5 Dangers of Church Skipping

Church is the chosen vehicle of God as a focal point to display His glory to the nation.

In Ephesians the apostle Paul speaks of, “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. that all might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God!

However though, as a pastor, we wish it was that simple. The awareness of the church is way under the radar.

We experience this Sunday by Sunday….. We see this personally, experientially, anecdotally and corporately. The church becomes just another commitment to juggle a of programs, big events, and teaching from one person take a backseat of joyless legalism and lifeless moralism. People think it’s ok to be a Christian and regularly miss corporate worship gathering of a local body.

Why does it matter? It address a legitimate problem that we see in Evangelical Christianity. These are five biblical pointer that we must recognize as a church for us to understand this importance regarding belonging to a church.

 

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1. Private Individualism

There are two extremes that the churches have to deal with the past 2000 years. One extreme of institutionalize churches. One’s salvation was perceived  directly in the commitment to one’s denomination or that one was part of.

Evangelical movement happened and corrected that, though perhaps over-corrected that in the second half of the 20th century. We boil down one’s Christianity to, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” that is an appropriate question but the culture has wised up. They know they need to answer, “Yes” that question so we stop pressuring and asking that questions. 

We ask the follow-up question and ask, “What church are you part of?” people are not used to that question. We must realize our spiritual commitment of our lives are rooted within the local church.

Just a personal and private commitment? Part of it is because we live in an individualistic idea of, “This is how I will spend my time the way I want it and you have no say to that” that has tremendously affected the way how we understand the church in the west.

Church is not a meeting you attend or a place you enter. It’s an identity that is ours in Christ. An identity that shapes the whole of life so that life and mission become everything within us. Discipleship doesn’t happen apart from the context of local church. There is no such thing as a solo-discipleship as it’s a foreign idea.

 

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2. Mutual Accountability

You hear statements such as, “We all are part of the body of Christ. We are free to go wherever we want”

You are disconnecting yourself from accountable relationship of church membership here! (Matt. 18:15-16) Jesus assumes that His disciples will belong to a church. When a disciple is out of step with his brother, a church will be there to love and pursue and discipline that person under submission. (Hebrews 13:18)

We see in scripture, the primary means of a Christian, believer or individual grow is the proclamation of God’s Word. If people put aside Sunday morning and go elsewhere, they are forfeiting God’s design for helping them to grow spiritually.

“Well, why can’t I watch a sermons online in my living room?” Sure, you can hear great teaching in a variety of ways. But listening online is different from listening in the service with your own pastor. Conferences are great as well, however they are not your pastor.  We will never experience the same with a flat screen TV. The person may be a great speaker but he is not the pastor of the flock who knows specific needs of the individual or the church. It must come down to this. The Lord brings and keeps his people in covenant fellowship with himself by his Spirit and his Word (Isa. 59:21)

 

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3. Doctrine of Church

I believe many even within the evangelical protestant churches throughout the nation have confused the doctrine of the church and the nature/function of the church. There is a greater discontinuity or disconnect between perceived topic and even the actual importance of the topic.

We must grasp a better understanding of not only church universal but more importantly, church local. Only a small glimpse where we see the NT speaks of the church universal. Most often they are speaking of church local of group of people in covenant community in together.

The Local church is a group of people covenanted together to gather regularly for corporate worship, celebration of the ordinances, ministering of the Word of God, leadership of qualified leaders, submissive to the body on mission for Christ and the world.

Local church is not an option, it’s God primary way for believers to grow love for Him and love for fellow believer but they bypass for something that was a design that is so precious to Him. In the NT, to be a Christian means to be saved into the church, baptized into the church and immediately part of a covenantal community together. We don’t see free agent Christians roaming around the New Testament. (Acts 18:16-17)

 

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4. Biblical Mandate

Why is it important? Because it is biblical! Skipping church or not being part of a church is disobedience. Where do we find this? Hebrews 10:24-25 makes it clear,

“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.”

“I love Jesus but I don’t like the church. I will never leave Jesus but I’m done with the church” people who make such a statement are walking away from Jesus. In a sense, they are saying, “I love Jesus but I don’t submit to his Word” is a lie. “He who loves me will keep my commandment.” (John 14:15)

Jesus established the Apostles, (Ephesians 2:20) to be the foundation of the church and build it with prophets, teachers and pastors and ordained men, (1 Timothy 3:1-7) that there will be a structure of local churches in the body of Christ that is called the church.

