Do the churchless Christians have it right?

One of the first Christian groups I encountered as a new Christian was the “churchless” Christian movement. 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 this 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.

Being in church does not make you a Christian any more than being in a garage makes you a car.Click To Tweet

I am not referring to Christians who don’t make it to church as often as they should. I am referring to that 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.

https://savedforlater.org/2017/12/20/do-the-churchles…ns-have-it-right/

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 it’s 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 differenthttps://savedforlater.org/2017/12/20/do-the-churchles…ns-have-it-right/ 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 make the church a bad thing.

First, consider that there may be an underlying reason that you’re defending:

  • I’m lazy.
  • I want to worship God when it’s more convenient for me.
  • I don’t want to give up
    • sleeping in
    • football
    • Sunday brunch
    • 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.

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.

You do not want to see the absence of something in the Bible as permission to do that something.Click To Tweet

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.

https://savedforlater.org/2017/12/20/do-the-churchles…ns-have-it-right/

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, some even met in Jewish synagogues.

In most 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 told his apostles to go out and create disciples. And they all went out and created churches.Click To Tweet

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 encounter God when we encounter God's love that others have for us.Click To Tweet

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.

 

Saved for Later is a blog for the recently – or almost – saved adult. To get more of the foundational truths that we were not taught in childhood, subscribe to this blog. Please ‘like’, comment, and share!


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.

6 thoughts

  1. Brother, if i may be so bold to say. I agree with your article completely and to bring you out of the specific topic for a moment i want to reminde you that we all go from glory to glory. God has also taught me by His Spirit that, that also means that there are different levels of glory/revelation in each and every word of God. Most of us Christ followers argue over nothing because one of us may have been revealed one glory/revelation into Gods word and one of us may have been revealed a deeper level of glory/revelation into Gods word by His Spirit. It doesnt mean necessarily that one is right and one is wrong. It could mean both are right just at different levels of understanding. This has helped me tremendously throughout my walk with God and i pray the Holy Spirit of truth with confirm this to you as truth also. (I believe Jesus came to earth in the flesh. He is God and He is the Son of God)
    I think the most important thing in any manner of being obedient to God is being obedient to God and not man. If we seek Gods Will and obey Him and obey His commandments then we are on the right path. His Spirit is all we need to teach us and His Spirit will always lead us into Gods specific plan for our specific lives. Gods word is the truth… but it can be true for each and everyone of us in different ways. Now i am not talking about watering down Gods word… i am talking about allowing God to make any grey areas of His word black and white go each brother or sister in Christ until there is no grey areas.

    Like Jesus disciples, we too all given unique walks with God. John was the beloved for a reason. God does things differently with each and everyone of us while never misusing His Holy Word. His word will never return to Him void but accomplish allit sets out to do.

    Never forget Jesus is the living Word of God. Spending time with Him as Mary did (Mary and Martha) is the most important aspect of a RELATIONSHIP to Him. He Himself said some people will come to Him thinking they know Him when they actually dont.

    Seek first My Kingdom and My righteousness and all else will be added to you.

    On a personal note brother, i feel the Lord is calling you up higher and deeper into the revelation of His Word
    From glory to glory. Keep spending time with Jesus in relationship and His Spirit will teach you the things you do not know.

    May God bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you💚

    1. Thank you for the thoughtful counsel, brother. I very much appreciate it.

      May the Lord bless and keep you as well.

  2. I thought you presented your thoughts very well here, especially for new believers or anyone struggling to get out of bed on a Sunday morning. We are called to assemble regularly; however, building your faith can often come in other forms such as small groups or socially among other believers.
    I like that you point out that the church is filled with people…people who sin. It often seems that many non-believers or those who are on the fence about their beliefs put the church and its members on a perfect pedestal. It’s so important to remind the world that we sin and mess up just like them. We’re all in this together. Perhaps if people can stop expecting perfection and simply focus on the greatest commandment (Love God, love others), maybe we would see more people return to the church. Likewise, Christians need to behave like Jesus, be an example of His life. Gaining trust through our loving actions so we can be in a position to explain who Jesus is and why He is so essential.
    Thank you for a great, insightful post. May God bless you as you walk with Him.

    1. Thanks you for your kind comments, Gina.

      I concede that church attendance is not necessarily mandatory. There are, as you pointed out, several other avenues with which to build and strengthen your faith such as small groups and social get-togethers. Put to it, I would say that either of those could also be seen as a form of church.

      Whether it be a regular Sunday gathering or a smaller get-together in a home, I would say that what is necessary for any of us is that we avail ourselves to Christians stronger in their faith than ourselves. I believe there is importance in maintaining an attitude of learning and an ongoing desire to be discipled. Until we ourselves have reached such a point of strength, it doesn’t seem prudent to avoid such gatherings. I try to caution my readers against citing higher ideals to avoid the church (or home groups, etc.) when in fact, they are not spiritually mature enough to make such a call.

