Tag Archives: church attendance

How Long Do You Stay at Church After the Service Ends?

The Best Christian Community Happens After the Service Is Over

Enjoy Christian Community: How Long Do You Stay After the Service?Last week I asked, Why do people show up for church late? My wife and I try to arrive ten minutes early, a practice we developed when we visited fifty-two churches in a year. This allows for time to interact with others, to enjoy a bit of Christian community before the service begins and to prepare ourselves to connect to God.

Another thing we observed during our 52 Churches journey was how people acted after the church service ended. Some people make a beeline to the door as fast as possible without saying a word to anyone. And a couple of times we saw people leaving before the church service had even ended. But at most churches people take a few minutes to say “Hi” to their friends, talk with others, or attend to some church business. But within five or ten minutes most everyone is gone.

However, a few churches are a notable exception. There people hang out for quite a while after the church service ends. Sometimes this is for a potluck or a social time around coffee and snacks, but other times it’s simply for an extended period of connection with their church family. When Candy and I visited fifty-two churches, we determined to make ourselves available to linger in Christian community—assuming there was one. Several times this lasted longer than the church service itself, sometimes for a couple hours.

Some people think sticking around after the church service ends is foolish. But others—such as myself—think hanging around afterword is how it should be.

The reasons for these two perspectives stem from our reasons for going to church.

Three Reasons to Go to Church

1. A Duty: For those who go to church as an obligation, leaving as soon as possible makes sense. They performed their duty, now they want to get on to something else, something that interests them more.

2. To Sing or Learn: For people who go to church to listen to a teaching or sing to God or about God, they see no reason to stick around after the benediction. The purpose for being there has ended, so now it’s time to leave. Yes, they’re polite in their exit, but they have no reason to tarry. Other activities beckon, such as Sunday dinner or an afternoon nap. People who go to church for the community, realize that the service itself doesn’t allow for much connection to happen. Click To Tweet

3. Spend Time in Christian Community: For people who go to church for the community, they realize that the service itself doesn’t allow for much connection to happen. To realize the community they seek, they arrive early and are willing to stay late—sometimes for an hour or two. That’s when the real community happens. That’s when they can share life with each other. For me, that’s what church is all about: community.

Why Do People Show Up Late for Church?

The Timing of When People Arrive at Church Reflects Their Priorities

When do you arrive at church?When my wife and I went on our grand adventure of visiting fifty-two churches in a year, we decided we’d try to arrive at church ten minutes early. In doing so we would avoid breezing in at the last-minute, and we would have time for possible connection with other people before the service. (Sometimes we had wonderful conversations and other times it was an awkward ordeal.)

Three Times When People Arrive at Church

This also gave us an opportunity to observe when other people arrived at church.

1. Arrive Early: For a few churches most everyone arrived early. They sat in respectful anticipation of what was to come, reverently waiting for the service to begin.

2. Arrive Right on Time: At other churches many people timed their arrival with the starting time of the church service, not a minute earlier and not a minute later. They arrived right on time. At some of these places, the people were in the facility early, trying to squeeze in some pre-church activity, but not yet seated in the church sanctuary. In other places, they rushed in at the last moment.

3 Arrive Late: Yet at too many churches, the starting time seemed more like a guideline. At these churches over half the congregation showed up after the service had started. They arrived late. Sometimes this was understandable since the service didn’t start on time either. The church had conditioned people to arrive late, because the service started late. However, even for those services that started on time, the practice of people arriving during the singing of the first, and even the second and third songs, alarmed me.

When Do You Arrive at Church?

Yes, I understand that sometimes things come up to keep us from getting to church on time. This is most pronounced for those with young children in tow. I remember those days well. And other times we may oversleep, not get around as fast as we’d like, or encounter delays on the drive to church. Yet these things should be rare, not common. Late arrivers at church disrespect God and distract other worshipers. Click To Tweet

For people who habitually arrive at church late, I wonder if it doesn’t reveal a bit of their heart. That God isn’t important enough for them to show up early in anticipation of what he’ll do. That church attendance is one more thing to squeeze into an already-too-busy schedule, so they can check it off there to do list.

Late arrivers at church disrespect God and distract other worshipers.

