People often ask me why I do not attend church. Usually what they're really asking is, "Why don't you attend my church?" and obviously my answer must always take the form, "Here's what I don't like about your church." This is not usually a great way to make friends!
It's nothing personal, of course.
If the questioner seems more interested in conversation than theology, the conversation lasts only a few minutes.
In both cases I find churches morally and theologically lax. And this usually ends the conversation.
Some are more persistent, and if you're one of them, the conversation continues here.
Here are my complaints:
I like David Willcocks more than "contemporary christian music." I would rather listen to the music of the past than the present.
Actually, it isn't past vs. present. It's depth/substance vs. superficiality. I get bored listening to "I just praise You" sung over and over and over and over. There are modern works that are not so shallow, both musically and theologically. One that I find myself listening to over and over and over and over (OK, so call me inconsistent) is "Faire is the Heaven" by William H. Harris. "Contemporary Christian Music" just can't match this. Music common to churches a few generations ago can't be found in today's churches, unless they are in special services for "seasoned citizens" in the older "mainstream" denominations (which are generally apostate).
And it's not just depth vs. superficiality. It's also holiness vs. lust, violence, sexual addiction, narcotic escape, suicide, status-seeking, and everything else that makes today's secular "rock" music differ from yesterday's "church music." Listen to this song from an album entitled "PsychoTheoSocioGhettoPathic" -- an ostensibly Christian album -- then listen to something from a century or so ago. Most church music today is closer to the "Gospel Gangstaz" than the Psalms of David. Most churches try to appeal to those who have been influenced by rock and rap, rather than defiantly challenge a corrupt culture with Godly music. They try to "be like" rather than overcome or transform.
End of conversation.
Most sermons today drive me crazy. Either they are boring (usually for trying to be theologically correct) or they are heretical. Today's sermon, like today's music, is pure entertainment, or even amusement (from the Latin for "stare stupidly"). Frankly, I have better things to do than to listen to most sermons.
I can listen to better sermons on the Internet, and I do.
Sermons, as a rhetorical or liturgical event, have no Biblical precedent.
So far, this means that my attending "church" is just a matter of taste. I don't particularly like what goes on in most "church services." If "church" were billed as a "concert" instead, in which the "worship team" or the "music ministry" were a well-known Christian group on tour, and the concert featured "a special message" by Pastor So-and-So, I wouldn't want to go. There are many other things I would rather do with my time than go to a Christian concert. I wouldn't like the music and I wouldn't like the sermon, so why should I go to this concert? And most people would say "fair enough."
"But you need fellowship," I'm often told.
But I don't get fellowship listening to Christian rock/praise music, or looking at the back of someone's head during a sermon.
The word translated "fellowship" in the Bible is "koinonia," which doesn't allow for one party to be a passive audience as is found in most churches.
The best time for "fellowship" is usually during the coffee and doughnuts between services. Sometimes "Sunday School" can be a time of lively dialogue, heartfelt sharing, and informative "questions-and-answers." I was once a full-fledged member of a church, and I stopped attending "church" and started attending only Sunday School and doughnuts. They excommunicated me.
"Fellowship" also presupposes some level of truth and doctrine, not found in most churches today.
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
"Breaking of bread" means a shared meal. Most churches have a symbol of a meal ("bread and wine" -- or wafer and grape juice), not an actual meal.
Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts,
In Luke 22 we read this:
10 And Jesus said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in.
11 And ye shall say unto the owner of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with My disciples?
12 And he shall show you a large upper room furnished: there make ready.
13 And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover meal.
But the early Christians did not break bread only when they observed the Passover. They met in the evening, after work, had dinner, and discussed the faith, encouraging one another:
On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion with them; since he intended to leave the next day, he continued speaking until midnight.
Here is some more about "fellowship." None of it seems to be taking place exclusively in "church."
|1 Corinthians 1:9
God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 10:20
But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.
2 Corinthians 6:14
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
2 Corinthians 8:4
Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;
If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
1 John 1:3
That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
1 John 1:6
If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
1 John 1:7
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
Sitting in a pew between 10:00am and 11:00am on Sunday morning is not the best way for me to experience "fellowship."
There may be many ways for me to experience fellowship with people who go to church, but not during "church."
At this point, some will say, "Well if you're so smart, why don't you just pick some church and go straighten everyone else out?" The answer is simple: no pastor wants the competition. And it's not my goal to orchestrate a coup d'etat. I don't want to be "the Pastor." I don't want to be the high priest. I want everyone to be a priest.
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the Law, happy is he.