      I am guilty of having placed Christians on the pedestal you speak of. I have to admit to a level of disappointment when the first church-goers I encountered wound up to be just as human as me. While I do try to warn against unreasonable expectations, I also try to warn against the hate-filled Christians like those that frequently make the news or the movies. Like you said, they need to behave like Jesus and we should be able to spot the spiritual fruit in their lives.

      May God bless you as well, Gina, and thanks again.
      BMK

  3. 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.

    This is why I and members of a street ministry left churches.

    For a number of years I taught healing, deliverance, gifts of the Spirit. I approached the pastor of the church asking him if I could do it.

    The teachings were not the rosy, children’s church level teachings. In the classes we did this, people were healed. We cast devils out it was incredible at times to witness things that were taking place.

    Most of the members of the church were against it and took every opportunity to try to do away with it. My pastor stood with me. And stood between me and most of them. I found this out later, I had no or very little knowledge of what was actually taking place.

    So hurt feelings and being hurt are not apart of why I am out of church.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    I was told to discontinue the teachings and begin to do a street ministry, I was told to do this though a number of things that kept confirming this was where he had use of me and wanted me to be. It was never my idea to do any type of street ministry.

    I asked the pastor if he wanted to come out along with others in the church. I told them about the salvations I got to see, healings, people being set free baptized in the Holy Ghost.

    In a matter of a couple of months I saw more of God, his presence, his power on full display than I had witnessed in 35 years of attending church.

    I pleaded with them to come out, to get out of their pews. To no avail.

    I began to long to God’s presence and being able to minister and help people. We come into contact with the homeless, prostitutes, addicts, the physically – mentally – sexually abused. The are from all walks of life. They are very responsive when you began to share with them. While those that have sat in the same pews for decades refuse to do anything to labor for the kingdom. They are happy with the format of religion.

    Prayer
    Three songs
    Pass an offering plate
    A song
    Prayer
    20 – 35 minute sermon
    Two songs
    Prayer
    Closing hymn

    This same format can be found in all churches or something very very similar.

    They leave very little room for God to make his presence known, There is no room to allow him to genuinely change lives in the way I have witnessed among those we meet out on street corners.

    The church and those they supposedly want in church are at an impasse.

    Sinners refuse to come in.

    The church refuses to leave the buildings

    If you are thinking it is one church you are wrong. We have spoke with dozens of pastors that stop to tell us “You are doing great!”” “Great job!” “We will be praying for you and have been.”

    When you ask, would you come out here with us, we need help. If you want to grow your church come out here, we have people to ask where we go to church they are hunting a good church. Come out…

    We get the………..

    “Well brother…. I just thought I would stop by to talk to you for a bit. I’ve got to go…” You will never see them again.

    The first year out we prayed for 1200 people
    The second year we prayed for about 800 or so…

    We are off to a good start this year as well.

    We stand in humid 109 degree Alabama heat to do this.

    The depth that our group studies and gets into the word, no Sunday school is willing to put the work into. They had rather use the two page study guide and read from it. Two verses and a page and a half of a story that has no real relationship to the verses.

    We studied the “Doctrine of Christ” found in 2 John 1:9 and Hebrews 6:1 -2, it is nothing but scripture. It is 40 printed pages long. It is an incredible study. This is only one of dozens we have done.

    So……….

    I said this to say…

    The reason we are out of church is because those churches that we have tried going to within a few weeks invite us out the door because we actually do what the bible tells us to do. Preach, heal, cast out devils you do this in most churches, you are out. To do these things is “too disruptive” to the services. People complain to the pastor about it taking place in the church.

    There is no discipleship in biblical doctrines and skills

    Healing
    Casting out devils
    Gifts of the Spirit
    Holiness
    Sound doctrine free from theology, church doctrines and doctrines of men.

    I am out of church.

    I am serving God at a capacity far above what I have ever been able to do before when I needed the pastors and church’s permission to do even the smallest things.

    I have no intentions to return to church unless it is exceptional in its mission

    I am unchurched.

    But, I haven’t left the body of Christ.

    The church has forsaken its original purpose to labor in the fields. They now sit in air conditioned buildings to be entertained and petted on the head and told how blessed they are.

    If you want to join our church you will need a lawn chair, plenty of water and be willing to stand for hours waving at people and willing to step out in faith to heal, cast out devils, baptize in the Spirit to be able to fully function and keep the pace we set.