Arrive at church early, arrive at church in expectation, and arrive at church prepared to worship.

When Should You Change Churches?

Changing Churches Should Be Rare, Not Commonplace

When Should You Change Churches?In our Facebook group we discussed the post “When Not to Change Churches.” Justin asked a pertinent question: “When should you change churches?”

I knew part of the answer, but I needed to contemplate how far to take my response. Part of my hesitation stemmed from the reality that sometimes I changed churches for the wrong reasons.

I’ve changed churches eight times in my life. Some of you might think that’s a lot and others might think that’s not much at all. Of the eight times, five were for the right reasons, while the other three fall into a gray area and may lack a sound motive.

Here are the reasons for when you should change churches.

Change Churches When You Move

When you move out of the area and it’s no longer practical or feasible to continue going to your old church, it’s time to find a new one. Don’t delay. Set about finding a new church right away. Each Sunday you take a week off from church makes it a little bit harder to return to that practice. And if you wait too long, you may never go back.

Change Churches If Yours Closes

Each week churches close. It’s a statistical fact. And if it’s your church that shuts down, then you’re faced with the task of finding a new one to plug into. Churches seldom shutter abruptly. There’s usually plenty of warning. They’ve been dying a slow death over months, years, and sometimes even decades.

It’s sad anytime a church closes, and there may be a time of mourning over what you lost. In addition to not having a place to go each week, the friends you’re used to seeing typically scatter and end up at various churches. So, in addition to losing your church home, you’ve also lost your church family.

When this happens it’s time to find a new spiritual community and make a new church home.

Change Churches If You’re Called to Do a New Thing

Sometimes one church will start another one. It may be a satellite location or planting an independent church. You may be part of the launch team. Though this could be a short-term responsibility, it’s usually a long-term commitment.

Another scenario occurs if God calls you (that is, the Holy Spirit prompts you) to move to a different area and help start a new church. Whether in name or in function, this is being a missionary. Leaving one church as a missionary is an obvious time when it’s appropriate to change churches.

Change Churches If Jesus Isn’t Part of It

Jesus is central to Christianity, and he must be part of every church that bears his name. If you go to a church that has pushed Jesus aside or fails to acknowledge him and what he did for us, then question if it’s truly a Christian church. A church without Jesus is a church that doesn’t warrant your attention. If Jesus isn’t there, you probably shouldn’t be there either. It’s time to change churches.

Change Churches If Your Present Church Is Hindering Your Faith

This one is harder to define, but sometimes we may find ourselves in a church that is so misaligned with who we are and where we are in our walk with Jesus, that it gnaws at our soul. Persevering in that environment pulls us away from God and threatens to derail our faith. I would never encourage anyone to persist in a church community that is damaging their relationship with God. If this happens, it’s time to find a new church community. Seek one will help you draw near to God and encourage you in your faith.

Are There Other Times to Change Churches?

What about other beliefs? Christianity is filled with various viewpoints on faith and theology. If Jesus remains the core, I encourage us to accept one another for our other differences in belief and practice. Yes, some people view these differences as heretical, but I don’t think Jesus does. Based on what he prayed in the Bible (John 17:20-26), I know that he wants us to get along, to remain united, and to act as one. Leaving one church because we disagree with an element or two of their religious platform is a bad reason to leave.

Of the eight times I’ve change churches four were because of moving and one was for a church plant. The other three were more dubious. The first was because I was bored, the second was because our kids weren’t plugged in, and the third was to fulfill my deep desire to go to church in my community, with my neighbors, and worship with my family. The first was selfish—though I did meet my future wife there—while the other two were more laudable, even though they fall outside my list of five reasons to change churches. Leaving one church because we disagree with an element or two of their religious platform is a bad reason to leave. Click To Tweet

This implies there may be a sixth reason to change churches, but it’s one that’s hard to define. Its subjective. And any time something is subjective it means that our emotions can replace logic, which allows us the latitude to make about any determination we want. And usually that decision leads us to change churches even though we probably shouldn’t.

But regardless of the reasons of why you want to change churches, before you do, take a careful look at when not to change churches. Pray about it, and ask for Holy Spirit guidance. If he says it’s time to move on, then move. And to help you on this new adventure, check out “How to Find a New Church.” May God bless you in your search for a new church home and guide you to the place he wants you to be.

