Brian Michael Kindall
Do the churchless Christians have it right?
One of the first Christian groups I encountered as a new Christian was the churchless-Christian movement, otherwise known as the nones–as in, the type of church they prefer… none.
If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I am a far bigger fan of Jesus than I am of His followers. I want to give you reasons, however, why this is no reason to avoid going to church.
If you have recently been saved, I’ll be encouraging you to think critically about the impetus of such a group. It may be well-meaning, but that doesn’t automatically mean it isn’t misguided.
First of all, I promise not to demean or discount the churchless-Christian position. In many ways, I agree with it. I want to offer a few snacks of caution to chew on, if I may. You can tell me I’m out to lunch if that is how you feel when I’m done.
As always, please feel free to like, not like, comment, or question any of my posts. Your opinions are welcome.
The churchless Christian.
As you may know, I am fond of saying that being in church does not make you a Christian any more than being in a garage makes you a car. I just want to float some ideas by you and you can determine if they are biblical or not.
I am not referring to Christians who don’t make it to church as often as they should. The churchless Christians are a group who identify themselves as devout followers of Christ but refuse to attend church as a result of their opinion of the church.
Those who identify with this group may call themselves the nones which represents the religion or church they belong to. Or the “buts” as in, I’m Christian “but” I don’t go to church. Or they may refer to themselves as the “love Jesus, but hate the church/religion” crowd.
Listen, I get it. In my article, The number 1 rule of Christianity (part 2), I spoke of the hate-filled, abusive so-called Christians who use their platform or their identity to impose their condemnation on whomever they choose.
If your child’s fourth-grade English teacher turned out to be a poor speller, would you conclude that your child would be better off no longer attending school?
Ever hear of throwing the baby out with the bathwater? I’m not really sure what that means, but I think it must apply.
We can’t shut ourselves off from the Christian community, the church, simply because its members or leadership are not perfect. We’re not perfect either.
Defense of the churchless Christian.
There are certainly bad church leaders out there. Just like there are bad doctors, bad lawyers, bad cops, and bad birthday clowns. If you ran into a bad doctor or birthday clown, you’d find a different one. The same should go with a bad church leader.
I’ve been given other reasons why a Christian shouldn’t attend church:
I follow Christ, not Christians.
I’m spiritual, not religious.
My relationship with God is personal.
There are no buildings called “churches” in the Bible.
While some of these reasons may be true, or even valid, they don’t necessarily validate being a churchless Christian.
First, consider that there may be an underlying reason that you’re defending:
It's my day off.
I want to worship God when it’s more convenient for me.
I don’t want to give up:
just chillin’ out
I understand the difficulty of prioritizing church when you may not see the value in it. Allow me to suggest that one’s time may be better spent finding value in something they do not agree with rather than finding excuses to disagree with it.
In a previous post, Church Shopping, I offered suggestions on seeking a new church.
What does the Bible say about the church?
The Bible does not say that, from that day on, the apostles attended church every Sunday. So, in the absence of a cultural equivalent, we feel justified in behaving to the contrary.
Be careful here. You do not want to see the absence of something in the Bible as permission to do that something. The Bible also doesn’t mention cocaine or karaoke. This does not mean the Bible approves of either.
Similar reasoning is used to defeat other aspects of the Christian life:
Christmas isn’t in the Bible. And besides, it isn’t really Jesus’ birthday.
Maybe Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday, but if we’re recognizing a Sunday every year, then we’re not recognizing the right day most years.
Shouldn’t the Sabbath be a Saturday?
Okay… Friday to Sunday? That isn’t three days.
The fact is that, outside of the core doctrines of the Christian faith, we can take much of what the Bible has to teach us and reason it away.
But these things cannot be reasoned away.
Jerusalem, Cyprus, Syria, Hieropolis, Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, Thessalonica, Dalmatia, Laodicea, Lystra, Berea, Athens, Macedonia, Crete, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia were all cities mentioned in the New Testament.
What all these cities had in common was the fact that there were Christian churches in each of these cities. Some likely had several.
Some of them met in people’s homes, some met in various meeting places, some met outdoors, and some even met in Jewish synagogues.
In some cases, they were led directly by actual apostles, or by trainees of these same apostles.
You may recognize many of the names above because many are books in the New Testament written by Paul. The lion’s share of Paul’s writing was edifying and admonishing both church members and church leaders.
All of these churches were created within 60 years of Jesus’ death and all were created after Jesus’ death.
I find the fact that they were created after Jesus’ death to be particularly significant. Did they spring up as a reaction to Jesus’ death? Were we to let this reactionary tradition die out shortly thereafter? Why were there churches then and why shouldn’t, why wouldn’t, there be churches now?
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
So Jesus told his apostles to go out and create disciples. And they all went out and created churches.
Jesus spoke directly to seven churches in the book of Revelation (Revelation 2-3).
As the apostles died and their successors died, and their successors’ successors died, the church leaders had to be educated outside of apostolic succession. That tradition has continued until today.
The author of Hebrews tells his readers to consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together and encourage one another until we see the Day draw near (Hebrews 10:24-25).
We have to keep the church building in perspective.
In so doing, we must be careful not to create arguments of straw men we can easily burn down to achieve our own ends.
We do not have to go to a church to find God. God is with us now and always.
We will not go to hell or lose our salvation if we miss more than three Sundays a year. Knowing this should not be our reason for not going at all, however.
You can fully love and worship God without driving to one of those buildings, but that isn’t the only point of a church.
Now knowing that we are not necessarily hellbound for not having perfect attendance, or will not lose our salvation, and can still have God in our lives without a church should be a relief.
With that relief, we can leave behind the guilt that might have forced us to go to church and later regretted the guilt-driven attendance.
Now we can be free to go for the reasons that we should go.
In my post on Church Shopping, I outlined the three purposes of any church:
to worship and honor God
to grow the Body of Christ
to edify the Body of Christ
In fairness to the churchless-Christian crowd, I would concede that if their church is not doing one or all three of these things in everything it does, then they may have reason to leave.
If they cannot perform all three of these things on their own, however, I would say that they should find their way back to a church.
There will be problems with it. It’s guaranteed. It’s full of human, fleshly, sinning people. These things will always exist, though. And we cannot use these facts to disobey God.
Christ is in us. We have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit and that wasn’t so we could sit on our couch and enjoy the rush of all that indwelling. It is so we can show Jesus, be Jesus to everyone else.
We are to teach and admonish each other in wisdom in order to achieve this (Colossians 3:16). That involves being around other Christians.
There is more Christ and more Holy Spirit in a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand Christ-followers than there is in one. That is also why we are to come together.
Jesus told us that the greatest commandment was to love God and “just as important,” love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40).
We love because God first loved us. If we cannot love our brother, then we don’t love God (1 John 4:19-21).
When we show God’s love to others, then others are receiving God’s love from us. Can you see the picture? We encounter God when we encounter God’s love that others have for us.
We may go our whole lives and never hear God’s voice. But we may hear it through the voice of another.
Just not if we are alone.
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Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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