I love Salt & Vinegar chips, page-turner novels and binge-watching Netflix with my husband. :) I host The Living Easy Podcast, where I talk about the things that most people don't discuss - with a focus on faith and relationships! Follow along on IG and Pinterest for mom-hacks, recipes & life tips!
This is the beginning of a conversation that I have had countless times with people of all different ages, backgrounds and experiences.
As well as: “I’m a Christian, but I don’t have to go to church in order to love Jesus.”
It’s true. We definitely don’t have to do anything for God, nor is our salvation based on our works or church attendance.
But it’s also true that when we surrender our lives to Him, we naturally desire to learn more about Him, to be a part of the body of Christ and to be held accountable and pointed toward sanctification. We are called to live out an active faith.
One of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new.“
When we truly repent, surrender and choose to follow Jesus, we are given a new heart, one that desires godliness and holiness. We are given the opportunity to make the daily choice to leave our past lives behind us and move forward toward the righteous life that He has set out for us.
“If anyone claims to live in Christ, he must walk as He did.” 1 John 2:6.
I was saved at the age of 19 years old at Mars Hill Church with Pastor Mark Driscoll (a few years before his church fell apart.)
We were babies!
When my husband and I were engaged and first married, we attended Mars Hill together. We both felt “burned by” and heavily disappointed in the church for many reasons, even far before it all came crashing down due to the pastor’s sin and other circumstances.
We have watched people who claim to love Jesus hurt the people around them deeply.
We have witnessed affairs, divorce, hypocrisy, greed and excessive pride.
We have watched some of our closest friends walk away from the church for the reasons stated above and many more. We have seen deep hurt caused by the church and have watched faithful churchgoers turn bitter, angry or broken because of the way these events occurred.
I want to ensure you that I’m not sitting behind a computer screen, lacking empathy or compassion toward the hurt that many of you have likely felt. It’s all very real, and I have felt it too.
And I am also not ignoring the fact that the church is full of sinful people nor that there is hard pain and baggage to come along with it.
I am simply turning my eyes to Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith and my hope.
I have made the choice to not allow the sinful, broken people of the church (those who look just like me) to be a stumbling block that keeps me away from my sinless, perfect and loving Heavenly Father who simply wants to draw us to Himself.
The church isn’t primarily a building or a set of programs or events. It’s a family. A broken family, yes. But a family all-the-more, seeking God to love more, serve more and share light in a super, super dark world.
We see throughout the Bible that Christ Himself was part of the church. His apostles were as well.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25.
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.“
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” Eph. 4:11-12
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:9, “You were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
I fully understand that the ‘American Church’ with massive buildings, coffee shops and rockstar worship leaders with too-tight-skinny-jeans may not be what Christ had in mind. And we must be wise and discerning when choosing a church to ensure that it is bible-believing and bible-teaching.
But although some church buildings themselves may not be the same as the church in Jesus’ day, it is still made upof people who love the Lord (although imperfectly) and come together to hear His word.
While the contextualization has changed, the mission remains the same – to glorify God and make disciples. Though the way we do things now may look a little different than first century Rome, it’s the same mission and strategy that propels us forward; assembling for worship, connecting in community, training up disciples.
I can almost hear some of your thoughts as I type this:
The worship is too cheesy.
The pastor isn’t available enough.
I have too much going on in my life.
My husband/wife doesn’t want to go so I don’t go.
People aren’t welcoming.
It’s an awkward experience.
It’s not the church that Jesus designed it to be.
Having kids makes it too hard to get there.
And, of course, the most popular:
Church is a corporate design created by man for the consumption of money; it is a place which promotes religion rather than faith and relationship.
I’ve heard it all. And, to be honest, many of these things I have thought myself.
If we constantly choose sleeping in on Sundays and breakfast with our family over church, if we choose a night out drinking over genuine community, sharing real life with one another and holy living, then we aren’t making a difference in the church that we may or may not see so many problems with.
We’re simply allowing the issues that we feel so strongly about to perpetuate as we carelessly look on.
I’ve witnessed church-hopping where people treat church like Goldilocks treated beds. People want that “just right” perfect church, but when they can’t find it, they simply walk away. All the Enemy had to do was distract them.
To that I say: Choose a place and stick with it. You’ll never find perfect. We should not be looking at what we can get from the church, our hearts should be set on what we can give the church.
And if you don’t want to be a part of the “big building church”, then there should be intentional and active pursuit of a home church. Not every home bible study will turn into 50,000 people, but it should be a consistent time filled with God’s word, worship and praise.