When Not to Change Churches

When We Go Church Shopping We Behave as Consumers and Don’t Honor God

In today’s practice of retail religion, we pursue faith has a consumer and miss the purpose of church. We’re quick to change churches over the smallest of issues. Yet, usually the best action to take is no action: Don’t change churches. Often we should stay where we are and not go church shopping.Don't change churches. Think twice before changing churches.

Yes, there’s a right time and a wrong time to change churches. We need to discern between the two and act accordingly. Here are some reasons not to change churches.

Don’t Change Churches If You’re Angry

Did your church do something to hurt you? Are you angry over something that someone did or said? Though the impulse to change churches is understandable, this is the wrong time to do it. Don’t leave mad because you’ll hurt others in the process. And don’t leave hurt, because you’ll carry baggage to your new church. Instead, seek reconciliation with your church and its people. Then you can switch with a clear conscience, but if you patch things up, why not stick around?

Don’t Change Churches If You’re Not Being Fed

It sounds spiritual to say you’re switching churches because you’re “just not being fed.” This sounds virtuous, but it’s really a sign of laziness. It’s not church’s job to feed us spiritually. This is the wrong expectation. Yes, church aids in spiritual growth, but they shouldn’t be the primary provider of our faith nourishment.

Spiritual growth is our responsibility. We need to feed ourselves and not expect a minister to do our job for us. Changing churches so we can be fed only masks the real problem.

Don’t Change Churches If You’re Not Getting Anything Out of It

In today’s culture, too many people view church participation as a transaction. They put in their time expecting something in return. They donate their money and look for a return on their investment. This, however, reduces church to a commodity that we shop for. This is the epitome of retail religion, and it misses the point.

The truth is, we only get out of church what we put into it. So, if you’re not getting anything out of church, the problem falls on you and not church.

Don’t Change Churches If You Fear Heresy

Another spiritually-sounding complaint about church is heresy. Yet disagreement over theology is why we have 43,000 denominations in our world today and not the one, unified church that Jesus prayed for. When we charge our minister with heresy, the implication is that we know what is correct and they don’t. We need to embrace the possibility that we might be wrong.

Instead, we squabble over things that don’t matter and leave the church. What does matter? Jesus. Everything else is secondary. We need to acknowledge that we can have differences of opinion over matters of faith and still get along.

Don’t Change Churches If You Don’t Like the Music or the Message

Another side effect of retail religion is changing churches because we don’t like the worship service or the sermon. Again, this is consumerism infiltrating church.

All music can praise and worship God. Just because we don’t like the tone or tempo—or volume—it isn’t worth changing churches. Instead, seek to worship God regardless of the musical style or the performers’ ability. Remember, we’re not there as consumers seeking entertainment; we’re there as followers of Jesus to worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:24).

The same applies to the message. Yes, some speakers are gifted, and others aren’t; some presenters are entertaining, and others are boring. But every message has something we can learn from it, if we’re willing to listen and look for it.

Don’t Change Churches If You Have No Friends

If your church lacks community or you have no friends there, who’s fault is that? Yes, some people are easier to connect with then others, but that’s no excuse to give up. In fact, the problem might be in us. If we have no friends at church it might be because we’re not approachable or don’t make ourselves available. The best time to make friends at church is before the service starts and after it ends, but too many people miss these opportunities by arriving at the last moment and leaving as soon as possible. If you have no friends at church, seek to change that. There are many reasons to change churches, but most of these are selfish, shortsighted, and reflect a consumer is a mindset that displeases God and serves to divide his church. Click To Tweet

There are many reasons to change churches, but most of these are selfish, shortsighted, and reflect a consumer mindset. This displeases God and serves to divide his church. If you don’t like your church, the better approach is to stick around and be a catalyst for change. Seek to make the church where you’re at become a better one and don’t take your problems someplace else.

3 Keys to Successful Church Involvement

Don’t Go to Church with a Passive Perspective: Be Engaged on Sunday Morning

As a teenager, I often complained to my parents, “but I don’t get anything out of church.” Though they tried to reason with me, and they may have secretly agreed, their attempts to change my perspective didn’t help. What I wish I could’ve told my younger self was, “You only get out of church what you put into it.”You only get out of church what you put into it.

