end. Because in Him is freedom; He had to break me away from the rigid structures, show me freedom, and then release me into Church as a free man. Genius.

  3. My grandmother rarely felt the need to go to church and was one of the most Christ-like people I have ever known. I wish I was more like her including not feeling guilty about not going to church today after two long and painful driving days to an from the funeral of her son and my Uncle. I am sure they are reunited along with his father despite her failure to attend church and her ignorance of organized religion.

  4. This is just a lie. God instituted the Church to be His body. He also desires for His body to reach out to a broken world. The body exists to build up and be built up. So, being a Lone Ranger robs others of your gifts and robs you of others gifts. Finally, you never take the Eucharist .

    So this post is blasphemy. Being in bed with your dog is not the same as being in the house of God. Stop lying.

    • troll alert

      It’s a pity John can’t read because JP has said ****nothing**** to indicate that it would be permanent not to go to church. It’s a blog post, by the way, and do to the limits of space, every blog post can’t possibly say every single thing that could be said about any given subject.

      This is clearly John’s reflections of the things we said about what we which we could tell our pastors.

      John Pavlovist, thank you for this beautifully pastoral post. It reminds me that I am on a journey, where I am now is where I need to be, and God and I are in process together to do the work to change me, heal me, make me more like the person God envisioned when God created me.

      As one who walks the mystical path, your words resound within me and I suspect you, too, walk the mystical path.

      • You spelled Pavlovitz wrong. For someone who just yesterday ripped the head off another commenter for misspelling your name, and lectured him on the importance of proofreading, that is totally unacceptable.

        • Troll alert Bruton Gaster is a troll

          He posted this to bully and shame me and he failed. He thinks there is no POV but his own. He thinks there is no other relevant information except his nasty thoughts. So be it. Not responding to him again.

          He had the choice to ask that since the spelling of my name is so important to me, how did it happen that I misspelled John’s name. He would have received a courteous answer to a courteous question.

                  • It’s pretty simple, really. If you’re going to chastise someone, with righteous indignation, for a simple typo, even after they apologize, don’t be surprised when someone calls you out for engaging in the very same behavior for which you belittle others.

                    • How many other women do you batter, verbally or physically?

                      I told you I copy and paste names. I asked for proof of the error you allege I made and instead, you give me a link to over one hundred posts. If you think I am going to waste my time scrolling through them, you are deluded.

                      You have chosen to attack and brutalize me. I wonder how many other women have been abused by you?

                  • It’s clear you really don’t like your hypocrisy put on display. Can’t say I blame you. I’d be embarrassed as well. I’d like to think I wouldn’t double down the way you have, though, but who knows.

                    As for the proof, you can scroll up seven posts to see “Pavlovist.” For the first Colin Kaepernick article where you misspelled my name, try Control-F. It’ll take you right there. September 1st at 1:27pm (EST so you’ll have to do the math if you live in a different time zone). Should take about two seconds, so it won’t waste your time.

                    You won’t look, I suspect, because then you’d have to own up to being a raging hypocrite. Or possibly try to explain how the copy and paste function somehow misspelled something. Twice. It’s much easier to deflect and accuse others of physical violence or make this about you being a woman, than saying, “my bad. I probably shouldn’t have read that guy the riot act for an innocent mistake, especially after he said he was genuinely sorry.”

                    • Bruton, I don’t think you can substantiate the claim that Gloriamarie has been hypocritical; she is transparent and real and who she says she is. She is not posing as anyone on this blog. Rather I think she might be a zealot and a little sensitive. You could have let this conclude with your apology rather than starting it up again.

                    • Kathy, it can be substantiated easily. As to the rest of your comment, you are correct. It is utterly inconsequential and I should have let it drop. Thank you for calling me out.

        • That’s the Christian spirit, keep nursing that grudge. As a lapsed Baptist, actually a gay man whose Church told him to go away after having grown up in it, I think your comment is a perfect example of why and how a “Church” can be toxic. Where is your Christian love? You held on to a slight so you could later use it as a club to beat down someone else. You don’t allow that another might make a mistake, you simply allow that you will get to use it as a cudgel.

    • Well, John, the lie is that ‘God instituted the church’. Humans are responsible for the destruction of millions of spiritual deaths through the “church” and humans are the reason churches are built in large part for power, control and money.
      All one needs to know is that “where two or more are gathered in My name I am there”.

      • For John who thinks God instituted the church

        “I think self-righteousness is the bane of human relations, of all of them — interpersonal, international, and interfaith. I’m sure it was self-righteousness that prompted Pascal to say, ‘Human beings never do evil so cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.’ Self-righteousness blocks our capacity for self-criticism, destroys humility, and undermines the sense of oneness that should bind us all.

        “Self-righteousness inspired the Christian Crusades against Muslims and, centuries later, the Easter pogroms of Eastern Europe, the sermon-induced slaughter of Jews after the morning celebration of the resurrected rabbi.

        “Today this same self-righteousness encourages some American Christians to cheer President Bush’s messianic militarism, a divinely ordained form of cleansing violence, and all in the name of a Jesus Christ who is the mirror opposite of the Jesus of the four Gospels.”

        Letters to a Young Doubter
        By William Sloane Coffin
        How self-righteousness is the bane of human relations.

      • Thank you, Ellis! My sentiments exactly!
        Wow, talk of religion certainly brings out the best in people– does it not? Reading over some of these posts shows exactly why I left the church in the first place! It’s all about this righteous indignation that crucified Christ in the first place. We are witnessing it unfolding right before our very eyes. There was a reason my Daddy always told me, “Don’t talk about religion and politics if you want to stay out of a fight!”

        • He came to die. No one took His life. He could have called 10,000 angels… He wasn’t murdered. I’ve heard people say: “…the Jews murdered Him.” There’s a song in one of the hymnals that has the phrase…His blood was spilled. Spilled blood would be an accident 🙂 nope, Jesus Christ dying on the cross was no accident ! He shed His blood. On purpose .

      • Muslims worship the same God. True they use the word Allah, but that is Arabic for Allah. Arabic Christians also call God Allah.

    • Did Jesus minister exclusively in and through synagogues and the Temple? Did He command His followers to do that? No. The Eucharistic that you mentioned was instituted in a borrowed room. His Body was broken for us all on a hilltop overlooking the city.

      In fact, when Jesus DID preach in a synagogue, the leaders and attendees cried, “Blasphemy!” and wanted to kill Him. He avoided Jerusalem for this very reason until the appointed time had come.

      Where DID Jesus preach and minister? In the outlying places, in fields, on mountains, in towns. He didn’t set up shop in a building, hang out a sign, and say, “Y’all come.” He didn’t instruct His disciples to do that, either. He sent them out into the world in pairs, as travelers, to begin communities of believers. Communities that met in each other’s homes.

