This may feel a little different than what I sometimes write about here, but I’d actually like to believe that it’s not. When I first started this blog in 2011, I didn’t necessarily set out for it to be a “Christian” blog — I actually wanted it to be a lifestyle blog. However, as I’ve grown in my faith and really come to understand the purpose of this life, I realized that they’re actually one in the same: this life, my everyday routine, literally every breath I take… it’s from God. It matters to Him. And so there is no way for this to be a blog about my life apart from Christ. I fervently believe that it’s the same for you, no matter where you’re at in your faith — God created you, and He created you to be in relationship with Him.
So, that’s what brings me here: to this sometimes-uncomfortable conversation about why we need to attend church. I think I mainly want to talk to those of you who are believers but don’t (or don’t care to) attend church, but I think this can also be relevant to those of you who don’t believe at all (AKA – what are these Christians really doing with their Sunday mornings?!) AND those of you who attend church (are you going somewhere that is fulfilling the purpose of why we should attend church in the first place?). These are the things that matter for eternity, and I want to invite you to just let these words soak in for a minute: maybe you agree, maybe you disagree. But let’s give it a shot.
First off, I want to set the stage by telling you that I come at this from a 6-month+ period of time where Jordan and I were not attending church on Sundays. After moving to Charlotte and having Harper, I’m going to completely level-set with you and tell you that it was continually shifted down on our priority list. I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth. During that time, we would listen to sermons online from The Summit Church, which served as our home church when we both went to school in Chapel Hill, NC. Every Sunday that we would listen, they would preview the sermon by telling viewers that they love that we’re tuning in, but they greatly encourage us to find a local church that we can invest in and learn from — WE GET IT, people. It opened up a larger conversation between Jordan and I about the value of the local church and where we felt like we were being called. We actually asked ourselves questions about WHY we needed to find a church if we could listen to some of the most articulate pastors right from our living room in this day and age. It came down to this: Jesus calls the local church His BRIDE (Ephesians 5). He gave Himself up for her. And no matter what our personal preference or opinion is — we have to care about what Jesus cares about if we want to follow Him.
With that, we set out to find a local church. And in a place as big as Charlotte, honestly what we found is that there are A LOT of churches to choose from. Our No. 1 requirement, above any of our preferences about music or location or charisma, was that we MUST find a church that preaches the gospel. (And let’s make sure we’re on the same page for a minute. “The gospel” in every reference here means this: Jesus is Lord. God sent Him to die for our sins. Because of Jesus, we’re forgiven and can live freely in response to His sacrifice for us.) It’s a simple concept, but all too often, we totally miss it.
I want to address this from a few different perspectives, because I think I’ve either 1) been in one of these positions before or 2) been close to someone who has. Your story matters, and because we serve a loving God, we can take refuge in the fact that in our hurt, confusion, and doubt, He meets us in love and not by slamming us down with Biblical doctrine. So take a look through the below, and feel free to read through the one that resonates most with you OR read them all!
“I’ve tried church. I don’t get anything out of it. I can worship God from anywhere, why does that have to be defined by my visiting a building on Sunday morning?”
- As I said earlier, everything should point back to the gospel — in this case, that means that your salvation is not defined and cannot be earned by you attending church on Sunday. That’s freeing! Jesus paid the price by dying for your sins, which means that you can’t earn your way to God — only by faith in Christ can you be saved. However, when we have placed our faith in Christ and acknowledged that He is our salvation and deserves all the glory, we really don’t have a choice but to care about what He cares about. The local church is at the top of the list.
“I currently go to church, but mostly out of obligation — I find no joy in it. I am considering / have considered not attending church at all anymore.”
- Maybe the point I made above makes total sense, but you’ve spent years attending your local church and you aren’t getting anything out of it. I cannot speak into everyone’s situation here and I don’t know what happens every weekend at your church, but I want to ask you a few questions and point you to a few resources that I hope guide you:
- When you attend church service, does your pastor incorporate the gospel (refresher: Jesus is Lord. God sent Him to die for our sins. Because of Jesus, we’re forgiven and can live freely in response to His sacrifice for us) EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND? Or, as one of our wonderful pastors in Richmond once put it: “We must preach Christ crucified.” (1 Corinthians 1:23) If not, then to be completely frank with you, they’re missing the point. This is what all of God’s Word is centered around (Old and New Testament), which means it should be the crux of all that we do as well.
- If you’re unsure if your current church is the right one for you, it’s a serious decision to make and you shouldn’t take it lightly. I would suggest these articles from DesiringGod.org:
- If you go through all of these steps and decide that you may need to find a new church, I would point you to the following resources to find a gospel-centered church. Again, I can’t speak for all of these, but from our time in Richmond and now in Charlotte, we have used these as guideposts for where to find our church home, and I’m so grateful we did:
- The Summit Network is born out of a mission to plant 1,000 gospel-centered churches in our generation. We and so many others have been blessed by this network, and I strongly encourage you to consider one of these churches in your area!