As a reminder, the Enemy has the power to use both good and bad things to keep you from God things – but only if you let him. He uses distraction, bitterness, hard-heartedness, pride, awkwardness and even feel good/treat yourself days to his advantage.
C.S. Lewis said it perfectly:
“The perfect church service would be the one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God. But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing than worshipping. It is mad idolatry that makes the service greater than the god.”
Sweet friends, God is the focus of the church. The service nor the people need to be perfect for you to hear His life-changing word. True life change happens in the church. We truly grow when we connect with every day people, pour into them and allow them to pour into us.
The local church, led by Jesus, is the hope of the world and God’s means to disciple the nations and hasten his return. Matthew 16:18 says, “…On this rockI will build my church, and the gates of hellshall not prevail against it.”
How can we despise or resent the church when Jesus not only said He was going to build it, but that He would use it to storm the gates of hell? That’s something I want to be a part of! Don’t you?
It’s true that there are churches out there which have fallen into the trap of trying to accumulate numbers rather than turning hearts toward God. But this isn’t the healthy church that God intended for it to be.
A bible-believing, bible-teaching church comes together as a reminder that we can only experience fruitful mission when we are fully abiding in and drawing strength from the true vine (John 15). His word is our daily bread.
And in a world offering countless different perspectives, there is one place that people can find truth (John 8:26). The church is a lighthouse in an ethical and immoral fog (Matthew 5:14–16).
If you claim to know and love God, yet do not have a desire to be a part of His church, I lovingly implore you to evaluate your relationship with Him. Get in His word and read what He has to say about His calling for us.
There are one hundred or more things that we could do that would hinder us from sharing life with God’s people
If you’re hesitant, I challenge you today to choose intentionality and join in worshiping God with a local church this weekend! I promise you that as many reasons as you might have not to go, there are even more reasons to trust God and pour your life and heart out for Him alongside His people.
[If you’re curious to learn more about what a healthy church looks like, I encourage you to check out this book: ‘What is A Healthy Church?’ It is a great resource to help you discover what the church can be and how to find a healthy one!]
Lindsey Maestas is a Christian based out of Albuquerque, NM. She is a wife to a loving husband and a stay-at-home-mom to two sweet little boys. She received her degree in Journalism and is a writer for the faith-based lifestyle blog, sparrowsandlily.com. She loves Jesus, event planning, baking and binge-watching Netflix with her husband.
Thanks for sharing this! I think it’s a message that’s not shared enough especially within the christian community.
I feel like many people leave churches because they feel convicted about things they shouldn’t be doing or they aren’t getting what they want out of it. I think people sometimes like to make excuses to cover up the fact that they just don’t want to go to church.
I like your advice to choose a place and stick with it. You’ll never find perfect. Many times we may hurting others too and are mostly unaware of it. The church is made up of imperfect people and that includes us. The focus should be on becoming more like Christ. He is the standard and not others.
This is a beautifully written post and an excellent topic for discussion. Personally, our struggle is that we come from two different denominations and my sweet husband isn’t keen on mine. We’ve tried out several local churches and my issues are similar to what you stated, but the biggest is the parishioners themselves.
I am all for repentance, however, it is so hypocritical to me that the same people are living their lies and expecting one church service a week. It distracts me so terribly. I’ve taken to watching small sermons on television and practicing my study at home. I do miss it though, you’re right too about the family and community aspects. We will have to renew our search.
Good article! We will be linking to this particularly great article
on our website. Keep up the good writing.
Thank you for this! God has kept me going to my current church and we just lost our pastor and his wife who was my best friend. So much has happened and it’s been extremely hard. God has grown me in numerous ways and continues to, (she said cheering loudly). But being on church grounds and being around certain people is so very hard. I continue to remember my brokenness and that God loves me as much as he loves the others that I struggle with.
Your article is exactly how I am living….some days are easier than others but i refuse to take my eyes off of my amazing, glorious Lord!
[…] down. Go to church or make a cup of hot cocoa and enjoy the day inside with your little family. Simply do your […]
[…] down. Go to church or make a cup of hot cocoa and enjoy the day inside with your little family. Simply do […]
[…] down. Go to church or make a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy the day inside with your little family. Simply do your […]
[…] down. Go to church or make a cup of hot cocoa and delight in the day inside with your little household. Merely do […]
I really enjoyed reading this, thanks for sharing, and I totally agree with everything that you said, people have all kinds of excuses not to go to church. My late pastor would always say, if you find a perfect Church don’t join it, because you will make it imperfect. If we Love the Lord like we say, our desire will be to attend, be a member of a body of believers. This has really helped me realize some things that I see in my family and in my church. God Bless you, and keep on writing and sharing, and encouraging…..
