A Response to Why I Don’t Go to Church Anymore!

Last week I received an email from someone who had read Why I Don’t Go To Church Anymore Hopeful that I had just had some bad experiences, he wanted to invite me back into the box. I thought his spirit was marvelous, though I think his vantage point was somewhat limited. I thought you might want to look over my shoulder at how I responded to his concerns. I know many of you have these issues raised all of the time. (My comments are in italics, his in blue.)


Let me say at the outset that I appreciate you taking the time to write me over this article. You obviously have some concern for my spiritual health and perspectives and graciously sought to offer me a different point of view. Few people take that that kind of risk. That said, this might be a difficult conversation to have. It seems to me you see only one method for the church to express its life together and I have experienced many ways that offer far more relational engagement than happens in most institutions today that call themselves ‘church.’ Since I thought your appeal sincere, let me try to respond to the issues you raised:



It sounds like you have attended one too many of those kinds of churches where the worship was a concert and the preaching was more of the pastor’s opinions rather than God’s.


Wrong assumption. I was a pastor for more than 20 years and I left it not because I had bad experiences, but because I had good ones, lots of good ones, but they never let people experience the fullness of what it means to live in Christ. As a writer, speaker and Contributing Editor at Leadership Journal, for more than 20 years I have been in thousands of services in some of the most revered ‘churches’ in the country and around the world. I didn’t give up on it after too many bad experiences, but because I saw it at its best and it still fell woefully short of what my heart yearned to experience as I read Scripture.



It is sad to see what has happened in churches all across America…and people have lost sight of what why we should be gathering together. Hebrews 10:24-25 “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging on another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Wayne, according to your article it sounds like you understand this command to gather together with other believers.

I don’t see Hebrews 10 as a command but as wisdom not to live independent, selfish lives but to walk alongside other believers in mutual encouragement and shared wisdom. I find that more real in relational environments where people are sharing freely what God is doing in them rather than in those places where only a handful do all the talking. How can we encourage each other when we’re mostly looking at the back of each other’s heads? I think we both know lots of people who attend services, but never truly sort out how to walk with others in a way that stirs us to the deepest life in Christ. What’s truly sad about only seeing the ‘congregational’ model for doing this is that there is nothing in Scripture that demonstrates or encourages us to file into a building on Sunday morning for a set of songs and a lesson for the week from the same voice, no matter how gifted he is. The early church gathered in homes and shared freely together from all the gifts of the body as they sought to know Jesus better. Do you know of any New Testament model for doing ‘church’ the way you do it? Jesus didn’t do it. He didn’t teach his disciples to do it. And there is no hint of it in Acts or the Epistles. This is a form that evolved in religious institutions since the 300s AD and the current model is one Calvin adapted for Protestants from the Catholic liturgy. I find that heritage a bit suspect.



It sounds like the church needs a guy like you to be a great testimony of how believers are supposed to be acting. It sounds like you might have a regular group of people that you gather with on a weekly basis. That’s good! Who is the gifted teacher in your group? Or do you listen to preachers on TV…I guess you probably wouldn’t.

I know you didn’t mean it this way, but I no longer think Christianity is a way to act. It is a way to live in him where he transforms us from the deepest part of our being and it expresses itself in us reflecting his compassion and character to others around us. I think that is a work of the Holy Spirit, not listening to gifted teachers alone. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the elders, teachers, prophets and others that God has placed among the body to help us know him better. I have many that I not only listen to but also walk with locally and from around the world. But I’m convinced that teachers who minister the life of Jesus help others be dependent on him, not on themselves.



I’m sure you would agree that Jesus was the busiest man on earth…but why did he take time out to go to the synagogue… Luke 4:16 “And as was His custom, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day” How are you following Jesus example in that?

Jesus grew up in a Jewish culture and went to the synagogue on Sabbath to engage that culture. But Paul was thrown out of the synagogues and the early church didn’t continue to attend it. Though we know the folks in Corinth met on the first day of the week, it is not clear from the text that everyone else did as well. We do know they got together as I do with believers multiple times during a week, but it is not clear that they were trying to follow Jesus’ example at the synagogue.


Do you ever listen to any convicting messages from any preachers…or do you believe that all preachers are useless?

Who said all preachers are worthless? I’ve never said any such thing. I appreciate those who speak God’s words in environments where people are equipped to live differently. But I do not think they are the center of life in the body. I think Jesus is the only focus of body life and brothers and sisters who learn to share his life together will grow far more deeply and experience greater life together. You also assume that I enjoy staying away from challenging thinking on this life in Christ. That couldn’t be more untrue. I want to hear everything Jesus wants to bring into my life and challenging thoughts are the most transforming. I regularly listen to others growing on this journey, though I don’t get it from those on TV. They rarely speak or even live the truth.



The danger is that with your point of view…you have the power to control what you hear….and if it is too convicting or boring you can change the channel, or turn the CD player off? What if God wants to convict you through the preaching of His word from a gifted preacher. I hope you are surrounded with the kind of people that Paul mentions in Ephesians 4:11 so that you can experience the blessings of verses 12 & 13 to prevent you from the being like those in vs. 14.