Even if I were to put my body in a pew every Sunday, I would still feel very alone. I would be passively observing what went on up front, not hearing what I believe the Bible is saying.
The Bible is not a popular book, if we are to judge by the number of people who read it daily (rather than the number of copies that collect dust in American homes). In some ways, atheists who hate the Bible know more about the Bible than Christians who allow it to collect dust.
The Bible describes a Sovereign God, not a needy God who begs people to "come forward" and "make a decision for Christ," which usually means claiming the right to spend eternity in heaven, regardless of any change in behavior in this life.
Quite frankly, my view of the Bible is very different from that of most people who carry them to church:
The Bible: The Revelation of a Sovereign God
There are seven broad themes I see in the Bible which I don't see in churches. I describe them here:
Directory of All My Webpages
In a word, here are the seven themes:
1. Presence | | 2. Globalism | | 3. Theonomy | | 4. Peace | | 5. Family | | 6. Garden | | 7. Community
|There is no vision in most churches because they are waiting for Jesus to come again.
I don't believe Jesus is coming again.
Well, maybe I do, but not in the way most churches teach, and definitely not in my lifetime. Whatever happens at "the second coming" or "the end of the world" -- if it ever happens at all (and I'm not convinced the Bible teaches it will) -- doesn't matter to me. It has absolutely no effect whatsoever on the way I lead my life. In fact, I contend that any doctrine of the second coming which has such an effect on our lives is heretical, even "anti-Christ." If it matters, it's an erroneous doctrine.
I believe Jesus already came. His purposes in coming were not frustrated. Everything He intended to do, He accomplished. He is here now. He is King. His Kingdom is now. He does not need to return again.
This has tremendous implications on the way we should live today.
Everything about "eschatology" in most churches is completely off the mark, in my opinion.
In many other ways, the Bible says the "second coming" was "at hand." Atheists and liberals have long said, "See? Jesus was wrong! The end of the world didn't take place like he said! The Bible cannot be trusted!"
I trust the Bible, not most churches. Jesus came. He came at the first Christmas. The implications of this idea are staggering.
|Most churches teach escape. All our problems will be solved soon, when we get raptured.
As the two links above show, I don't believe in the "imminent" return of Christ and the end of all our problems.
But I do believe in overcoming our problems, and I believe the Bible promises world-wide transformation.
Most churches believe things are getting worse and worse. I believe they are getting better and better.
|I consider most churches to be antinomian -- against God's Law. They say we are justified by belief alone. I disagree.|
|Most churches support war. They support war against other countries, and they support violence against individuals (prisons, capital punishment, lethal "self-defense"). Call me a "pacifist." The word comes from the Latin word for "peace," and Jesus is the Prince of Peace.|
|Most churches would be astonished to hear me say that I support "the family" and they don't. Most churches claim to be "pro-family." But if you support Biblical Law as a blueprint for society (#3), and if you believe the Biblical Blueprint prohibits institutionalized violence (#4), then you believe in a decentralized society which might be called "patriarchy," but which I call "anarcho-theocracy." I believe we must abolish "the State," or as it is often called, "the government." I believe the family is the first educator, the first welfare agency, the first business, the first church, and there is nothing that ought
to be done that cannot be done by families operating in a context of Christian laissez-faire capitalism.
This is probably the most radical of my beliefs, and by this time most pastors are relieved that I'm not going to their church.
|America was built on Micah's vision of every man dwelling under his "Vine & Fig Tree." This is a vision of private property, but also a concept of some attachment to the land. Most churches accept the myths of "environmentalism" while ignoring the unexplored truths of "Vine & Fig Tree." In some sense, the Bible is the story of the restoration of man to the Garden of Eden.|
|People say I should be in church between 10:00am and 11:00am to experience "fellowship." But as I hinted above, the "koinonia" practiced and commanded in the Bible is much more than this. I don't even know how much more, and I don't know how to put this into practice, but I know it's a lot more, and I find no place in most churches to even ask the right questions.
Abraham is my model. He took in the weak and the outcast. His household numbered in the hundreds. The social functions provided by Abraham and his household have been taken over by the secular state. The absence of service and koinonia has resulted in the institutionalization of violence and atheism.
But sometimes the questioner is less interested in conversation than in an Inquisition. These people ask me why I do not attend church in an effort to show me that I'm not even a Christian at all unless I do.
To those who believe I am in sin unless I attend an accredited church -- that the Bible commands me to attend church -- and are willing to debate the issues, click here.
To those who are members of a local church and are intrigued by the "Vine & Fig Tree" Vision, I am not encouraging you to go AWOL and leave your church. Read more.