 

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5. Witness to the World

What we spend our time on shows what we truly value. You make a statement to the world, that God is not a priority. Therefore, as a family what we spend time on, our thoughts on, our energy on, making decision on then it displays what our priorities and values are. We are making a claim that sin is more valuable than God.

So, if we decide on a Sunday morning as we rise and say, “I am going to decide rather to sleep in, go to a sporting event or mow a lawn” then in essence by action, we are saying that is more important than what Jesus has done for us over the power of sin.

On Christianity Today mentions children’s sports have become the biggest challenge to church attendance for American families. My immediate thought will be in this case is, “Show me in scripture where it justifies the way to gather together for worship?” At least in the New Testament, we don’t see that. It is to pray together, sing together, read God’s Word together, hear the preaching of His Word together. (Acts 2:42)

Danny Akin, President of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary said it well in an interview with ERLC. Athletics vs. Church? “Not a good decision to allow athletics to over ride, circumvent and get in the way of your commitment to Christ and the church. If you do (as parents), then the children will see church involvement is something we do only when it’s convenient and not something we do as a priority of life.”

 

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Why regular church attendance is so vital?

One of the lessons we can learn from the evangelical movement is that its central weakness was not epistemological. Its central weakness was not its commitment to the core doctrines of the Christian faith. It’s central weakness was ecclesiological – an undervaluing of the local church in particular. – Albert Mohler 

My ambition is not to shame the church, guilt the church, criticize the church as I am as a pastor, I am for the church, but instead to heighten the concern on the front of our minds as we shepherd, we see the urgency regenerate meaning of the understanding of the local church. 

4 Comments on “5 Dangers of Church Skipping

  1. I have developed a rather disjoined concept of “church”; I understand it as a big umbrella that covers the whole faith – but given different denominations, cults, sub-cultures, movements, and the occasional bad apple among the bushel – I tend to try not to treat all churches as equally “church” – as if it were a good environment with everything down perfectly. So to that end, my individualism preserves my understanding of faith and protects it from a bad corporate church / rotten apple kind of deal. I worry about the concept of mutual accountability because it’s always been particularly one-sided. Like the elders disciplining a member for asking too many questions or not being submissive enough, you never see members getting to discipline elders for their liberal use of discipline. Doctrine – that can mean many different things. Take the quote you had apart and you get: “The Local (?) church is a group of people covenanted (like signing membership contracts?) together to gather regularly for corporate worship, celebration of the ordinances (which ones?), ministering of the Word of God, leadership of qualified leaders (can women be a qualified leader?), submissive to the body (???) on mission for Christ and the world.” One of my churches said “Let your yes be yes, your no be no, anything else just isn’t of God.” That’s why they never “covenanted” or ordered us to sign membership contracts in order to be recognized as a member of the church. So what you have here is a case of differing doctrine under the umbrella of Christianity. Same goes for infant baptism vs adult baptism – differing doctrine, same faith. Would God mandate attendance to a bad chruch just because it’s The Law? Or would a sound individualism be preferrable? And on witness – sometimes you aren’t in charge of your schedule. I know I’m not. I often find myself working on Sundays, which is good because I don’t believe what the churches in this area tend to believe. I don’t like their music and they don’t like my theology, we’re not a match and I’m not keen on becoming their fixer-upper.
    The nearest I can figure is that regular church attendance is like getting a fix, at first, withdrawal is tough and you might show up sporadically to get another dose. But at some point you start missing it less and less. Because you’re not there often, you see that there are missing pieces – things that once seemed important are now less so. You start seeing cracks in the surface – how some of the goings-on are less about worshiping God and more about keeping people obedient and compliant through using God/Jesus as a mascot. Some churches are more blatant than others, some churches are subtle and would be alright if it weren’t for that one thing here or there. But once you’re drug-free, you start wondering what kind of worship God really wants. If not hymns or contemporary, then what? If it elder/deacon/pastor leadership or the body, then what? If not dresses and suits or comfortable clothes, then what? If not signed contracts and covenanted vows, then what? So much of it seems to be what we’re doing and have done to make church less about God – after all, he never once demanded that we sign a contract – it’s what people demand in his name.

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    • @JamieCarter,

      Those are good thoughts, as I ended my blog, my ambition is not to shame the church, guilt the church, criticize the church as I am as a pastor, I am for the church. There has been too many rocks thrown to the bride (local church) and that is not the intent. As Randy Alcorn said, “God’s Truth are not Bricks to be thrown at people. They are bread to feed people.”

      I think that’s important when speaking of the church is coming back to the biblical definition of what the church is.

