Summary: This common reason for not coming to church shows two fundamental misunderstandings: 1) what is a Christian and 2) what is church. Help someone see that being a Christian means being part of a church.
People are not going to church as much as they used to. I could give you the statistics, but I don’t think that I need to because you’ve probably personally observed or experienced it yourself. You may have seen it with your own family members, your co-workers, your friends, in the conversations you have or just a general sense of people not being all that interested in church. Why is that? Polling and data have pointed to a number of factors: society, technology, rejection of organized religion, church conflicts and coverups. So what do you say when you hear, “I don’t go to church because…” fill in the blank? HOW do you respond? DO you respond? SHOULD you respond? I think that it’s easy to react in one of two ways. First is FRUSTRATION, especially if church has been a part of your life for a very long time, something that you appreciate and is important to you. “Why don’t people get how important this is for them!” The second reaction is one of APATHY, “Hopefully something will change. There’s not much I can do about it.” Neither frustration nor apathy are helpful or loving. Over the next four weeks we’re going to look at some of the reasons that people give for not coming or no longer coming to church. We’re going to look at these reasons NOT to prove that we’re better than others, but to improve our understanding of why they’re not coming, and be better equipped to lovingly respond to the people that God brings into our lives.
This morning we’re going to look at the reason, “You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” Like many of the reasons that we’re going to look at, there’s usually some truth mixed in with some misunderstanding. There are really two fundamental misunderstandings in this reason. First, there’s a misunderstanding of what a CHRISTIAN is. Secondly, there’s a misunderstanding of what CHURCH is.
So, let me ask you? What is a Christian? That was something that the people of Jesus’ day struggled with as much as people do today. There were those in Jesus’ day who thought that being a physical descendant of Abraham, AKA a Jew, was what made them what we would call “a Christian,” someone who was going to heaven. They looked to the Bible to guide certain parts of their faith, but conveniently ignored other parts of the Bible when it didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear or wanted to do. Jesus’ words in John 8 are clear, aren’t they? “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31,32). Being a Christian is being a disciple of Jesus. And what does Jesus say his disciples do? A disciple of Jesus holds onto Christ and his teaching. They hold onto what the Bible says as true and trustworthy.
The Bible reveals the truth about us, life, death and what happens after it. It reveals some pretty hard things for us to swallow at times. It begins by showing us the truth about ourselves, a truth that isn’t so pretty. It reveals our sins and how far short we have fallen of being what God demands of us. It reveals the truth that our sin has so destroyed our relationship with God, that is beyond our most valiant attempts to repair it on own. If left on our own, we would certainly perish, separated from God and his blessings forever. But the Bible also reveals the incomprehensible truth about our God and what he was willing to do to repair our relationship with him. It tells of God’s own Son Jesus coming into our world to live for us and die at the cross for us, taking the full punishment for our sin, perishing in our place. It tells how Jesus overcame death, coming back to life to assure you that what God demands of you for heaven, Jesus has done. It tells us that forgiveness of sins and life in heaven is God’s gift to all those who trust in Jesus, who believe that what the Bible says about Jesus is true. The Bible proclaims that we are free! We are free from the guilt of our sin! We are free to live our lives in gratefulness to a God who has given us all we need to receive his eternal blessing.
These are the truths of the Bible that Christians hold onto, the truths that we depend on for our eternal life with God. But Jesus doesn’t intend for faith to stop there, to only hold onto those teachings. He wants us to hold onto all of his teaching. That means holding onto Jesus not merely for our eternal life, but also holding onto Jesus for our daily lives.