Scandal. Abuse. Confusion. Greed. Lies. Argument. Conflict. Hypocrisy.
We get it. Why would someone want to be affiliated with organized religion? If it is of so little benefit to those who profess it, how could it help me?
Some opt out altogether and give up on faith in God, Scripture, church, and heaven. They find church confusing and damaging, or at best, pointless and outdated.
Fifty-nine percent of 18-to-29-year-olds with a Christian background have dropped out. To them, church is irrelevant; its members are hypocritical, judgmental, and self-righteous; too often, church leaders are moral failures. The church becomes just another organized institution that postmodernists distrust.
Christians are as disgusted with hypocrisy as those who are outside. We make no excuses for the bad behavior of the charlatans or the insincere. False churches that create rules God never required (such as celibacy) set up leaders for moral failure. False members who abandon God’s doctrine soon abandon His morals.
Still, the sensational headlines are not representative of the vast majority of religious people. Sincere Christians do not claim perfection or ignore that sin might show up on our doorsteps, but we do sincerely try to live by Scripture. We have no hidden motives in preaching, evangelism, or church activities. We hope for heaven, fear hell, and simply want to help people prepare for judgment.
Others offended by modern religion take a middle-of-the-road approach. They want to be spiritual but not religious. Of the 22 million Americans who quit church over struggles with faith or relationships, many still see themselves as Christians. They pray, read Scripture, watch religious programming, and give to good causes. But they are not a part of a church. They abandoned organized religion to do their own thing.
Leaving a church under bad circumstances does not mean one has to leave the church completely. Many who dropped out are giving true New Testament Christianity a second look. It is possible to find a good church. Sincere Christianity is as different from the scandalous headlines as an unqualified doctor prescribing opioids to addicts is from a skilled surgeon who saves lives.
Here are three reasons we should not give up on biblical Christianity:
Church is where we connect with God on His terms.
Humans were made to be companions for deity (Genesis 1:26; 3:8). When man sinned in Eden, that connection was broken (Genesis 3:6–7, 24; Isaiah 59:1–2). God is holy, and holiness demands separation from sin. God is just, and justice demands punishment. God is also merciful and wants to forgive man. Thus the divine dilemma.
The only way the righteous God could receive man back was for a sufficient price to be paid. The price was named; Christ paid it. God gave His Son so He could adopt us as sons and daughters (John 3:16; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; 8:9).
What does God ask in return? Love. Worship. Gratitude. Commitment. Righteousness.
Church enables participation in the worship God longs for in the way He wants it (John 4:24). Worship is man’s outlet for thanksgiving and praise for the indescribable gift of Jesus (2 Corinthians 9:15). Honoring Jesus and pleasing the Father are what church is about (John 4:24; Colossians 1:18; 1 Peter 2:9).
God does not approve of do-it-yourself religion. Worship must be given as God wants it, since it is for Him. Listening to a favorite preacher’s podcast at the gym or worship songs around the house does not replace giving God His Sunday a cappella concert, heartfelt prayer, and sincere gratitude around His Son’s table.
While Christianity is a personal, heart-felt religion (Matthew 15:8; Romans 6:17), it is not meant to be practiced alone. A part is done in secret (Matthew 6:6), but discipleship is not meant to be secret (John 12:42; 19:38–39). Shouting the gospel “on the housetops” (Matthew 10:27) is better done in a public assembly than in a private residence.
Man may think he can worship on his terms in his own house, but God is not obligated to honor man’s whims. Man is obligated to follow God’s wisdom (James 4:7). In the days of the judges, every man did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6; 21:25), which produced the dark ages of Israel. Moses forbade Jews doing “whatever is right in his own eyes” (Deuteronomy 12:8). Paul later noted: “Being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, [they] have not submitted to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3).
The church is not a human invention; it was God’s idea (Ephesians 3:10–11). He spent four thousand years planning, organizing, establishing, and building it (Galatians 4:4–5; Acts 2). Although men have spent the last two thousand years trying to change it, God’s original church is still here. We should not abandon it. The church (kingdom) is the only thing God will salvage from this cursed world (1 Corinthians 15:24). We must be in it when that happens (Matthew 25:1–13).
Church is necessary to give Jesus the glory He deserves (Ephesians 1:6; 3:21).
Church is not just something Christians attend; it is who they are.
In Bible terms, one can no more be a Christian without the church than one can be a soldier without an army or a citizen without a country. A Christian can no more disassociate from church than a human can disassociate from humanity.
It is impossible to be a faithful Christian without being part of God’s church because God places every Christian in the church when He saves him (Acts 2:47). At that point, a church member is a Christian; a Christian is a church member. In Scripture, salvation and church are inseparable.