Here’s where you’re caught in your way of thinking. Preaching means so much more than you understand it to be. Just because we call Sunday morning lectures preaching doesn’t mean they are that. We grow in him not by hearing biblical preaching, but by seeking him, listening to him and living in him. Preaching can open the door to that, but it cannot do it alone. Proclaiming the gospel and the realities of this life in Christ happens far better in settings other than

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14 Comments
  1. eddie November 13, 2004 at 2:32 pm

    What an incredible thoughtful response and conversation. If only more of the Church will catch this, then relationship and Life in Christ will be so much deeper and meaningful. Isn’t it sad that we run to so many things for spiritual Life, other than the only One that holds that Life? Guess that’s what Jesus meant when he said:

    You search the Scriptures (and hop between churches), for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you MAY have LIFE. (emphasis mine)

    Thanks for keeping on encouraging us. Guess I have just read something great from a very gifted preacher, and guess what, I didn’t even have to go to church.

    😉

  2. eddie November 13, 2004 at 5:32 pm

    What an incredible thoughtful response and conversation. If only more of the Church will catch this, then relationship and Life in Christ will be so much deeper and meaningful. Isn’t it sad that we run to so many things for spiritual Life, other than the only One that holds that Life? Guess that’s what Jesus meant when he said:

    You search the Scriptures (and hop between churches), for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you MAY have LIFE. (emphasis mine)

    Thanks for keeping on encouraging us. Guess I have just read something great from a very gifted preacher, and guess what, I didn’t even have to go to church.

    😉

  3. SUP' November 14, 2004 at 7:43 am

    Great conversation. I enjoyed both of your hearts. As I am sure you both know, you cannot convince anyone who is set on their way of thinking. All we have to be willing to do is be open for what God shows us and be willing to follow where he leads. God bless–J

  4. SUP' November 14, 2004 at 10:43 am

    Great conversation. I enjoyed both of your hearts. As I am sure you both know, you cannot convince anyone who is set on their way of thinking. All we have to be willing to do is be open for what God shows us and be willing to follow where he leads. God bless–J

  5. lywana November 16, 2004 at 3:28 pm

    I was so glad to see this since I am pretty new to all this and I see that both hearts are after God just in different ways. I must say the body is hunger and body life fills that hunger because Christ does dwell in the midst of his people.

  6. lywana November 16, 2004 at 6:28 pm

    I was so glad to see this since I am pretty new to all this and I see that both hearts are after God just in different ways. I must say the body is hunger and body life fills that hunger because Christ does dwell in the midst of his people.

  7. maryann November 26, 2004 at 5:01 pm

    why is it when I consider really speaking to my current pastor about this whole idea that is totally in my heart…I cant???

    …he will NOT understand it. There are so many things that are just WRONG with the old way..and so many possiblities of really LIVING for Christ are limitless.

    I am excited to begin to BREATHE! and LIVE the life..

    I was just called into the pastor’s office because he was concerned with my "absences" from attending in the last few weeks…i just cant bring myself to sit and listen to the elementary "oatmeal"..I stays" then I will not have enough time or energy to do BOTH…

    any advice?

  8. maryann November 26, 2004 at 6:18 pm

    the laptop completely deleted a sentence there!! (I stays?)

    supposed to have said something like:

    hubby is not sure if we really should LEAVE…if I stay there I will "die"..if he decides that i "leave" and he "stays" then I will not have time or energy to do Both..(house divided)

    I just dont know how to tell the pastor that I am seeing God moving in a direction OTHER than the institutional church and there are places in my heart that are screaming YES! THIS IS WHAT IS SIGNED UP FOR when I knelt at the cross and became a Christian!! not pew sitting and routine!

  9. maryann November 26, 2004 at 8:01 pm

    why is it when I consider really speaking to my current pastor about this whole idea that is totally in my heart…I cant???

    …he will NOT understand it. There are so many things that are just WRONG with the old way..and so many possiblities of really LIVING for Christ are limitless.

    I am excited to begin to BREATHE! and LIVE the life..

    I was just called into the pastor’s office because he was concerned with my "absences" from attending in the last few weeks…i just cant bring myself to sit and listen to the elementary "oatmeal"..I stays" then I will not have enough time or energy to do BOTH…

    any advice?

  10. maryann November 26, 2004 at 9:18 pm

    the laptop completely deleted a sentence there!! (I stays?)

    supposed to have said something like:

    hubby is not sure if we really should LEAVE…if I stay there I will "die"..if he decides that i "leave" and he "stays" then I will not have time or energy to do Both..(house divided)

    I just dont know how to tell the pastor that I am seeing God moving in a direction OTHER than the institutional church and there are places in my heart that are screaming YES! THIS IS WHAT IS SIGNED UP FOR when I knelt at the cross and became a Christian!! not pew sitting and routine!

  11. Wayne November 27, 2004 at 10:36 am

    Maryann,

    If you check back here, please see my blog of November 27. I try to respond to some of these issues there.

  12. maryann November 27, 2004 at 10:58 am

    yay!! thanks!!

    …nov 27…thank you for answering…this is such an exciting journey!

  13. Wayne November 27, 2004 at 1:36 pm

    Maryann,

    If you check back here, please see my blog of November 27. I try to respond to some of these issues there.

  14. maryann November 27, 2004 at 1:58 pm

    yay!! thanks!!

    …nov 27…thank you for answering…this is such an exciting journey!

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