      There is more Scriptural precedent for living and sharing the faith in the world than there is for centering one’s faith around the activities taking place in a church building.

      It’s PEOPLE who require a corporate structure, numbers, a human chain of command, record-setting, committees, and lovely facilities. It’s not the God Who was born in a very humble setting and died the most painful, horrific death imaginable, after being stripped of everything but His great Love and Forgiveness.

      He wants us to be committed to Him and building the Kingdom, which can be quite different from being committed to a particular church.

  5. Having left the institutional church a few years ago, I can honestly say I have never felt freer to worship God. I am no longer hemmed in to a system which dictates which people I can or should hang around with. My husband and I have found solace in being outsiders. Outsiders have an advantage in that we have no agenda. We are not out to surround people and invite them to our church. We are free to love people of every race, color, and sexual orientation. We are involved in ministries which help those on the fringes, the forgotten. It is unfortunate that the majority of churches exist to preserve themselves and their own “purity”, rather than become inclusive to the least of these.

  6. I enjoyed reading this article and I certainly agree with it. My wife and I have been out of the organized church for two years now, and after fifty plus years in the church this was a major decision. The above article started out with a paragraph about reasons why people leave church, but I want to point out that we did not leave for any of those reasons. After several years of feeling dissatisfied and feeling something was not right, we tried different churches and listened to different pastors and yet felt the same dissatisfaction. We came to the decision to leave because we felt the church system itself was not what was intended or meant when Jesus said he would build his church. We feel his Church is people daily living their lives under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is not a building or a religious system with a human being as its leader but a community of people daily living in the love and guidance of the Spirit.

  7. I certainly agree. As a parish pastor, looking out into a tiny congregation, I am torn between applauding the courage of the folks in the pew to “try us out” (that humbles me) and weeping for the ones who would make this community the exception to the rule. After years of blaming myself (and being blamed) only, I now hold the congregation accountable as well. Together, we can be better, showing true hospitality, walking with people instead of being the lunatic crossing guard who won’t let but our friends across.

  8. I don’t know. Call me a Methodist, but every church I’ve ever been in has reiterated that the Church is in me and those around me. After all, the first Church wasn’t a building. And every church only gains a capital “C” with another c-word: community. Community is something you derive strength from and contribute strength to. That strength you contribute doesn’t derive from retreating from the world. On the contrary, it begins when you and find and celebrate the divine in it. And multiplies when you bring it back to the Church.
    This piece is about confusing the Church with church. Note the capitals. Perhaps John may have used one when he meant the other, but if you’re going to church out of blind habit or reluctant duty, then neither you nor the Church are lifted up. Perhaps that should be a wakeup call to you both.

  9. I am doing yoga this morning instead of going to church. Sometimes organized church services are just too much. I don’t go all the time and when I do I try to savor the moment. But I think you miss how Christians can and need to support each other. Maybe that’s in church on Sunday, maybe in other types of groups. We can start our own Bible study groups in whatever fashion we like. God *is* everywhere, true. But sometimes it is good for all of us to get grounded in what our Christian beliefs are about. I think one of the problems of Christian churches is that they have become inflexible about helping people connect with God and insisting that this takes place mostly on Sunday morning within a certain confined prescription. We need to open up new ways for Christians to connect.

    • Perhaps John was taking a bit of literary license in emphasizing his point. I read the piece as shot through with love and devotion for community, both one’s faith community and one’s worldly community.
      It is important for believers to support each other…but that doesn’t have to happen in a church (lower case) presided over by a cleric every Sunday like clockwork…it happens “when two or more…”.
      Following the Sunday rituals is not the same as living one’s faith. Meditative solitude is needed as much as community to strengthen faith. There does need to be new ways.
      Wasn’t it Luther who said that one does not need an interlocutor to be with God? That’s what started Protestantism. Now look where it’s gotten us.

      • I think every pastor of a church in a building would say:

        “No, thou must not forsake the assembling of the brethren down at the church building for there doth lie the offering plates that payeth my salary. Come therefore, and droppest thou therein for my car payment doth await.”

        All pastors have a vested personal interest in ensuring that as many people as possible show up on Sunday morning with as many checkbooks and as much cash as possible—and with an attitude of giving—especially if they operate a megachurch:

  10. So many good points in this blog piece JP.

    Don’t forget people who are shut ins because they are sick, or those who have to work on Sundays. A ‘Sunday Service’ Church is not there for them.

  11. Totally agree, and so did my Dad. I remember him often saying he didn’t need to be in a building to find or communicate with God. In fact, being an avid fisherman, THAT is where he found God; in nature. Sadly, he and his mother wasted so much of their lives and relationship fighting over this issue. I bet God likes the outdoors that He made more than the buildings that humankind made/makes.

  12. This is my first time on the site and I loved the article. My contributions to God come in birds and plants that create smiles for neighbor’s. That is my church work. I grew up devote in Church on Sunday until the noise became too great.

  13. Wow, this post and these comments.

    If it had not been for my church, and the instruction and support I received there, I don’t know where I would have wound up. Certainly not being the Christ-conscious, marginalized and fringe-aware, Love-follower I am today. And I was the one that let my church down. I had other ideas. And I’m paying the price. But I am, as with all things, forgiven. I regret my ill-guided decision to leave. Call it a learning-curve.

    When I attended, I found other broken people, who came, as I had come, where the community had let me down. I didn’t know where to go because my neighbor didn’t know where to go. And our broken selves then took our pieces and focused on the things and people that matter to Him. Healing ourselves in His purpose in the process.

    I know it’s not for everyone and not everyone has the luxury of having Sundays mornings free. I know there are far too many self-indulgent, damning, harm-causing churches.But not all are like that. I still make the effort to go to that God-box. To stop what I’m doing, to be purposeful and intentional with my time He’s given me, and lift up my voice. To be the church I want to see in the community.

    Christ made his way to the synagogue to worship his Father. I can go to worship, praise, and thank my Lord and Savior. And I’m sure I’ll find other broken, searching people there just like me.

    • Thanks for sharing Susan and bringing your perspective. I have met some wonderful people at church which had good pastors. I wish I could fit in to the family focused straight culture. But maybe I am not supposed to. It feels like a struggle sometimes to go to church and feel at home or welcomed. I may have found that church now but can’t attend because of my work schedule. I guess some churches have weekday masses but they don’t connect you to the fellowship because the services are sparsely attended and people are in a rush to leave. Aside from the damaging experience at fundamentalist type churches I love the community of believers who love God and want to encourage and be encouraged. It’s a wonderful place to congregate and derive inspiration for the week.