      Speaking of Church polity, there is not one-size-fits all. What we understand from the scripture of Church government is that we just have to get the right person! Some may argue one over the other, but it is just not in scripture it self. What we know is that a pastor of a flock ought to be above reproach, (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6,7) husband of one wife, (1 Timothy 3:2,12; Titus 1:6) temperate, (1 Timothy 3:2) prudent, (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7,8) hospitable, (1 Timothy 3:2) able to teach, (1 Timothy 3:2) not addicted to wine, (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7) not quick tempered, (Titus 1:7) not pugnacious, (Titus 1:7) uncontentious, (1 Timothy 3:3) gentle, (1 Timothy 3:3) free from the love of money (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7) one who manages his own household well (1 Timothy 3:4) a good reputation with those outside the church (1 Timothy 3:7) loving what is good, (Titus 1:8) just, (Titus 1:8) devout, (Titus 1:8) and not a new convert. (1 Timothy 3:6)

      Mutual accountability is a biblical picture. Church discipline could be another blogpost as it is absolute foreign to our evangelical churches throughout the nation today, but as Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr said it well, “The absence of church discipline is no longer remarkable – it is generally not even noticed.” A church without this mark that is scriptural practice within the church and discipline leaves a church, Christ goes with it. A undisciplined church without mutual accountability with the oversight of elders (overseers/pastors) becomes a weak, flabby, foolish and unchaste church. Without church discipline we cannot grow to full maturity in Christ. The goal of a church must be to present to God every Christian “mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28) Why? For the church is called by Jesus, “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). This evangelistic work of declaring the gospel is the primary ministry that the church has toward the world. For better understanding, I will encourage you to read Matthew 18:15-20.

      Membership in the New Testament as we are speaking is not a dry, institutional, forma matter of paperwork. So to answer your question, “like signing membership contracts?” is not seen within scripture. Now, for many churches it has become, but that is not what is within the Bible itself. In order to change this culture of mutual accountability that is theologically rooted, we must first teach it clearly. But in order to teach it clearly, we must first understand it well as a church. I believe that begins from a proper expositional preaching, biblical theology and church discipleship and growth within the church.

      I believe that Jesus Christ himself builds the church by calling his people to himself. He promised “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18) and we understand Luke tells us that the growth of the church came not by human effort alone, but it was the work of God each day. (Acts 2:47) So the church was founded by Jesus, not myself. Paul didn’t find and build the church, but Christ himself. The gospel was given to the apostles and then to the apostles to the early church.

      I believe the one church of God is not an institutional but a supernatural entity which is in process of growth towards the world to come. It is the sphere of the action of the risen and ascended Lord. All its members are in Christ and are knit together by a supernatural kinship. All their gifts and activities continue the work of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, originate from Christ, and are co-ordinated by him to the final goal.

      Can woman be a qualified leader? That is an excellent question. The office of a pastor is given unto men, but I believe women can become Deaconess; “An office in early Church ministry. The only clear use of Gk. diákonos with reference to a woman is Rom. 16:1, where Paul introduces “our sister Phoebe” as a diákonos “of the church at Cenchreae” (the same form is used for masculine and feminine). The term here can be translated as the generic “servant” (e.g., KJV) or the specific “deacon” (e.g., NRSV) or “deaconess” (e.g., RSV). It is unlikely, however, that a separate order called deaconess then existed, since even by the time of the Pastoral Epistles no order separate from the office of the deacon is evident. Rather, women, probably female deacons, are mentioned in the middle (v. 11) of Paul’s counsel on the types of persons suited for the office of deacon (1 Tim. 3:8–13). These women are to possess exemplary personal traits.” so women are certainly called to leadership of no doubt. I believe when it comes to human sexuality, the greatest display of God’s glory, and the greatest joy of human relationships, and the greatest fruitfulness in ministry come about when the deep differences between men and women are embraced and celebrated as complements to each other. They complete and beautify each other. Woman are capable of exercising leadership! (Judges 4:4-5)

      According to Acts 20:28, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” how would a pastor be held accountable? To those who had a mutual commitment to the church. This can be read more in detail of my blog on #2 on Mutual accountability.

      Infant baptism could be another blog that has been argued for centuries, but the immediate thing that comes to my mind is where in the scripture do we see infant baptism? None.

      I wouldn’t say it’s a Law as we don’t see that in scripture. It is a biblical command he gives us to, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,” (Heb. 10:25) You can read this as well on the blog on #4 Biblical Mandate for further info.