Yes, I could’ve tried harder. I should’ve tried harder. I finally get that.

If we go to church with no expectations, that’s exactly what we’ll receive: nothing. However, if we walk through the doorways of church on Sunday morning with intention and forethought and prayer, we’re much more likely to leave feeling better for our time there.

Here are three tips to change our perspective about church.

Successful Church Involvement Tip 1:
Be a Giver Not a Consumer

When we go to church, we miss the point if our perspective rests solely on what we’ll get from the experience. Instead, we should look at what we can give to others. This may be through our example, through our words, or through our worship.

Too many people go to church as consumers. They expect excellence with the message and the music. And if the delivery disappoints, they’ll take their Sunday morning patronage to another church. They’ll church shop.

This puts a lot of pressure—unwarranted pressure—on the preacher and the musicians. But they aren’t there to entertain us. They’re there to point us to God. But with today’s attitude of retail religion, we too often miss this.

In this discussion about giving, I’m not talking about money. That’s a different discussion for another time. By giving to the church, I mean giving our time, our attention, and our attitudes to make it better.

The church needs more givers and fewer consumers.

Successful Church Involvement Tip 2:
Be a Partner Not an Attendee

When it comes to church, we often use the word attend. As in, “What church do you attend?” But church attendance is a passive activity. We go, we stand when we’re supposed to, and we sit the rest of the time, staring at the back of someone’s head.

If we just attend church, we confirm we’re merely consumers of it.

Instead we should go as partners, looking for ways we can take part and contribute. Granted, the modern church service offers little in the way of participation opportunities, but we can find ways to contribute to the experience nonetheless. The three key times are before the service begins, after it ends, and as part of the mid-service greeting, if the church has one.

These provide opportunities to engage with others: to participate, to encourage, and to make a difference. In this way, we share in the process and influence what occurs. By being at church as a partner of it, we adopt an ownership attitude. And benevolent owners behave much differently than passive attendees looking for entertainment.

The church needs more partners and fewer attendees.

Successful Church Involvement Tip 3:
Be a Disciple Not a Critic

Consumers and attendees feel they have a right to complain when their “needs” aren’t being met. Conversely, those who attempt to engage in the process and be a partner with the church, sometimes also feel they’ve earned the right to offer “constructive criticism.”

However, this feedback isn’t only misdirected, it’s also mean and selfish. A better alternative is acceptance. As disciples, we try to accept—and learn from—the things we don’t understand, don’t like, and cause us confusion. In a way, this is the foundation of what it is to be a disciple. Disciples seek to learn and embrace a more enlightened perspective.

The church needs more disciples and fewer critics. At church, we must push aside notions of consuming, attending, and criticizing. Click To Tweet

For successful church involvement, we must push aside notions of consuming, attending, and criticizing. That accomplishes nothing and diminishes what the church can be, what the church should be. When we go to church as givers, partners, and disciples, we will change everything.

We Need to Stop Interpreting Scripture Through the Lens of Our Practices

The Bible should inform our actions, not justify our habits

Christianity has its traditions and religious practices. We often persist in them with unexamined acceptance. And if we do question our behaviors, we can often find a verse in the Bible to justify them. But that doesn’t make them right.Read the Bible with an open mind

We need to interpret scripture through the lens of scripture and not from the perspective of our own practices. The Bible is the starting point, not the ending. When we begin with what we do today and work backwards, looking to the Bible for support, we will usually find it, but we may be in error.

Consider the following.

Church Attendance: The Bible says to not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25). Most people interpret this as a command to go to church. That’s not what the verse says. This command is a call to Christian community. This may happen at church on a Sunday morning, but it could also happen at a different location the other 167 hours of the week. This meeting together thing happens whenever two or three are gathered in his name. The point of this verse is that we shouldn’t attempt to live our faith in isolation.

Communion: Another area is our practice of communion. We even read the Bible when we partake. This makes us wrongly conclude that our celebration of communion is biblical. It’s not. The context of communion is at home with family, not as part of a church service. We’re doing communion wrong.