      • Yes, Kathy, I know it’s difficult for you and your schedule. And I know how much you value fellowship and others opinions and perspectives; that’s how you grow. And you do have a,global heart. I don’t want to be misinterpreted here. I’m not saying those who don’t attend church are any less faithful. But when I read the post and some of the comments, I was just dismayed because all churches are not boorish, doctrine-worshiping, fundamentalist types. Not all are like that. I guess it boils down to what a person believes the purpose and function of the church is. For a long time I was self-centered in my view; that the church was there to serve me. And that’s what I ended up giving in return, nothing because I had little to nothing to give. It wasn’t until my heart renewal that I did an about face, and viewed church as a missional body, allowing me to be me, growing in faith, with the support of other loving imperfect people, to go and reach and serve others, as He instructs. And the pastor does make the difference. The flock, does become the shepherd.

        Being gay, it has been hard to find a church body that will move past the exterior and allow me to serve side by side. But it’s my responsibility to find them. And I’ve found giving love overcomes a lot. And most often I have to start loving first.

        For me? I have to show up. I have to make that discipline, and publicly proclaim I adore Him. And I have to be the change I want to see in the church because it begins with me otherwise I might as well be pointing in a mirror.

  14. I have been out of organized church for more than five years, and I do long to meet with other Christians, but not in the setting of what we have come to know as a church service. What if we looked at a church gathering differently? Instead of a congregation hearing from one person, who is thought to be God’s mouthpiece, which I guess makes the lay people God’s ears, instead of coming empty and expecting to be spoon-fed, what if we came with an overflow? What if we brought what God had been speaking to us (yes, every Christian can hear from God, and it doesn’t have to be at church, through someone ordained) through the week, and we edified each other? That is what I long for. My many years in a church building did serve a purpose, but I have never felt as close or seen as big of a picture of God as I do now. And I thank Him for His sweet freedom.

    • I certainly understand what you’re saying. I had been pastored by many kinds. And I can’t say that I was confident in many callings. I just happened to luck out, if you will, at the church I was speaking about above. And I really don’t think luck had anything to do with it. I needed spoon-feeding on many a spiritual matter. This pastor was more than willing to listen to what God was placing on her members hearts. And adjusted her scripture-based messages that way. She wanted to take what she heard and the gifts of her members and develop an effective mission for our church. Not all pastors shepherd that way; I know. And it was amazing to see a person, gifted by God, to lead in that manner. I now, outside of the church box, also include in my life people of various faiths, non-belief, socially conscious, and recovery folks. And I feel like I can church anywhere., bringing my overflow from a Christian perspective. And personally, I don’t get to be a part of an organized something often… And I believe two (or more) are better than one. For me, it’s better to get in there and make change than letting it stay the same. I can’t do that if i don’t go. Like I said, box-church is not for everyone. But a box-church with a loving, listening pastor helped me grow. I go to give thanks… Actually, I give thanks everywhere. ????

  15. Thank you for this, Pastor. After 50 years in church, I’m no longer churched and it is such a blessed relief. I think that there comes a time when everyone SHOULD ask themselves, “Why am I here? Am I still growing? Is this merely a habit, a place to dress up and see my friends, or does it truly a conduit to living a full life in Christian and being of service to others?”

    For me, I attended because I easy afraid not to do so. Even though the church tore apart my self-esteem and dignity, even though I had little in common with its members and mission, I attended because I was convinced that the problem was me and that I should suffer. But I realized how much it was destroying me as a person, and as a Christian. Whereas I was once so grateful for my humble home and what little I had, I now felt ashamed and tried to hide my poverty. Whereas I was once confident in offering my gifts and talents, constant rebuff left me feeling worthless. Whereas I was once happy and hopeful, I became clinically depressed.

    And so I left. And I opened my eyes to what is going on in the world around me. People of all faiths and none working together to combat homelessness, violence, poverty, and discrimination. People regularly giving of themselves as a consequence of their beliefs and values. Opportunities to belong to communities of love abound.

    On my last visit to the little community to which I am moving, I noticed a flyer for a spaghetti supper fundraiser at the volunteer FD fire hall. It stated that the cost was $5 for adults. No charge for children under 12, veterans, and homeless people. In other words, all were welcome, including those who couldn’t pay. My thoughts went to the church events I couldn’t attend because I didn’t have the cost of admission at the time. And those I wasn’t even invited to attend because I wasn’t a major donor.

    Sometimes, true community operating as Christians taught has nothing to do with church.

  16. You are right, John! Nobody has to go to worship services on Sundays. That’s always been true. Fewer and fewer people actually do go to church on Sundays. Did it ever occur to John that, maybe, if enough people stop showing up on Sundays, there won’t be any churches to return to when all the people who take all these “breaks from church” feel like showing up again? Maybe that’s a moot point, though. Apparently, bricks and mortar churches are sort of unnecessary anyway. Who needs actual, flesh-and-blood community when you are sit around and grouse on the comments section at johnpavolovitz.com, right? I mean, I’m doing that right now, and I feel sooooo deeply spiritually fed!

  17. This kind of sarcasm makes its own case for why people may be taking all those breaks from services. Perhaps the better question is where is (this) church not conveying the joy that is in Christ, to get people excited about being a part of it. And then after answering its own question, have joyful worshippers and missionaries. Each church body, in the face of strife and lagging attendance must answer that question for themselves.

    • I am tired of the hypercritical posts that I find on John’s site. Rather than offering constructive support to churches that are honestly struggling with issues of community, inclusion, and joyful worship, HE is often sarcastic and negative. My frustrated comment is in response to his constant, negative toxicity. I stopped following him.

      • Kate, you make a good point, I suppose many of us have tried to give constructive ‘support’ (well, actually pointing out the human faults in modern mainstream christianity) But, the organized church leadership is mute and refuses to see there is a problem; instead so often the institutionalized church becomes defensive and justifies itself.

        I agree, some of us who are hurting are recovering from a toxic environment (are wounded) and perhaps should avoid commenting and getting bogged down in offences because it does seem to bring out the worst in us.

        This blog is a lightening rod at times for those who are spiritually suffering. It s a starting point not an ending point.

        • Kathy, “so often” is a truth. But how do we facilitate change to what exists? Ignore it? Pray it folds, goes away? Do we not take love to it? The “church” can be seen as any other social issue. It needs healing, and if not by us, then who? Do we stand by and say, oh, there’s another wounding, so sad? I expect persecution in the church because persecutors attend. Do so I slink away? No. I will not fear them. I have a voice inside and outside the church box. And what does he say? blessed are those who are persecuted for my name’s (and ways) sake. I may not stay long but they’re sure going to know I brought His love with me and left a portion there. I believe when we receive Him we immediately become three things. Worshippers foremost. Witnesses and servants. I will do that and I will be that where it’s needed most, “organized church”.

      • I am tired of the misuse of the word “hypocritical” in response to John’s posts. They can only be called hypocritical if he fails to practice what he preaches and you don’t have enough information about how he lives to claim he does not.

