Think of it like a sports team.
Do you have to go to church to be a Christian?
If you are a Christian, will you go to church?
I could just point to the bible’s admonition to not give up meeting together [Hebrews 10:25] as why Christians should go to church. And let’s be clear: the fact that the bible says so is enough. We don’t need more than that. But, instead of just saying to meet, what if we consider why to meet.
Think of it like this.
Imagine that you are a sports franchise. It’s football season, so sports analogies are mandatory. I’m not sure what your mascot is, but you are a franchise unto yourself.
And imagine that your sport is the Christian life.
To start with, let’s consider your game field. That would be the world. The game field is where the sport is played for the entire world to see. The world is where your faith is lived out for the entire world to see.
But the game field is the last stage in the development and growth of a team. A lot of work goes into preparing a team to excel on the game field. A lot of work should go into preparing a life to live for the glory of God in the world.
Therefore, before a team takes the game field, they spend time on a practice field.
So, what would be the practice field in your Christian life? Believe it or not, it is your home.
Yes, your home.
That is where you practice loving others over and over again. Even when it is difficult; especially when it is difficult.
That is where you learn to forgive others.
It is where you develop routines that will pay dividends in the real world and for the rest of your life.
The home is much more important to your Christian life than you might imagine.
But what about church?
Where does it fit in to this analogy?
How about the training facility?
I know, there is more going on in church than just training for the Christian life. But there certainly isn’t less than that. Part of what should happen at church is training. A big part.
Instruction on living for the glory of God.
Iron sharpening iron.
All of this and more.
From the pulpit, to small groups, to the friendships that are developed; they should all help the members grow and mature. The church should help prepare them to go the practice field and work on their faith.
And from there, to go to the game field. To the world. To live out the Christian life in front of everyone.
But we only do that after we have practiced: at home.
And only after we have been trained: at the church.
So, don’t give up meeting together. It is for the glory of God. And it is most definitely for your good.
Think of it like a big brother.
How do you explain the gospel?
How do you explain what Jesus did for people
for you on the cross?
Lots of good theological terms exist to explain what happened:
But, sometimes, the big words can actually make things more confusing. Actually cloud the issue instead of clarifying it.
So, how should we explain the gospel?
Think about it this way.
Let’s imagine that you are a kid and that you have disobeyed a parent. Doesn’t matter what you’ve done, but whatever it is, you know that you deserve a spanking. [This is not a post about corporal punishment. That's for another time. This is about the classic Christian doctrine of substitutionary atonement.]
And you are not going to argue with your dad. You know you did it. You know that you deserve a punishment.
And imagine that as you are talking to your dad something
Your big brother walks through the door and says, “Dad, I know that he deserves a punishment. But I want to take his punishment. Spank me instead.”
This is the way I usually explain the gospel to kids. And once I get to this point, I consistently hear, “Why would they do that?”
Because your big brother, in this analogy, loves you.
Because Jesus, in the real world, loves you.
That is what happened on the cross. Jesus went to the heavenly Father and took our punishment for us. Over and over again the Bible presents the reality that rebellious humanity [and that includes everyone not named Jesus of Nazareth] rightly deserves judgment from God.
We deserve punishment.
And God is a righteous God. He cannot just excuse sin and wrong.
A bad parent excuses wrong behavior.
A bad judge excuses wrong behavior.
God is perfect on both counts. He cannot just ignore sin. He would not be righteous. He would not be good. He would not be God.
But He can allow another to take it for us. But this ‘other’ would have to be one that wouldn’t deserve any punishment. At all. Period.
This ‘other’ would have to be perfect.
This ‘other’ would have to be God.
Jesus, the true union of God and man, had no sin for which to pay. Had no guilt or shame. He deserved no punishment. So He took ours. He paid it for us.
That is what happened on the cross.
That is the gospel.
Think of it Like Fast Food
Why do people stop going to church?
Maybe the carpet was the wrong color.
Or the pastor didn’t visit them often enough.
Or the music was too loud.
It was full of hypocrites.
The church wasn’t friendly enough.
The church was too friendly.
Or maybe it was something more serious. Legitimately serious. Some type of scandal or immorality.
Some of these reasons for not attending church are valid. At least valid for not going to THAT church. But for not going to ANY church?
This post isn’t about if Christians should go to church. That is another post for another day. This is about the reasons, the 'logic', that people give for not going to church, any church, ever.
I have shared an analogy in the past that helps to show how people are dishonest with themselves when they give up on church.
Think about it this way.
Let’s imagine that you visit the local fast food burger joint. And they mess up your order.
A burger with no pickles.
or extra pickles.
or made from only pickles.
Now, because of this issue, what action should be taken in response?
At worst, we could give up that particular place. But, in all honesty, we will probably give them another chance. After all, the fries are so good.
But let us imagine that the mistake they made was absolutely terrible. Something unsanitary and in violation of several health codes. A serious issue (and let’s not fool ourselves, some church issues are VERY serious) and therefore a change must be made.
Do we give up that restaurant?
Do we give up that chain?
Do we give up fast food completely?
That’s just crazy talk.
But that is what is done to church.
A bad experience is had. And, for the sake of this example, let’s say that it is a truly bad experience.
Avoid that particular church?
Yes. Fine. Maybe.
Avoid that denomination?
That would probably be a bit much.
Avoid church altogether?
That's just crazy talk.
But that is exactly what people do to the church.
I remember one time that our church was hosting a health screening and I was having a conversation with one of the technicians. She was telling me that she didn't go to church because she had a bad experience. A legitimately bad experience. The pastor had been unfaithful to his wife. Therefore, she had decided to never go to church again.
After one bad experience.
Later in the afternoon she was sharing that she was recently engaged. So I asked her a very important question. I asked if she had ever been done wrong by a guy before she was engaged.
Of course she had.
So I pointed out that she hadn't given up on men. Even after multiple bad experiences. But for the church, it only took one.
This is not to say that we shouldn't hold churches to higher standards.
This is to say that the logic of removing religion from your life entirely, based on one bad experience, just doesn't seem too logical to me.