Many Christians feel empowered each Sunday when they enter the doors of their church. They are excited to see their Christian family, hear the Lord's Word, and participate in church activities. Increasingly, though, Christians are choosing to leave the organized church. They are instead finding alternative ways to worship God, such as home Bible studies, prayer groups, and the like.
Those who choose to walk away from the church to curate their own spiritual journey, it's not what God had intended for His people. God cares deeply about His children entering the sanctuary of a church and finding a place they can call home.
For the Christian that wants to walk away from the church, here is what God has to say to you.
“Church is important.”
A lot of Christians don't find church to be important at all. They may see the church promoting a warped version of Christianity, becoming too secular, or the like. They believe that they can lead their own path with an organized building. However, God sees the church as something much grander than just four walls. When looking to the Bible and the early church, we better understand God’s vision for it.
The early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). We should follow that example of devotion. Back then, they had no designated church building, but “every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46). This is what it meant to really worship God.
A popular Christian social media catch-phrase is, "You don't go to church, you are the church." While the sentiment in some ways makes sense, this is an unhealthy view. We should not be pitting "being the church" and "going to church" against each other. If we are truly "the Church," then we will surely get together with other believers regularly. We cannot "be" the church, if we don't "go" to church. We join the church because it’s a habit that God wanted instilled in us so we could group spiritually.
Church is the place where believers can love one another (1 John 4:12), encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13), “spur” one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24), serve one another (Galatians 5:13), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), honor one another (Romans 12:10), and be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32). For all of these reasons and more, it’s important to God that each of His children regularly find a church they are happy to attend on a regular basis.
“There are other churches you can go to.”
Some people leave the church because they feel that their pastor is corrupt, the people aren't connecting with them well, or they don't agree with certain practices. If you feel your church is promoting false doctrine, then there is legitimate cause for alarm. You might have real disagreements with the way the church is being led. This is where God would recommend the practice of church shopping. While it's not something you should do every week, God does believe that there is a church out there for you that you will feel comfortable in.
There are some easy ways to find the church that is right for you. First, visit at least three times in a row or at least pretty close together. While every church should strive for consistency, one Sunday may or may not be reflective of the community as a whole. Secondly, try checking out the church's website and social media pages, so you can see the sense of community it holds. You can also even check Yelp and other sites to see what others have rated the church. Lastly, be honest with yourself about being too cynical. Go in to each church with an open mind and open heart before you pass judgment.
“You belong in the Christian community.”
Other Christians stop attending church because they feel they do not mesh well with other Christians. What most people really mean when they say, "I don't fit in at this church," is that they aren't enjoying themselves. Possibly, they feel rejected. This, again, is why shopping for a new church is a good idea. The mission of the church should be bringing people together, though, and there are ways that can happen even at the church you are at.
However there are other ways to make stronger connections and relationships with the members of your church community. Joining a Bible study, prayer group, or volunteering for a mission trip are some of the ways you can meet new people in your church. Find the groups of people that are close to your age and lifestyle. If you are a mother of four, for example, see if your church has a prayer group specifically catered to the busy mom lifestyle.From there, you can meet likeminded people that want to walk in Christ with you.
Jesus is the cornerstone of the Church (1 Peter 2:6), and we are “like living stones...being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). As the building materials of God’s “spiritual house,” we have a connection with one another, and that connection is evident every time the Church “goes to church.” If you feel that the church isn’t the place for you, think again. It’s our calling as Christians to attend and serve out our living God. Start by finding a church that is right for your personal faith journey.