        Is he really so negative, or is he asking us to challenge our own preconceptions? Being challenged that way can be uncomfortable but it is still a positive step to take.

        • To be fair Gloriamarie, Kate used the word ‘hypercritical’ not hypocritical. I have to agree with her the blog is ….severely…. critical but is it warranted? How does one react to the vulgarities of injustice? I think it depends on how sensitive your are.

          • Ah, Kathy, thank you for the correction. I know someone in the past has called John P a hypocrite, I forget whom, I had thought up a response, saw Kate’s post and mis-read it in my eagerness to foist my opinion upon people.

            I think “hypercritical” is too strong a word. Yes, John P exercises his critical thinking skills and challenges himself as well as his readers with a different POV. Too many Christians are guilty of sins of omission and I think John P’s words challenge their complacent denial.

  18. John, I can see your point … up to a point.

    While I haven’t personally experienced the high-pressure, rock star/pastor-oriented, cultlike “churches” many of your readers have experienced (at least from the “inside”), I know they’re out there.

    I also know that (in most communities) there are far more good churches (synagogues, mosques …) than bad ones.

    For most people who’ve had a bad experience with a congregation, I’d suggest, yes, take a short break to “lick your wounds” but don’t take too long of a break. Find a good congregation as the best antidote to an experience of a bad congregation.

    My Quaker friends do remind me that all life is sacramental, but my Orthodox, Catholic and Episcopal/Anglican friends also remind me that Church is where Sacrament happens in a reliable way.

    • “I also know that (in most communities) there are far more good churches (synagogues, mosques …) than bad ones.”

      Bob, I don’t think it’s that simple. I think how you define “good” may not be how someone else defines “good”. I also don’t think any of us is really qualified to say there are “far more” good than bad. It’s all really really subjective and based on our limited view of things. I look at this from the perspective of obligation. Because when I tell my friends that I no longer attend Sunday services, they give me that look that suggests that I am outside of God’s divine will. “You should go and sit for an hour and sing 3 songs and listen to a sermon”. Does God really obligate Christians to support the traditional institutional congregational format? Is this what God has ordained? After much observation and study, my conclusion is that God does not.

  19. Sacrament and Worship and Praise do not have to be in a structured, formal building setting, as John as stated., WE ARE THE CHURCH, each of us has an innate way of perceiving who God is and who Jesus has become to each of us. Hopefully, we have learned that from our first thoughts as a child old enough to understand.
    I for one have gone to church just because I felt obligated to attend or I could not be “the perfect Christian”, I have decided that I am a follower of Jesus Christ and He is my redeemer and hopefully my reflection with whomever I meet. Now, I do not feel guilty for having to work on a Sunday and missing service, or because there is a family event that is held on a Sunday and I want to attend, or that I just feel that I want to enjoy the day in another way with Jesus at my side, whether that be at the seaside, the park, at home listening to worship and praise, or mainstreaming another service in another City or Country. Thank God, I am free from the guilt of Religion and the slave like attitude of some churches., I now go because I want to attend, I want to be there and communicate with others, I want to be there to be in corporate worship and accept the sacraments in a house of Christlike followers., but as I stated earlier., I go now because I WANT TO. Thank you John for reaching out to those who still do not feel safe or or still under the bond of religion, that we too can Praise, Worship., Love and Adore our Lord and Savior where ever we may be, He is always with us..

  20. I request that Bruton Gaster be blocked from posting to this blog. He is abusing me. He is battering me. He is harassing me. If I knew him in real life, I would have cause for a restraining order.

    But since I am convinced that John P doesn’t read these comments and leaves us to engage each other as adults, I’ll go on record and say that Bruton Gaster is a troll and many of us would do well to ignore him when he posts.

  21. Bless all of you speaking up to Bruton Gaster. He has hurt me very badly and keep pounding away at me. It feels a lot like rape.

  22. Hebrews 10:23-25

    23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for the one who promised is faithful. 24 And let us think about how to stir one another up to love and good works, 25 not abandoning our meeting together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging each other, and by so much more as you see the day drawing near.

    “You” are not the Church, nor am “I,” but “We” are the Church. The word Church literally means “assembly.” What is an assembly of one? Not an assembly at all. Jesus said were two or three are gathered he would be in midst of them. Why two or three? Why not one?

    I understand people have traumatic Church hurts, and I do not want to downplay that. The thing is, if we took Church as seriously as we took works, which can also hurt, or family, which can also hurt, then we should be in Church. If the Church is really that abusive, there is likely another Church you can go to.

    Again, I am not trying to give Church-hurt people a hard time, but I don’t think it is right for us to say “No big deal if you just stay home.” You may have to seek counseling, take a short time to heal and respite, but we should never be complacent in not assembling. Assembling is pleasing to Christ, even if it may feel like bearing a cross to us.

    • Thanks Brandon I appreciate you response. I think most people hurt by the church are doing the very things you mentioned. As well some of those not going to an official church institution are finding other ways to gather together as ‘called out ones’. So where two or three are gathered, we are the church.

    • “Hebrews 10:23-25”

      That is a great few verses there Brandon. Now all you need to do is find the verses where it says Christians are to:

      1) assemble on Sunday in a designated building
      2) sit in pews and listen to a 1/2 hour to 1 hours long lecture
      3) repeat this for the rest of your life

      I’ll repeat my response to another post above: Does God really obligate Christians to support the traditional institutional congregational format? Is this what God has ordained? After much observation and study, my conclusion is that God does not.

  23. Dear Pastor John,
    Thanks again for your encouragement. Went to Mass every Sun for 58 years but haven’t been for 3 years now. Everthing you said is true for me. I haven’t lost my faith but rather my faith in the church. Learning to live without it. I never really fitted in, being far too radical & outspoken. I was deeply & profoundly hurt by the Church being a forthright & intelligent girl. In the end they squeezed me out. Now I realize how hard they’re all fighting to save antiquated rituals that are bogged down by dogma & dysfunction. Hence the sexual abuse of children & huge coverups.
    I don’t need it anymore….church that is. I loved the Mass….such a brilliant & beautifully balanced weekly reliving of Christ’s birth death & resurrection.l will carry it’s rich history deep in my consciousness & it’s wise & solemn beauty in soul for the rest of my earthly journey but I will not support the dysfunction structure of the Church anymore.
    God Bless you Padtor John for being the voice of inclusion, acceptance & love.

    • EricD,

      “Yuck. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never found bread, wine, and absolution on I-65.”