God’s wisdom is that gathering with the church is essential to spiritual growth and to a relationship with Him (Hebrews 10:24–25; Ephesians 4:12). The Greek word for church includes assembling in its very meaning. The early church gathered—daily, in fact (Acts 2:46). The New Testament emphasizes that Christians “come together” (Acts 14:27; 1 Corinthians 11:17–20, 33; 14:23, 26). It was a priority to them. History says they often assembled before dawn or after dark because Sunday was a workday in the Roman Empire. They lost jobs, homes, and families; some even gave their lives to follow Jesus. To be more authentic, we should take church more seriously—more church, not less.
More importantly, the church is who Jesus is. The organized church is His bride and His body. He bought the body with His blood and gave the bride His name (Acts 20:28; Romans 16:16). When we exit the church, we distance ourselves from Jesus.
Church is where we get what we cannot find in the world.
The church is the storehouse of God’s blessings.
In church, we encounter the power of gospel preaching (Romans 1:16; Hebrews 4:12).
Church is where Christ’s life-changing message is experienced in its optimal environment.
As live-streaming services has become common, some churches find online “attendance” surpassing in-person attendance. No longer does one have to leave home on Sunday. A living room becomes the auditorium; an easy chair, the pew; Facebook Live, the pulpit; a computer replaces congregational singing and fellowship. Church attendance becomes just another app that allows one to “worship” in comfort and isolation.
Live-streaming is important for the homebound, for those looking for a new church, and as a study tool during the week, but it is not worship replacement. Watching a livestream feed in our pajamas or a TV church service while eating a bowl of cereal is not the same as being there. Internet church is not really church. It does not offer the benefits of being with fellow worshipers in the presence of God. There are no interactions, no warm greetings and conversations, no voices blending in praise. Being together—with God and each other—is the whole point (Psalm 116:14). Christians are not to forsake the assembling of the church (Hebrews 10:25). Jesus said that “where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). This requires close fellowship with real people (Acts 2:42). Watching as a spectator is no substitute for participation as a worshiper.
Preaching is where God’s power intersects with human hearts (Romans 1:16). Personal study is needed, but public teaching, encouragement, correction, and challenge are essential (2 Timothy 4:2). Worship nourishes the soul (Acts 20:32). One churchgoer wrote the following comment to a newspaper editor: “I’ve gone to church for 30 years. In that time, I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. For the life of me, I can’t remember a single one. I’m wasting my time and preachers are wasting theirs.” A weeks’ long controversy followed, but one final letter to the editor ended it: “I’ve been married for 30 years. In that time my wife has cooked 32,000 meals. For the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu of a single one. I know this: Those meals nourished me and gave me the strength needed for my work. If she had not cooked, I would be physically dead. Likewise, if I had not gone to church, I would be spiritually dead.”
In church, strong marriages and families are forged.
Church completes the marital triangle of God, husband, and wife (Matthew 19:6). It reinforces the higher philosophy and purpose behind marriage (Genesis 2:18–24). It allows for deeper connection through shared beliefs (1 Peter 3:1–7) and gives constant motivation to be faithful and work on self-improvement (1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 13:4; Philippians 3:12). Church is where children learn to love God, their purpose, and healthy morality (Proverbs 22:6; Matthew 19:13–14).
In church, we discover, develop, and use our talents (1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12:4–8) and find opportunities to give back to others (Romans 1:14; Galatians 6:2).
There are always people to help, teach, encourage, and cherish (Galatians 6:10). “The church really does not need me” is as untrue as “I don’t really need the church” (Luke 10:2). They have programs that make it easy to get involved in helping others. It feels good to help people (Proverbs 22:9). Jesus promised a blessing for selfless service (Matthew 10:42).
In church, we connect socially with good people (cf. Romans 16:1–23).
Humans are social creatures. All hunger for community and a sense of family. All need friendship and fellowship, godly mentors and good examples (Titus 2).
Four-of-ten people experience intense loneliness, yet many have not considered finding connection in church. About sixty-five percent of Americans identify as Christian, but only forty-seven percent of those attend regularly.
Like grains of wheat coming together in life-giving bread, believers contribute to a healthy congregation. The ground is level at the foot of the cross; there are no tiers or castes among those following the humble Nazarene.
In church, we find hope for this life and beyond.
Everyone looks for a reason for hope and a sense of purpose. Jesus went to prepare a place for us (John 14:2).
What the church offers cannot be found anywhere else. Writing off the church is not the answer, so find a good local church.
We happen to know one we would like to recommend.