Dear Lindsey, We at NorthPointe Church (www.northpointeky.org) liked your blog post and reran it on our church website. We gave you full credit for the articles and added links to the original positing of your article on you website and on Crosswalk. No parts of your article were changed. If you are unhappy with our posting of your article, then we will be happy to remove it. If you do not reply to this message, then we will assume that the posting of the article is satisfactory to you. Thank you.
Thank you for this article. I truly miss being in church. The fellowship. The Pandemic has definitely changed how we worship. My church did return to worship inside the sanctuary. They eliminated the 12:30 svc and chose to keep the 7am svc. I have chronic pain disorder and still work daily…rest is essential for me. The 12:30 svc was best for me. It was hurtful that they chose to eliminate the 12:30 svc and now I am looking for another church home.
Jesus didn’t go to church, He WAS church. He visited many temples throughout His life and ministry, but when He taught His disciples and the common folk, He most often did it in the country side, by the water, or in the ‘sinner’s homes.’ He actually was a critic of the church leaders of His time – the Pharisees and Saducees- and was also very vocal to warn His disciples against their teaching.
American church, Roman Catholic Church, and many others are run as businesses or as places where man-made rules are first and foremost over God’s and Jesus’ messages of love, peace, tolerance, and forgiveness. Yes, people are sinful and churches aren’t perfect – but Christians should not feel guilted into attending a man-made religion as a social gathering under the guise of demonstrating faith once a week. We should live our faith every day by how we treat the least of these – like Jesus did – and share our faith everywhere. WE are now His church – not a doctrine, not a building, not a religion that fights over political or social issues. And when He returns, the Church of true believers will be His bride – that’s how we should show our faith.
Thank you for writing and sharing this. My daughter was married to a youth pastor in a megachurch and her husband was abusing her (all five types of abuse). While she was able to escape, get a restraining order (and ultimately a divorce due to his inability to admit his violent acts), and do a lot of work for herself with a counselor, she understandably still has a lot of distrust of the “church”. I’ve been praying for her to find her way back (she has a very strong faith foundation) without us nagging/guilting her into finding a church home. I’ve searched and searched for information to help someone through this type of personal violation when the person that violated you is church staff/in ministry. It is obvious that we are all sinners and imperfect, but when such injustice and violation comes from a spouse that is in church leadership, it’s a deeper conflict to reconcile. Your article is at least an opening to start the conversation again so I thank you. May your path be flooded with blessings.
Many thanks for your great article. Made complete sense! For me, the reason I no longer attend church is that there literally isn’t one in my town in the U.K. that teaches the absolute truth of The Word. They don’t believe in Genesis as real, one pastor actually believes in Jesus ‘ death and resurrection until science proves otherwise ! In the end I couldn’t fight it…,
I know watch Dr Michael Youseff live online each Sunday. I do have true bible believing Christian friends that I can fellowship with.
[…] [If you’re curious to learn more about what a healthy church looks like, I encourage you to check out this book: ‘What is A Healthy Church?’ It is a great resource to help you discover what the church can be and how to find a healthy one!] This article originally appeared on sparrowsandlily.com. […]
Interesting article, but I am in a different situation. I long to be part of a church, but have not been able to. I am a very shy introvert and am socially akward. I have tried to connect, joined small groups, volunteered for work groups and various ministries, prayed about it, but have always felt like an outsider. I have regularly attended 4 different churches in the last 20 years or so. I never had a problem with the people, preaching or music. I just never made real connections.
I started attending the last church about 8 months ago. It took 4 months of weekly attendance for anyone to even ask me my name. They started a new men’s group, but no one said a word to me when I was there. I haven’t attended any church in a while now.
Sometimes the loneliest place is in the middle of a crowd. I’m starting to think you have to be an extrovert to fit in. I’ll never be a social butterfly, but that seems to be the measure of spirituality.
I thought it was great when you said that a church is more like a family than a building. My wife and I used to work every Sunday, so we were unable to attend any church services. We are going to be free on Sundays starting this summer, so we will have to find a church that we can attend.
I appreciate your thoughts on attending a church. I love that you mentioned that church is for worship, connecting the community and training of disciples. In general, I think if we look at going to church for these reasons then we will get more out of our experience.