      What I’ve noticed in some responses to this particular post is that before reading for depth of perspective and understanding, people rush to defend tradition by picking the low hanging fruit. My guess is that John P was being hyperbolic with his reference to “driving the back roads”. However I think the heart of his point is this:

      “There is nowhere in Scripture where Jesus commands us to go to a building called “Church”. It was always about sharing life with people. All that existed in the New Testament were house churches where people were already living together in deep, relational community. The idea that we need to travel to sit in a space with strangers and consume religious entertainment is not at all Biblical. So while it may be helpful (and to many it is), it is not necessary. If people try to make you feel guilty for not attending a church building, know that they have missed the point, not you.”

      What you say “Yuck” to, more and more people are saying “Yum”.

      • Marc B. –

        Sorry, but I did read the whole thing and I understood his point perfectly well.

        John’s argument is that you can either encounter Christ in a church community, or you can encounter him in a cup of coffee with a friend. That there is essentially no difference between gathering with fellow Christians in worship for the reception of word and sacrament, and staying in bed on a Sunday morning.

        My response is a simple one: you don’t get the sacraments at Starbucks. You get the sacraments in Church. Period.

        And anyone who suggests that you can, as a Christian, live the rest of your life without the nourishment of God’s external word and sacrament – without the law and the gospel preached into your ears and received on your tongue week in and week out – is holding back the goods. You don’t *have* to go to church. You *get* to go to church. You *need* to go to church.

        And God promises to meet you there.

        Go to church.

    • Sorry…I didn’t understand your ‘yuck’ comment, nor the bread and wine and 1-65 comment. Not even sure if you’re responding to me? Though it’s of no concern to me that you find whatever it is ‘yuck’, I am surprised that as a Christian you would respond in such a critical and uncaring way to an expression of important cultural connection. Commenting on-line can often result in disconnected and harsh discourse, that is completely unnecessary. Surely, as fellow Christians, we owe each other more than that?

    • That’s the Christian spirit, keep nursing that grudge. As a lapsed Baptist, actually a gay man whose Church told him to go away after having grown up in it, I think your comment is a perfect example of why and how a “Church” can be toxic. Where is your Christian love? You held on to a slight so you could later use it as a club to beat down someone else. You don’t allow that another might make a mistake, you simply allow that you will get to use it as a cudgel.

  24. Just curious– from which teaching of Jesus (or anyone in Scripture for that matter) did you infer this teaching?

    As I read through the gospels (and the balance of scripture) I see people constantly in community in organized worship and expressions of relationship with both one another and God.

    • “As I read through the gospels (and the balance of scripture) I see people constantly in community in organized worship and expressions of relationship with both one another and God.”

      And yet in Romans 12, worship is described thusly:

      “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

      I read “offer your bodies as living sacrifice = this is true and proper worship”. Perhaps to you that means going to a service every Sunday, but I don’t think Scripture explicitly mandates that.

      John, the thing about quoting Scripture and using proof-texts, is that they are still subject to our own interpretation. I think the real point of John P’s post wasn’t glorying in how we can spend our Sundays, but that we have narrowed worship into a little traditional institutional box that says I have to go to a building and sit for X hours facing a stage. Here is the paragraph that I think gets to the point of it:

      “There is nowhere in Scripture where Jesus commands us to go to a building called “Church”. It was always about sharing life with people. All that existed in the New Testament were house churches where people were already living together in deep, relational community. The idea that we need to travel to sit in a space with strangers and consume religious entertainment is not at all Biblical. So while it may be helpful (and to many it is), it is not necessary. If people try to make you feel guilty for not attending a church building, know that they have missed the point, not you.”

      • Hi Marc (again),

        If you had done less proof-texting, you’d have continued on to Romans 12:4, “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body (the church). We are parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.”

        I simply asked a question- “…from which teaching of Jesus (or anyone in Scripture for that matter) did you infer this teaching?”

        Is it so unreasonable to ask someone who is a follower of Christ to ask where He teaches this?

        • “Is it so unreasonable to ask someone who is a follower of Christ to ask where He teaches this?”

          Sorry John, IMHO you are strawmanning this post to death. I think you would need to detail exactly which teaching you are referring to/contending with. Your quoting Romans 12:4 doesn’t respond to anything in the post as John P is not arguing for solo Christianity. Again, you are preaching to the choir.

  25. Pingback: On “Going to Church” | The Cost, The Joy

  26. The more I’m reading through the critical comments to this post, the more I’m seeing folks arriving with their dogma already in hand without really understanding the spirit behind what John P is saying. Folks, no one is advocating solo-only worship. Anything suggesting that is a straw man argument. Beat the straw man all you want, but you’re wasting your energy. The contention is with the traditional institutional Sunday service model.

    Additionally, we have the following well-known example from Jesus himself:

    “But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” Luke 5:16

    I’m sure we can argue about semantics and definitions on what constitutes “worship”, but do you think that when Jesus slipped away, that he wasn’t “worshipping”?

    • Hi Marc,

      I’m not sure how you interpret a phrase like, “you don’t have to go to church”, but I interpret it as, “you don’t have to go to church”. And, as I stated clearly on my blog post, if John’s usage of the word “church” is about a building, I agree. If it is about the community of believers, I disagree.

      Jesus absolutely went off an worshiped when he was by himself. And at the same time, he was constantly worshiping in community.

      Jesus didn’t ONLY worship solo, he worshiped in community. I believe my blog post was more than fair in response to this.

      • John, I feel I need to be honest here and just state that your response is mind-boggling to me. Here’s what you said:

        “And, as I stated clearly on my blog post, if John’s usage of the word “church” is about a building, I agree. If it is about the community of believers, I disagree.”

        Here is a major point in John P’s post:

        “There is nowhere in Scripture where Jesus commands us to go to a building called “Church”. It was always about sharing life with people. All that existed in the New Testament were house churches where people were already living together in deep, relational community. The idea that we need to travel to sit in a space with strangers and consume religious entertainment is not at all Biblical. So while it may be helpful (and to many it is), it is not necessary. If people try to make you feel guilty for not attending a church building, know that they have missed the point, not you.”

        If you can’t figure out what John P means by “church” in this post, I simply don’t know what to say. You are preaching to the choir.

  27. This is pretty ridiculous, ridiculous not to mention totally unscriptural (which zero biblical validation was given for the above argument).

    We are habitual creatures. If our lives are not shaped by the habits of Christ together, then we are not the body of Christ (Romans 12:5, 1, 1 Cor. 12:12-27, Ephesians 3:6; 5:23, Collossians 1:18 and 1:24 etc.). The author of Hebrews even explicitly states to not “give up gathering together as some are in the habit of doing” (Heb 10:25). He knew that the custom of gathering and participating in something beyond ourselves is part and parcel in getting us to focus on something other than ourselves. Even Jesus did not hold himself above this reality. “As was Jesus custom, He went into the Synagogue on the Sabbath Day” (Luke 4:16. How did Luke know? He was drug along with Jesus and the rest of the disciples!). He did not let the “organized religion” of his day, the very people who eventually called for his execution, prevent him from gathering with God’s people for weekly worship. No, he did what he calls his followers to do. He was the change he wanted to see among them, not at home fostering his own individualistic spirituality. The very incarnation of God speaks against this very gnostic separation between gathering together and spirituality. “The word became flesh!” John 1. Just because we now have the Holy Spirit does not mean we forget the flesh and bone of the Son of God. If we do not engage our flesh and bone in active worship of God together, as Christ shows us, God simply becomes whatever pajama party we desire God to be.

