On a trip to Thailand I was once sucked into viewing a timeshare presentation. I knew what it was before I entered the room, but the taxi driver who ‘sold’ us on the idea promised that if we simply sat through the presentation, he would pick us up the following day and take us on a three hour sight-seeing tour - free.
Apparently these locals on the street are paid very well for luring us suckers into presentations such as this. He was as good as his word and for the sake of a one hour presentation, we were given a three hour trip to where ever we wanted to go.
During the presentation, however, the English business man trying to persuade us to part with our money made a statement which rang in my ears. I have heard it many times before so it was not a surprise, but it left me realising how much work we in the Christian Church have to do.
In his introduction (this presentation, by the way, involved only the business man, myself and my wife!) he asked what I did for a living. When I told him I was a Church Pastor, he became somewhat deflated.
If I said I was the head of a Californian mega-Church, that would be different, but he could tell I was not the cash cow he had been looking for, so in his attempt to make a connection, he offered his insights into religion in general.
He said, “I have my own religious beliefs. They work for me and I don’t believe you should have to go into a particular building to worship God.”
It was an off the cuff remark he has probably found gets a nod of approval from most free-thinking tourists. After all, we were in Thailand which is 80% Buddhist and he has chosen to live there so he had obviously soaked up a bit of the prevailing culture and adapted it to his own liking.
I gave a small reply which he did not care to listen to. Something about me not being much of a fan of Church buildings either. The conversation quickly turned to his business soon after. (That is right after he had done the napkin trick where a cross and the word ‘hell’ are created with a few simple rips!)
Afterwards, I began thinking about what he said. We may have been in a foreign country, saturated in a religion fairly new to us both, but his thoughts echoed what you might hear anywhere in Christendom.
Regrettably, these sentiments are not only confined to the ranks of non-believers I meet anymore. I cannot recall the number of believers I have heard offer something similar to this man’s remarks.
“I am a Christian but I don’t think you have to go to Church to worship God!”.
I have been thinking about this all too common position and have come to the conclusion that it is straight out disobedience to God. I know that sounds harsh, but over the past few years I have had to deal directly and intimately with several people who have taken up this view after some problem or other in their Church (usually the same one I’m in!).
Am I being unfair? Am I being too judgemental? These people are theologically correct are they not? Christianity is not about buildings, it is about God. You and God, right?
My answer to that now is that Christianity is partly about you and God, but there is so much more the God we claim to worship has to say about the matter. He says it is about a number of things and a lot of them involve other people; people who may be either in the body of Christ or objects of our evangelistic efforts.
I think what people mean when they make such statements is that salvation does not depend upon church attendance, therefore their status as a Christian is not affected by their isolation. That’s true and it’s also why we can conclude they are being disobedient because God’s word tells us it is very definitely his will for his children to be in fellowship.
I have therefore come up with 10 reasons why every Christian on earth should be a part of a recognised local Church of some sort, wherever that is humanly possible. Obviously some people’s predicaments prevent them from going to church but my main concern here is not those who wish to go to Church but can’t. Rather, it has to do with Christians who easily can, but won’t.
You may know missionaries who are separated from the body because of their work on the mission field. These godly men & women are often praying that another believer would enter their world so they can enjoy fellowship, which after all, is the gift of God. Yet, we all know genuine Christians who deliberately withdraw from fellowship and live their Christian lives in isolation. It’s just them and God and that’s the way they like it.
To be blunt, that’s not the way God likes it and I will show you why from the Bible. But before I do that, a good starting point would be for you to ask yourself a question;
If everyone in the Church was the same sort of Christian as me, what sort of a Church would it be?
I can’t answer that for you, but if you’re anything like me you will say, “I would not want to go to a Church where everyone was like me,” because you know your own sin too well and that affects your answer. Perhaps that’s a good thing because it helps you walk more humbly before other believers.
I can, however, answer the question for the Christians we have just been talking about. There would be no Church at all, in the normal sense of the word. There would only be Christians scattered all over the world, praying to God and reading the Bible, but never having fellowship. That’s not really Church, which surely contains the idea of gathering or assembly.
Now let me ask you, do you think that would be God’s will? No, I don’t think so either and Christians who have taken up that position (ie deliberately & permanently withdrawing from fellowship) are disobedient to God’s revealed word.
And by “going to Church” I am not talking about where you go, how often you go or what your role is there. I simply mean that every Christian should be visibly part of a recognised local congregation in some way. This is more than knowing a few Christians and saying hello to them in the supermarket. That might be two or three Christians gathering together to shop, but it is not church.
In Acts 2 we get a glimpse of how the Church manifested itself in the localised area of Jerusalem right after Pentecost;
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (v42).
“All the believers were together and had everything in common” (v44).
This is how the Church manifested itself in those circumstances. They were together firstly because it was physically possible but also because that is how you expressed being in God’s family. It doesn’t mean they lived in the same house or met for 10 hours a day. They might have, but that is not the point. Quite simply, God had called them out of the world and into his family, so now that family gathered together.
Why so many in that family now refuse to meet with the rest is known only to God, but after speaking to so many over such a long period of time about their reasons I am able to draw some conclusions.
So find the links below and browse the topics. They are not in any particular order, so you won't be missing a crucial detail if you jump to the end of the list.
Providing this information reflects part of my journey too and that is far from complete so I would welcome your feedback.