Sermon: Why do we have a sermon every Sunday at church? Because it’s in the Bible, right? Yet biblical preaching is to those outside the church.

You’ve heard the phrase, “preaching to the choir,” which is understood as the futility of telling people the things they already know. Yet preaching to the choir is effectively what we do at most churches every Sunday. Preaching is for people outside the church.

Worship Music: Why does a significant portion of our Sunday service include music? While singing to God is prevalent throughout the Bible, it’s interesting to note that nowhere in the New Testament is the use of musical instruments mentioned. Does this mean our singing to God should be a capella? It’s worth considering.

And the idea of having a worship leader is also an anathema to the biblical narrative. When we gather together we should all be prepared to share and to participate, which might include leading the group in a song.

Sunday School: The justification for Sunday School—aside from tradition and “that’s the way we’ve always done it”—often comes from the Old Testament verses to train up a child (Proverbs 22:6) and teach your children (Deuteronomy 11:19 and Deuteronomy 6:6-8). But who’s to do this training? The parents. Delegating this critical job to the church is lazy parenting.

But if we’re going to persist in the practice, let’s at least give Sunday School a meaningful purpose.

Tithing: Giving 10 percent is an Old Testament thing. The New Testament never commands us to tithe. Think about that the next time you hear a minister say we’re supposed to give 10 percent to the local church. That’s wrong. Though tithing might be a spiritual discipline, it’s not a command.

Offerings: Though there is some basis for the Sunday offering, we’ve co-opted it into something it wasn’t meant to be. Paul’s instruction to take up a collection each week was for the express purpose of giving money to those in need (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). How much of a church’s weekly offering goes to that?

Church Buildings: Though the Old Testament had their Temple and the Jewish people added synagogues, the New Testament followers of Jesus met in homes and sought to connect with others in public spaces. The idea of building churches didn’t occur until a few centuries later. Church facilities cost a lot of money and take a lot of time, distracting us from what is more important.Peter says we are all priests, and Paul says we should minister to each other. Click To Tweet

Paid Staff: The concept of professional, paid clergy also didn’t occur until a couple centuries after the early church started. Peter tells us that we are all priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9), and Paul tells us that we should minister to each other (1 Corinthians 14:26). When we pay staff to do what we’re supposed to be doing ourselves, we’re subjugating our responsibility and acting with laziness. Paul set a great example, often paying his own way on his missionary journeys. Today’s ministers should consider this. Seriously.

Prior posts have touched on these subjects in greater detail. They might be worth considering as you contemplate the above items. We persist in these practices out of habit and under the assumption that the Bible commands us to do so. We conclude this because we read the Bible wearing blinders, focusing our attention on our practices and seeking to find them supported in the Bible.

It’s time we reexamine everything we do and make needed changes. And if we do, it will be a game-changer.

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What’s More Important, Family or Church?

We need to order our priorities with intention and do what matters most

Whether we realize it or not, we form priorities to order our lives. For most of my adult existence my number one priority has been God. Though I held this out as my ideal, sometimes, perhaps too often, my actions didn’t live up to this principle, but I did strive to reach it.What’s More Important, Family or Church?

Many years ago, I mistakenly included church in the box that should have been reserved for God. As such, I elevated the importance of church to the level of God, effectively making church activity my highest priority. During that season of my life, whenever the church doors were open, I was there. In addition to attending twice on Sunday, I also served on committees and helped pretty much wherever and whenever someone asked. As a result I spent two, three, and sometimes even four evenings a week at church fulfilling various roles, commitments, and needs.

When I was busy at church doing these things, my young family was at home—functioning without me. I had mistaken the elevated church activity above family life. I have long since moved past that church, but my family is still here. They are my priority over church—any church.

If I ever need to choose between church and family, I now choose family.

As far as church activity, aside from the Sunday service, I limit myself to no more than one other commitment—if that. This helps me keep my actions aligned with my priorities.

Yes, God is still the number one priority in my life. But now family comes in second. And they have for a long time, too. Church, however, is further down my list.