    This is advocating a very consumeristic approach to spirituality. One that would absolutely be baffling to the early church.

    • Rev. Cremer: I totally agree with you. It sounds like many of the people responding to this article are in one of two categories: 1) they have been in an abusive church situation or, 2) they are looking for more “freedom.” God’s admonition to gather together is for a purpose, and it is for our own good. Sure, it is more fun to run to the beach or to the mall or stay home and read the newspaper, or “commune with nature” and the other foolish reasons people have for skipping church. But God made it clear (as you mentioned in your post) that we are to regularly gather together. If they have had a bad church experience, then suck it up and do the hard work of finding a church where not only they will grow spiritually, but where they can make an impact for God’s Kingdom. I dare say that those who are skipping out in order to “commune with God in nature” are basically weak in their faith and not making any impact in their communities. Sorry if this sounds harsh, but it is the truth.

  28. Pingback: Christians, Let's Be Honest. Our Excuses For Skipping Church Are Lame. – TheBlaze.com | Posts ABC

  29. Going it alone is selfishly placing yourself above God, who is calling you personally and corporately. Being created “in the image of God” is to be in relationships with others in bringing about the Missio Dei, the Mission of God.

  30. It’s odd that the “pastor”/writer of this article doesn’t use a single Bible verse to back up his position.

    Hebrews 10:25, now that’s a Bible verse.

  31. So what do we do with this verse? This is straight from the heart of God.
    Hebrews 10:25 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.

  32. Do you really think that verse, taken within its actual context and not lifted out as a proof-text, means such a legalistic interpretation?

    Honestly, all of you who read John’s blog and thinking he is saying like “Christian, it is OK to never go to church ever again” are guilty of not paying attention to the actual words but reading into it what you think he is saying.

    • Legalism is adding rules to the Bible. I’m saying we should follow a rule that’s already there. What I’m reading from John’s blog is that it’s OK to skip church if you’d rather go for a drive, catch up on your gardening or sleep in and “giggle” in bed. Those would be selfish and sinful reasons to skip church. John doesn’t have scripture to back up his position because there isn’t any. I’m not reading things into his words; I’m just taking his words at face value and he’s encouraging disobedience to God’s Word.

      • Nope. What he is saying that it is ok, occasionally to skip church.

        If you can’t understand that, then, yes, you are being legalistic. You are adding to the text when you insist that no matter what, a person has to be in church on Sunday.

        • Here’s my question for you, where does God say that in his Word? I’m not adding anything to it (the Bible), but I need you to show me where the Bible says it’s OK to skip out on church because if you can do that (tell me where that’s written in the Bible), then I’m on board with you, but if you can’t, then you (and John L.) are just going off of what you “think” you’re supposed to do, and that is, by definition “private interpretation”, which the Bible also warns about.

          • Do you have an organ in your church? If so, where in Scripture does it say that.

            Martin Luther about 600 years ago addressed the issue of whether something not mentioned in Scripture meant whether or not it was forbidden or were Christians solely restricted to only that which Scripture specifically ordained.

            Even ML realized that God gave us brains and the ability to reason and that we are not automatons doing only that which Scripture ordains.

            • How does my church (or any church for that matter) having an organ or not (which we don’t) have anything to do with skipping out on church? See its when an argument can’t be made that random things that aren’t supported by scripture like that come out.

              And you’re going to reference Luther? The baby baptizing, Christian murdering, Catholic who later made his own form of pseudo-Christianity with Catholic undertones? That Luther? He murdered Christians by the tens of thousands for so called “heresies”, and you’re going to use him to make your case? And I have yet to hear a single scripture that supports missing out on church “just because”, from anybody in these comments.

              And those things that “Scripture ordains” is God’s Word. God ordained those things that Christians so quickly dismiss as being unnecessary for whatever selfish/uneducated reason.

              • Hi Roberto E. After a lifetime of using scripture to prove a point, I’ve realized that the Bible, with quotes often taken out of context or being taken literally from whatever translation is on offer, can be used to prove almost all contrasting points of view!

                • I completely agree with you Lisa, and that’s why it’s the charge of all Christians to clarify/correct error that is contrary to what God’s Word is saying by rightly dividing the Word. Christ did it on multiple occasions to the Pharisees and scribes of his time and even Satan himself (all of which used scripture incorrectly to trap him), and he used the Scriptures to correct them. Paul throughout his epistles to the churches in Asia and Rome had to correct them on things they erred in, and it was with Scriptural support, James said he would show you his faith by his works; the list goes on really.

                  Too many times nowadays people lean to an easier way of believing/worship instead of realizing that our Christian forefathers (and Christ) died in the name of Truth, so instead we glob on to the convenient excuses of needing a break from time to time. Christ got no break when he was on the cross, the Apostles got no break when they were hunted and imprisoned for their faith, and yet we justify skipping out on church because we need some “me” time, which yet again, cannot be supported with Scripture.

                  • It is your tone of voice and choice of vocabulary that indicates to me that you prefer to argue, than discuss. Trolls argue.

                    I am willing to discuss, but I am not going to argue.

                    Trolls sign onto comments to bludgeon people and I will not abused in that manner.

                    • I am discussing. I am simply stating that the Bible only makes the case to attend church, and I’m asking for Scripture to be used that supports the idea that it’s ok to miss every once in a while. That’s all. No name calling, no belittling, and certainly no abuse. If I seem harsh, it’s because I’m passionate on the subject, and I see too often people taking the path of least resistance in a subject that Christ, and many of our true Christian ancestors, died for.

  33. Way too many comments on this to read the entire discussion. But a question: what is authoritative? Most here profess a faith and belief in God, and the arguments are about how we worship. Many say that no one has the right to tell others how to worship. My question for all is this: What do you hold the highest authority? Personal Experience? Scripture? Reason? Tradition?

    • Human beings have very big brains well…some humans have anyway.
      Most of us were born into religions with dogmas and rituals. Many of our family experiences were centered around the special Christian feast days. Going to church was big and associated with nearly every important family activity. These were all good things that helped to shape the minds of generations of Christians.

