If you’re reading this, there’s a great chance that you identify with being called a Christian. However, that’s about where the assumptions stop. You might be married, you might read your Bible, and you probably (statistically) don’t gather weekly with other believers in your area.
Life is busy and church attendance tends to get placed on the chopping block. Given our culture’s adversity to ‘organized religion’ and our propensity to skipping out on gospel-centered community, I’d like to take a moment to clarify what “church” is, and explain why it’s a vital part of your married life.
What is it? The Church vs. the church
There’s the church, then there’s the Church. There’s a clear distinction between what/who the Church is in the Bible when compared to what modern-day believers call “church”. Of course, we must be on the same page about what “church” is. Here’s a bunch of verses for reference.
1: The Church (universal)
The New Testament Church is the cumulative body of Christ-followers; those who believe in Jesus, trust him, and are his disciples (note: “universal” above shouldn’t be confused with “universalism”, which is an entirely different worldview). One author gives a good definition:
The word “church” in the New Testament comes from the Greek term ekklesia, meaning “an assembly” and “to call out” or “called out ones.” In summary, the New Testament church is a body of believers who have been called out from the world by God to live as his people under the authority of Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 1:22-23).
The (uppercase) Church is unencumbered by walls, physically or legally. If you follow Jesus, you are part of the Church.
2: Church (local)
Church is also the word we use to describe a specific assembly of believers, usually with a legal status (i.e. a non-profit entity), a leadership structure, doctrinal statements, and gatherings.
The local church is a time and place where believers experience community, celebrate sacraments (like communion), worship together, and learn about God. Local churches are catalysts for change in their communities – both in the hearts of participants and outside of the church walls. Canon Ernest Southcott, states:
“The holiest moment of the church service is the moment when God’s people—strengthened by preaching and sacrament—go out of the church door into the world to be the church. We don’t go to church; we are the church.”
Now that we’re on the same page, let’s talk about common reasons you may have for avoiding church. I also hope to outline reasons to go anyway.
3 Reasons You Avoid Church and Why You Should Go Anyway
1: Past hurts
Our deepest wounds are from Christians; Selena and I have church scars, and I’m sure most others do as well. People aren’t perfect, and expecting otherwise is absurd. The best way to heal from deep wounds is to connect with genuine believers of the true gospel and disciples of Christ. Keep mining for relationships, pray through your hurt, and give your hurt to Jesus. God will use your pain for His glory; in His timing, by His grace.
I know it takes time, and some pains don’t heal quickly. Over the long run, don’t let past hurts keep you and your husband/wife from being a part of a local church community.
2: “I don’t need it”
This feeling is more common among men than women (based on conversations I’ve had) and from what I can gather, it stems from two reasons.
- Pride – the person thinks they have everything figured out, and
- Shallowness – the church or person haven’t explored the depths and nuances of who God is and how wonderful He is.
There’s that P word again… pride. There’s an old saying that I find truer each year: “the more you know the more you realize you don’t know“. If this statement is true, it leads us to some funny conclusions about pride… i.e. people with this type of pride are less intelligent. (Whoa.. yep!)
The church is about community and gaining instruction in the things of God (theology literally means “the study of God”). I’m going to be honest here: if you’re in a theologically and relationally shallow church, you need to find another one.
Selena and I left a church a while back because we hit a ceiling in our depth of relationships and knowledge. It was great for a season, but we had to move on so we could grow. As the leader of our household, I felt God holding me accountable for our situation, and he wasn’t pleased with our fruit (He showed me lots of reasons why, all valid). It was hard, but we moved on. Now I couldn’t imagine our lives if we hadn’t made that decision.
Bottom line, if you’re a Jesus following Christian, you need a community of believers (Hebrews 10:24-25, Colossians 3), seek one out and dive in.
3: Christians are hypocrites
True. But to be honest, you’re probably a hypocrite too (and so am I). We’re all hypocrites, sinners, and all around imperfect people. The sooner you realize you’re not perfect, the sooner you’ll experience and extend grace toward others who aren’t perfect (just like you and me).
Similarly, Christians should display this same understanding by extending grace to you. Search for and find a body of believers that you can connect with right where you’re at, individually and as a couple.
If you’re unplugged from a body of believers, I encourage you to get plugged in somewhere quickly. God doesn’t want you to live away from other believers – His word makes that very clear. For that reason, I have to believe He will provide you with a group to connect with.
Resource: Find a church in your area.
If that’s you, here are four tangible steps to connecting with a church:
- Ask: ask your local friends where they attend church, or do an online search in your area.
- Go: you’ll never know what it’s like if you never go. Schedule the time and make the effort…
- Stay: if you find a good fit, keep going. Don’t give up too quickly, relationships take time to develop.
- Minister: get involved as soon as you feel the Holy Spirit prompting you. It’s vital to your marital health, but also to the health of the worldwide Church.
I hope this post was helpful for those on the fence about making church attendance part of their marriage.