God is number one, as he should be. Family comes second. After that is work, writing, and friends. I suppose church activity comes in next. That makes church number six on my priority list. And I think that’s the right place for it to be.Be intentional, and make a thoughtful determination about what your priorities should be. Click To Tweet

I can’t undo the mistake I made a couple decades ago when I placed church over my family, but I can make sure not to repeat that error again. Not with my wife, not with our children, and not with our grandchildren.

Just because this is how I order my life, doesn’t mean that’s how you need to prioritize yours. But I do encourage you to be intentional, and make a thoughtful determination about what your priorities should be. The next step is to make your actions align with your ideals.

How a Business Mindset Influences the Church

A church and its congregation shouldn’t let a corporate mentality infiltrate it’s thinking

How a Business Mindset Influences the ChurchIn “Why Business Practices Hurt the Church” we discussed how business thinking has improperly affected the big-picture perspectives of church. Yet the business mindset goes deeper than that, negatively influencing church practices and attendee attitudes.

Spiritual Outcomes Are Not Quantifiable: The business world measures everything, but when churches try to do that, they end up with a focus on finances and attendance.

Churches shouldn’t measure their success numerically. And when they do, they shift the focus from what matters to God to what matters to humans.

We can’t measure changed lives, but that’s precisely what matters most to God.

Measure What Matters: I once attended a church’s annual meeting. They spent much time talking about the 103 baptisms they did that year and the 103 people who joined their church. It was a grand celebration of their success and the marvelous manner of God at work.

However, as an addendum to the end of their meeting, they shared their beginning and ending membership numbers. The difference was not 103 but one! In a busy year with 103 baptisms and 103 new members, they had only grown by one person. That meant 102 people quit their church.

Don’t measure what makes you feel good, but count what matters.

Churn: The business world calls this loss of customers churn. If a business churns customers so fast that all their effort is spent trying to stay even, then something is wrong, seriously wrong. But this church wasn’t smart enough to realize that—or at least to admit it.

Some churches call this the back door. They grow when people come in the front door and shrink when these folks slip out the back door. Another apt term is leaking. Some churches leak people—a lot of people.

Churn is bad for both businesses and churches. It must be fixed, yet the approach to do so differs. Businesses address churn by looking at customer service and product offerings. Churches should not. Their problem goes much deeper than service and product, but until they realize this, they’ll never fix it.

The Consumer Mentality: When people feel free to leave a church, often over the smallest of slights, they view themselves as a customer shopping for the church that offers the most value. This is a consumer mindset, not a godly perspective.

We shouldn’t shop for a church that provides the services we want. Instead we should look for a faith community we can help.We shouldn’t shop for a church that provides the services we want. Click To Tweet

Consumerism Turns the Church into a Service Provider: When people go church shopping, the church becomes a service provider. Which church offers the best services? Then the focus shifts to programs, service styles, and preaching power.

Instead of asking, “What can the church do for me?” the better question becomes “What can I do for the church?” Don’t seek to be served but to serve.

Customer Complaints: The business that wants to improve, grow, and remain viable listens to its customers. While we all like to hear good news from happy people, the real value comes from the frustrated people who still care enough to share their opinion. So the wise business leader listens.

Yet when most people apply this attitude to their church and share their “concerns” with their pastor or church leaders, they do so with the wrong motives. In reality they want to turn the church into their vision of an ideal congregation that fits them perfectly. Their so-called concerns are little more than a selfish attempt to change the church into what they want for themselves.

Church is Not about the Customer Experience: Businesses talk much about the customer experience. They strive to make the experience of each customer the best they can in order to retain patrons who will continue to buy from them.

When church leaders apply this to their congregation, they begin pandering to the demands of members in order to maintain their attendance and receive their offerings each week. Yet each move in this direction is a step away from God.

Members Are Not Customers: Applying business practices to church implies that members are customers. This carries with it all sorts of negative connotations, such as a consumerism mindset and the need to maximize the lifetime value of members, that is their donations.

The best response is for churches to do away with membership. After all, it’s not biblical.

While modern business practices do much to advance the cause of capitalism and commerce, these same thoughts hurt the church. We must keep this from happening.

Does Dropping Out of Church Mean Turning Your Back on God?