    You too are welcome to join us any time you want…

    https://www.facebook.com/Christ-Over-Gadsden-427345060807650/

    1. Thanks for the very thoughtful comments, Scott. You gave me a lot to chew on here.

      The first thing I want to point out is the very next sentence after those of mine that you quoted at the beginning of your comment (ending in “then they may have reason to leave”). The very next sentence in my post says “If [churchless Christians] cannot perform all three of these things on their own, however, I would say that they should find their way back to a church.

      You, my friend, strike me as a very busy evangelist. You are out there doing the work, reaching souls, and leading them to the Lord with the help of the Holy Spirit. Based on how you described your ministry, I would say that you are striking out to grow (and edify) the body of Christ. I can only assume that there is also worshiping and honoring God in your life as well. You are not whom I am hoping to encourage with my advice to remain in a church.

      I would ask you what becomes of those that you lead to the Lord after putting your hands on them. Do they then follow you indefinitely? Do they join this “street church” of yours? If not, I would argue that they need to be steered to a church from which they can now receive regular teaching and edification. They have experienced justification but now are in need of sanctification. They must now work out their salvation with fear and trembling and God must work in them to will and to act to His good purpose (Philippians 2:12-13).

      As a somewhat new believer myself, I can attest to the fact that God arguably did a better work on me within the church than He would have done in my living room. All that to say, I hope that you see a value in guiding your newly-reached souls to a good church. In the absence of help, supervision, counseling, accountability, education, and loving support, the recently justified can simply go back to a life without Christ.

      I am also concerned that you remain spiritually fed, Scott. Perhaps you don’t need outside church-influence for all of your spiritual needs, but I venture to say that you first sought the help of your church before striking out on your own. It seems like it was God’s plan for you, but at the same time, I hear you asking for help. If a (proper) church were to come alongside you, would that not be exactly what you asked for? Don’t let the rejection of a few churches convince you that you’re to do this on your own. And if you cannot give the newly reached what they need spiritually (after you reach them), please help them into a church that can.

      Without knowing your whole story, I hear a few things in your message that raise questions in me. The first thing I could use help with is how one “teaches” gifts of the Spirit (such as healing). If the Holy Spirit is doing these things; one, He does not need our help with teaching them. Second, I do not see anything accomplished by the Spirit as being “teachable.” Again, without knowing the whole story, at least that much of it seems as though it would be tough to get buy-in from any educated clergy.

      Another thing I could use your help with is what you mean by “healing.” There are no medically documented cases of restored limbs, reversed terminal diseases (such as leprosy), or paralysis, or restored sight or hearing since the acts of Christ and His apostles. I would never go so far as to say that the Holy Spirit “cannot” do these things, I just do not believe that He has reason to do them in the church age. The early church fathers made no mention of such gifts for many centuries after the death of Christ and His original disciples. If these things are being done, it is a recent phenomenon; and again, lacks medical documentation. Only second or thirdhand stories outside of a television studio from 4:00 to 5:00 pm on a Saturday. (I realize that this is not what you are describing, I’m referring to the Benny Hinn’s of the world which I hope you would concede, at a minimum, do not help what you are trying to describe here) If you WERE able to perform such an act (and I am not yet convinced that is what you are claiming), would your pastors not be able to witness it and be compelled to join in with what it is you are doing?

      I also caution you from offering “doctrine free from theology.” There is no such thing. Theology is merely the study of God. I (hope and) don’t think you mean to do anything without God based on the other things you’re describing. It may be creating feelings like that one though that created challenges with your church.

      I wholeheartedly agree that a rote church service that just puts its members through the same predictable motions for an hour every Sunday is not really edifying the body of Christ. I am not willing to forsake all churches for the sake of the many that are afflicted with this malady, however. We should challenge our churches (which I feel you have) and if we are unsuccessful in doing that, we should find other churches that can feed and edify us; or, start a church of our own (which it sounds like you have).

      I don’t believe it is completely fair to say “the church has forsaken its original purpose.” Not entirely. While I feel it is certainly fair to say that many (far TOO many) churches have done just that; not all have. And the entire body of Christ could not function, let alone grow, in the absence of all churches.

      I appreciate anyone with the gift of face-to-face evangelism. I believe my recently-saved daughter may possess such a gift. I, however, have yet to tap into such a gift. It appears the Holy Spirit has other plans for me; hopefully writing.

      Though I may need further convincing of all you aspire to do out there, I commend you for stepping out and undoubtedly reaching the lost and leading them to the Lord. I admire you for being the only Jesus that many of the homeless and addicted (whom you reach) may ever see. That is our calling. That is what Jesus commands us to do. I believe you are doing His work and have little doubt we’ll meet in heaven one day. Hopefully, I’ll have occasion to make it out east and meet you personally.

      BMK

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