      It was also tribal and Catholics believed they were the original Christian Faith and therefore keepers of the true teachings of Christ via his church, instigated when Christ told Peter he was the building stone of the church on earth. ‘Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.’ Catholics were certain they were the one true Christian church and over hundreds of years evolved amazing rituals and built beautiful churches in the belief that they were doing God’s will. It was a truly impressive culture of Faith and intellectual theology. The Catholics built hospitals, orphanages, schools and universities to serve the poor and the rich alike. Many good and Holy people gave their lives to the service of God’s people.

      But there were many negatives. Other Christian religions believed they were right and the Catholic Church was wrong. It was, in the end, a clash of tribes. In Ireland a war was fought for many, long decades. The Catholics tried to stop the Reformation with the dreadful Inquisition. And of course, the protestants were pretty good at burning witches too. In fact, in the middle ages and onward it became a popular pass time.

      Christians simply didn’t belong to the same religion. They were ALL mostly wrong and also partly right but no-one would admit to anything. Jesus wept.

      The history of Christian tribes is significant to this series of comments…where today it is still being played out. The Bible is used as a weapon to subdue the other side. It’s taken out of context, misunderstood and misused. This beautiful creation story and much translated, antiquated narrative of the early Jews and Christians is most significantly, the only record in history of Jesus having ever existed. Yet, from those tenuous lines, Christianity grew to dominate almost the entire Earth.

      My Christian background gave me much to be thankful for but now that I’m much older and hopefully a little wiser, I refuse to participate in tribal Christian word battles, or otherwise.

      We are one people, one earth. We are killing each other and destroying our only home. To survive we must grow up, let go and learn to become one human tribe who can work together for the overall good or our species and most others will not survive. This is the simple truth of it. I just hope it’s not too late….but when I look at how popular Trump is…I have my doubts.

      So the highest authority is now and always will be whatever religion or philosophy it is that promotes human rights, a clean and healthy environment, peace and non-violence and equality in grassroots communities.

      These are the core tenets of Christianity that have somehow been lost along the way. Our big brains want dominance. Our big brains make us fight each other….but those brains can also help us work together. Let’s use our beautiful religious narrative to learn how to love one another…to find the strength in our hearts to forgive each other…to be prepared to sacrifice our egos so we can help save this beautiful world together.

    • Kent, assuming you are asking because you sincerely want an answer, here’s my take.

      I am Episcopalian. I am thoroughly Anglican in my theology so when it comes to an issue like this my answer is Scripture, Reason, and Tradition. while Scripture might have a slight preference over the other two, the other two definitely affect how I view Scripture.

      This issue touches on the age old question. Are Christians only allowed that which the Bible explicitly permits? Or are Christians allowed things the Bible never mentions.

      The example that is often used as an answer is the organ. Many churches have organs. To many other churches, the organ is forbidden because the Bible doesn’t explicitly mention organs. How could it, when it had yet to be invented?

      To those clamoring for a proof-text that it is ok to miss church occasionally, I say this. Proof-texting is an irresponsible way to read the Bible. It’s eisegesis, reading into a verse what we want to see there. John’s blog posts are often subject to eisegesis.

      Seems to me that if one’s faith requires one to be on the constant look-out for other people’ s wrongs must be a very heavy burden. In fact, it is contrary to the words of Jesus. I’m thinking of his words about judging, logs and splinters.

  34. I like the scripture references used in this article to clarify God’s will for my worship, so I can be certain that it wasn’t from someone’s own private interpretation of what God expects from me as his servant …

    • Hi Roberto E. After a lifetime of using scripture to prove a point, I’ve realized that the Bible, with quotes often taken out of context or being taken literally from whatever translation is on offer, can be used to prove almost all contrasting points of view!

  35. I always wondered why one never “graduates.” Church seems like a lifetime school for seekers. When you discover the answer (as I have), you stop asking the question.

  36. Amen indeed. And in fact it was a loose, anti-instituational, unconventional, community movement. Jesus came to make revolutionary change. I suppose u cld say he was a hippy…love and peace man…and just look what all the stiff shirted, patriarchal, power mongers did with that glorious notion down through the ages! Jesus wept.

  37. It should come as no surprise that a man who offers advice to Christians without quoting a single verse, would be offering advice that is not worth listening to.

    If an opinion on the Christian faith is offered without a solid foundation made apparent in scripture, that opinion should be ignored.

    This post is one such opinion.

  38. Pingback: Christians, Let’s Be Honest. Our Excuses For Skipping Church Are Lame.

  39. Great and fantastic article. This article is confirmation for me and it’s good to know that I am not alone.

    Thank you!

    Wynne

  40. Really sick and tired of these comments which state the Roman Catholic Church is superior to all others.

    No one is ever going to be convinced of that. Especially since the implication is that the rest of us are too stupid to know what is in our best interests. Especially since a person has to leave one’s brain behind and swallow the party line without question.

  41. Pingback: Let’s Be Honest. Our Excuses For Skipping Church Are Lame. – Do-minion Lodge

  42. As a Christian of 40 years who was brought up in multiple church services every week from before birth and indoctrinated that missing church was naughty as was lateness……I am now convinced that I didn’t know what freedom was. I lived a life of good, peacemaking, Christian behaviour. I accepted emotional abuse and systematic withholding of affection from my husband, and I endured a steadily breaking heart for 18 years. The organised Church I attended were none the wiser. When I separated from my husband I heard almost nothing from the Church.
    My perspective now is much more about freedom in Jesus. I don’t believe he wants us in bondage. Church culture to me, looking back, was bondage. Notice I said “Church culture”. The corporate church and how it operates in Western society is what I have abandoned. When I meet with other followers of Jesus, He is present. During my day when I clean up the office kitchen, I remind myself I am doing it for Him. That is my spiritual worship. Simple, not burdensome. His yoke is not heavy. Church was. That is my journey. If you feel you must lay guilt on me for this, I have felt the guilt and have decided it is not from my Father.

  43. John,

    I love the idea of God’s sacred space being the whole earth, as you emphasize. I also love the idea of the Church being every person in Christ’s body, and the idea of the Church being present wherever a Christian person is.

    However, to paraphrase Lewis, I go to church because there I take communion, and Jesus commands us to take communion. Jesus (Scripture) commands us to gather together. Jesus commands us to sing and worship and pray together. Jesus commands Christian communities to organize elders (pastors) for the teaching and preaching of the word.

    To neglect to gather together is to forsake all of this.

    I understand that you were writing against the superstition that Church is a brick building. But I feel that you did not make clear the biblical imperative for God’s people (the Church) to regularly gather together under the teaching and preaching of the Word.

    Just my thoughts. I hope they are helpful.

    – Jesse

  44. Thank you so very much for this. I’ve been dealing with this very issue. I am a survivor of abuse and was told not to tell my story bc it would turn ppl from the church. I disagree. I think that by no longer attending that church but still pursuing God says that God is not the church. God is God and we are His church(Ppl living out the life God intended us to).