Church attendance may relate to faith or the two may have no connection at all

Does Dropping Out of Church Mean Turning Your Back on God?It borders on gossip, but I occasionally hear a whispered concern about so-and-so who don’t go to church anymore. They dropped out, which in the minds of some people means these nonchurch attenders have “fallen from their faith,” “have backslidden,” or are now “going to hell.”

On a broader scope, I keep hearing reports that Millennials (or some other demographic) have turned from God and left their faith. What is the reason for this conclusion?

It’s simple. They’ve dropped out and no longer go to church.

Ergo they must have abandoned their faith. However, just as some people attend church and don’t really know God, others know God quite well but have given up on church.

We need to, once and for all, disconnect the assumption that church attendance equates to faith—and that regular attendance implies a vibrant faith. To the contrary, I’ve heard many people say they stopped going to church to preserve their faith in God, that church attendance damaged their state of spiritual being more than it helped.

Don’t take my assertion that church attendance is not an indicator of faith as an excused to stop going. However, if going to church presents an unhealthy burden for you or causes you more harm than good, then perhaps you need to find a different church.

And by different church, I don’t necessarily mean a different denomination or a different style of service, but to perhaps re-envision what church is

At the basic level church is where two or more people gather in Jesus’s name (Matthew 18:20). This might mean in a church building on Sunday morning. Or it may mean at a coffee shop Wednesday afternoon or a restaurant Friday evening. How about a sports event on Saturday or dinner on Sunday? What about a game night or movie outing?

Before you bristle at the implication that playing games or watching movies in Jesus’s name is on a par to Sunday morning church attendance, which one offers more Christian community? Which is the setting where serious faith conversations are more likely to occur?Bible warns us to not give up meeting together, but it's not a command to go to church. Click To Tweet

When the Bible warns us to not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25), it’s not talking about going to church. It’s really talking about meeting together. This may mean meeting at the coffee shop, restaurant, sports event, Sunday dinner, game night, or movies.

We are not to live our faith in isolation but in community. However, we must dissuade ourselves of the notion that this community should happen on Sunday morning.

If the traditional form of church has let you down, don’t give up on all forms of Christian community. Find one that works for you and pursue it at all costs. Your faith may depend on it.

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What Do We Do When We Get Together?

The Bible tells us to not give up meeting together, but we often miss the point

Don’t forget to encourage one another when we meet together.As we persevere in our faith, one aspect of this is to not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25). Many people interpret this verse as a command to attend church. It isn’t. Not really. While meeting together could include going to church, it should encompass much more.

Where We Meet: The phrase to not give up meeting together is a call for intentional interaction with other followers of Jesus. He says anywhere two or three people get together and place the focus on him, he will join them (Matthew 18:20).

  • Meals: Most people enjoy meals with others, and most Christians pray before they eat. Isn’t this gathering in Jesus’s name? I think so. While we may eat some meals alone, we potentially have three times each day to fellowship with others and include Jesus. But do we make the most of these opportunities?
  • Small Groups: Many churches provide opportunities for attendees to form intentional gatherings with a small number of people. This facilitates connection with each other and draws us to God. If we skip our small group, it’s as if we are giving up meeting together, which the Bible says not to do.
  • Coffee Shop: People often meet at coffee shops to spend time and hang out. If you include God in your meeting, either explicitly or implicitly, you assemble in his name.
  • Homes: Do you invite people into your home or see others in theirs? If you both love Jesus, doesn’t this become a get together where he is included? It should.
  • Outings: What about going on a picnic, to the game, the gym, or shopping? With intentionality, each of these can be another opportunity to meet together in his name.
  • Church: Yes, church is on this list of places where we can gather in the name of Jesus. But I list it last because I wonder if it isn’t the least important. Why do I suggest this? Because when we meet in this environment, we often (perhaps usually) do it wrong. Consider the rest of the verse to find out why.

The reason we meet together should be to encourage one another. Click To TweetWhen We Meet: The command to not give up meeting together goes on to explain why. People tend to skip this part. The reason we are to meet together is so that we may encourage one another. The Bible says so, but how often do we do this in our church meetings?

If we leave church discouraged or fail to encourage others while we’re there, then we’ve missed the point of meeting together. While some people make a big deal out of meeting together—that is, going to church—they’re quick to miss that the reason is to encourage each other. If we’re not going to do that, then we might as well stay home.