- The Gospel Coalition also has a church directory, with the caveat that they do not have the ability to verify each and every one of these churches, but each church who includes themselves in this directory claims to submit to The Gospel Coalition’s Foundation Documents, which essentially outline the necessity for churches to preach on the basis of the “new hope and compelling joy based on the promises received by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.” (AKA – the gospel).
- Even if you decide to leave your church, pray for your church and your pastor. None of us are perfect, and God is sanctifying and refining each of us daily. Pray for your pastor’s conviction to preach the truth of the gospel, for the future of the church (whatever it may be according to God’s will), and for every soul to be saved through true faith in Christ and the penalty He paid for us.
“I attend church and enjoy it! But now that you mention it, I’m not sure if I’m hearing the gospel every weekend…”
- I think it’s hard to look at a church you love and cherish with fresh eyes, so kudos to you for taking the time to think about this. This Sunday at church, listen intently for the truth of the gospel to be articulated in the sermon. If you hear it, great! Listen again next Sunday. And the next. And the next. ALWAYS, always listen for the gospel. Always. If you don’t hear it, I would imagine that you’re involved in your church at some level. Maybe it’s time to have a conversation with one of your church elders, or do some research on your church’s mission statement to understand if the gospel is the heartbeat of their efforts.
- If you become convicted that your church is not preaching the gospel, and your church leadership isn’t interested in responding with a passion for doing so, firstly I want to empathize with you that I’m sure this is a very heartbreaking moment for you. As I mentioned in the last section, you should pray for your church and your pastor(s). Pray for eyes to see the truth of God, to remember that our entire purpose in life is to glorify God — who sent His son to die a death that He didn’t deserve, so that we could live a life we don’t deserve to live. Then, I would point you to the church directory links I mention in the last section: The Summit Network and The Gospel Coalition Church Directory.
- One more step here: I mentioned this link earlier, but I want to mention it again in this section. DesiringGod.org has an article titled, “Four Kinds of Churches Worth Leaving,” and I think it’s so important that you read through it if you’re not sure if your church is preaching the gospel. Sometimes we start worshiping the fruits of faithfulness vs. the object of our faithfulness, and it is not the same. We don’t love and worship God because of what He does for us, we love and worship God because He is God. Because He loves us. Because He died for us. It’s different, and we have to reorient ourselves every time we deviate from this.
“I just moved and need to find a local church! Where should I start?”
- We have used the below resources as guideposts for where to find our church home, and I’m so grateful we did:
“I don’t believe in God, but I’m reading this out of curiosity. Why do you think there’s something in this post for me?”
- Wow, you are awesome to 1) read all the way to the end of this and 2) to take the time to read a blog from a Christian on the Internet. I appreciate your curiosity and I have to believe that if you’re this curious, God is moving in your heart and life in a way that you might not be able to see just yet.
- For now, let’s go back to your stance: you don’t believe in God. My biggest encouragement to you is to do the research to confirm that you’re 100% SURE one way or the other in terms of whether or not you believe Jesus is Lord. If even the smallest part of you says, “Hmm, maybe there could be a God… but I don’t care enough to really find out” then I can’t urge you enough to explore the topic further. Because if God is real, and He really did create the heavens and the earth, and He really did create YOU, and He really did send His own Son as the perfect sacrifice for our sin, and He REALLY is coming back one day and will call us to answer to Him, you’re going to want to be sure if your answer is yes or no. I think plugging into a gospel-centered church is where you can find that out, because the message every Sunday deals with the heart of our relationship with God: His immense sacrifice to be able to call you His own. That’s a love story like no other, and whether you believe it or not, let’s go back to my first point: has learning a different perspective ever killed you?
- I hope that helps you, even if it’s just a little bit. But I would love to pray for you, hear from you, and learn more about you. You’re welcome to shoot me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know that for some of you, it’s possible that something I’ve said here makes you a little uncomfortable. Or angry. Or you want to dismiss this as me thinking I’m better than you — and I get it. But more than anything, I hope you know that I come at this as a sinner in desperate need of grace. I am not better than anyone because I love Jesus or attend a church that preaches the gospel, but because I have been radically changed by my relationship with God, I would be selfish if I didn’t share that truth with anyone and everyone: because it is fully and freely available to you.
But hey, let’s talk about it. Questions? Comments? Agree? Disagree? Shoot me a note at email@example.com.
As always, thanks for reading!