  45. Thanks for sharing your insight on this, John.

    I left my local church when I was 26 years old because I felt alienated, outcast, and felt called to go elsewhere after investing 7 years in my old church, and learned that all the friends I made in church weren’t really actually close friends at all, but church community members.

    Being on the Autism Spectrum, socialization and fitting in has always been a case for me, and being misunderstood and misinterpreted for my actions, it has been a real struggle for me. To me church is a body of Christ and what stood out to me the most in the article is when you said

    “There is nowhere in Scripture where Jesus commands us to go to a building called “Church”. It was always about sharing life with people. ”

    A few month ago a friend from my new local church which I stopped attending for 7 month told me I cannot be a follower of Christ if I don’t commit to a local church. It got me thinking about it, and while I found scriptures to back up his claims, I felt like there was more to it than that. It got me meditating, reading scriptures, and google searching for an answer, and I stumbled upon your article which pretty much sums up the way I live as Christian who has been having years of struggle finding a permanent local church due to social conflicts and just differences in opinion.

    I’m not perfect, but God knows me the best and I try to live by how Jesus lived and project that way of living with everyone I encounter, and have found God through the chance of meeting and God introducing new Christians to my life all the time. And spiritual edification outside of the church is important. To me, that is Church.

  46. I left the pulpit ministry after 20 plus years and have found a freedom that is hard to explain to those that are still frequent members. Kinda funny, all that time I really didn’t KNOW God until I left the church!

  47. I haven’t looked thru all the comments and perhaps missed this one, but how do you reconcile Hebrews 10:25 with your article? I understand the church per se is not a building, but if you are not fellowshipping with other believers in a worship opportunity how can it be ok ?

  48. You have bought into the lie that you are a ‘christian’ when you indeed are not. You are not born again and this is dangerous heresy of Satan. The scriptures are clear that we are to love the brethren. If you are not gathering its because you do not love the brethren in the church. Using your lack of attendance and the teachings that you as an individual are the church is dangerous. The church in greek is the gathering. It is the body and bride of Christ. Do you really hate his bride so much you wont go? If you hate Christ’s bride what does that say about you? If you told your best friend you dislike his wife how would that affect your relationship? If you can not stand to hang out with believers now then you will certainly not enjoy heaven. If you can not love people (love means giving of yourself to others, especially believers in the church) then you do not love the invisible God. Please be warned. You should be deeply afraid and concerned about your soul and the others you are leading astray.

    1 John 4:20 (ESV)
    20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

  49. No sir you are not ‘the church.’ You can be a member of the church but you do not make up the church. The church is the gathering of believers which make up the body. Perhaps one is a foot and the other hand, even another an eye, but not one of them by themselves is the church. This is misguided teachings.

    By not participating in the church you are not serving your spiritual purpose. Skipping church to drive around with the moon roof open leads to a life of spiritual decay. The Bible encourages Christian love and accountability.

  50. This is meaningful and freeing… and it goes along with the idea that Christianity isn’t saying “yes” to salvation and then trying to “be good,” as it seems I was taught most of my childhood. You say “yes” with your life.

  51. This line of thinking is dangerous. An individual Christian is not the church, WE as Christians are the Church. To forsake the assembling of ourselves together hurts our spiritual lives.

    The following article might explain what I mean a little better: http://bit.ly/2kA2Bk6

  52. Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one anothere—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

    This article just threw this passage of Scripture out of the Bible. All Scripture is God-breathed. We can’t pick and choose to only believe parts of it. The Enemy’s plans are to separate man from God, and this article fits right in with his scheme.

  53. While I agree with the tone of the article and much of its content, the reality is most Christians who are not engaged with a church community (however that looks) are not growing as followers of Christ. Whether it be a Bible study, small group, or traditional worship setting, we Christians need accountability, community, and routine to keep us growing. Letting us off the hook will not help us.

  54. I disagree with your article. This type of thinking is why the Church in America is struggling, and people who need to be a part of a church are struggling. The very word “church” as Jesus used it means “gathering.” You are not “gathering” when you are snuggling with your dog on a Sunday morning. The writer of Hebrews (10:25) admonished his readers to not give up meeting together. Further, in Hebrews 13:17 it says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” If we are not a part of a local church, then to what leaders are you submitting to? And, further, the question would be this: If you are not a part of a local church who or how are you mentoring others? Or maybe that is your point. I get it that some people have been in an abusive church situation. Fine. Move on and find one that is healthy. Finding the right church can be hard work. But let’s not get caught up in the trend to chuck the whole thing. And, before the criticism pours in, no, I am not a pastor. But I am a part of a healthy, thriving church and see the benefit of the church both in my life and the lives of those around me.

  55. As I read your article, the first thing I noticed you never mention Scripture. We should always begin by looking at God’s word when seeking to answer questions like “Should I go to Church?” Here are few of the many Scriptures that speak to this topic.

    And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 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. (Heb. 10:24-25 ESV)

    Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Cor. 12:4-7 ESV)

    For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body– Jews or Greeks, slaves or free– and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. (1 Cor. 12:12-14 ESV)

    About the only aspect that you got right in this article is that the Church is NOT a building; however, the building is a place where the local Church meets regularly. When we neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, we not only lose out on the gifts God has given others in the body for our benefit, but we rob our brothers and sisters in Christ from receiving the benefits of the gifts God has given us.

  56. Church is hard.

    I have personally noticed that people seem to hang on to hurts related to their experience with church that they don’t correspondingly do with other areas of their life. For example, we don’t generally see people respond to a bad doctor by swearing off Western Medicine. We don’t routinely hear about people in car accidents that swear of wheeled transportation. However, with church we do. Why?

    To be honest, I think it’s because community is hard and it demands things from us/holds us accountable. Time (Sunday mornings!?), money, building relationships with people we wouldn’t otherwise, putting our priorities in second position in a culture that SCREAMS ‘Me first!!’.

    I believe when our faith life doesn’t involve this kind of struggle, we are able to create our own Jesus that will fit into our own wallets, calendars, and existing social groups, and who doesn’t challenge us to change our lives.

    Church is hard.

  57. Keep going John. You are leading more and more people away from God each and every time you post. I’m afraid you will answer someday for all the ones you had led astray.

  58. I spent nearly 14 years in a “cult church”, I’m glad to be free of it, but it’s been about 6 years, and I’m looking forward to getting back in church. I suffer from a lot of disabling chronic pain, (I have trouble walking and standing) but I miss praising and worshipping God in a church. I do enjoy praising and worshipping at home, but I am alone: I rarely go out and no one visits who I can worship and pray with. I can’t wait to find a “good” church so I no longer have to be alone! Please pray for me!

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