      Individualism is a foreign idea to the Middles Eastern culture and we see this over and over throughout scripture. Such as the sin of Achan in Joshua 7: “Well, it’s his fault” like people suing companies such as McDonald’s for hot coffee and not warning. We are so individualistic culture to the point that we don’t want to own up. God turns and then says, “Israel you have sinned against me” (Joshua 7:10-11) As a result? The whole household of Achan was stoned to death. (vv. 18-26) This is hard for us to understand as Americans. For the Middle eastern culture, it was easy as they were not individualistic culture.

      Yes you are correct. We aren’t in charge of our schedule as God holds all things within his hand. However though, we are called to be good stewards of our time, talent and treasure. (Prov. 6:6-11) We will be judged by how we live here on earth earth. (Revelation 3:10) In another blog of, “The Eight ‘Ds’ of Personal Discipleship” I talked about in #2 I mentioned that if people say, “Well, I just don’t have enough time!” If you have too much to do, that you are not able to do what clear biblical mandate of God’s command, you can be sure it wasn’t God who gave it to you! This is the truth; the reality of the Gospel is that it’s either 100% true or 100% false. The fact that it’s 100% true should drastically change howe we live.

      Believe it or not, as much as you need the church, the church needs you too! 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 mentions that we are One Body with Many Members. If we neglect one gathering together, we are missing out. #3 on this blog mentions about this, though we cannot possibly love Jesus and not the church. The church is Christ bride and we get together. Theology is formed by the leadership of the church and under submission to the appointed leaders that Christ has established (Romans 13)

      Now, the church is not perfect. There are cracks and there are things that ought not to happen. Part of the problem is, the church is made up with bunch of broken people (sinners)! There is nothing as beautiful as the church, but there’s nothing as hurtful as the church as well. I will encourage you to pray for unity as God has chosen the local church as a vehicle of displaying the glory to the nations. You and I, we all need the church. Churches could look different from all throughout the culture. I mean, I’m Japanese and I see how different the Japanese church is compare to the American church! And it is beautiful and glorious.

      All this said, one of the fear I have is that over these disputed doctrines the danger is that Christians might be divided against each other. Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) I love my fellow Christians and want to encourage deeper unity in Christ. 

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      • Yes, there is quite a difference, however though there are many things that we agree upon. Let me start with what we do agree upon.

        They believe and hold that the Scripture is fully inspired. Each book in the Bible was written my men, who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write down the words of God. (2 Timothy 3:16) Scripture is both inerrant and infallible. The Bible holds no textual error and the Bible does not contradict itself. They believe that the nature and attribute of God as the Trinity. (Deut 6:4) They are all three are distinct persons. (Matt 3:16-17) The God head, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Each person being fully God. They believe that Jesus Christ was fully man. This starts with the virgin birth. Jesus was born through Mary, and had a physical human body. The virgin birth, conceived by the Spirit, proves His divine nature, thus showing that His divine nature and human nature were and are one. His human nature was not tainted by sin. (Matt 1:18-25) They believe the Holy Spirit came as the Parakletos (Comforter, Helper) and as an advocate before the Father to fulfill the promises to identify himself as the Son of God and Christ Himself the promised Messiah. (John 2:1; John 16:13; 1 Cor 2:9-10; Acts 2:1-14) They believe that God created man on the 6th day, and the Woman from the man’s rib. Man is distinctly different from the rest of creation. (Genesis 2) I believe that man was the only created being in God’s image. Man is created in the image God in respect to their mental, moral, relational, spiritual, and functional aspects. ( Genesis 1:26) The first sin that was caused was through Adam and Eve, when they doubted and disobeyed God’s teaching. (Genesis 3:7-24) They believe that salvation is the saving of man from the power and effect of sin. When men come to Christ we are truly saved as Jesus is called to save people. By God sending his only begotten Son Jesus Christ he has saved us from all consequences and in it’s result he has brought us to a vital relationship with himself. Salvation is then deliverance, preservation, from any danger (Acts 7:25, 25:31; Heb. 11:7) They believe the Church is Local and Universal. (Rom 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; 1 Thess 1:1) The people of God considered at any level from local to universal may rightly be called “a church.”

        Now, we do not want to be over simplistic by speaking of ALL Japanese churches that hold on to this stand as Evangelical Christians are only perhaps less than 0.3 % in Japan (2nd largest unreached country in the world today according to Urbana conference) At least for the church I was part of, I was able to see some of these things.

        Some of the differences can be obvious is custom, culture, tradition, language, values, background, geographical…. etc because of this, the way we approach the gospel in our missionary endeavor cannot be just replaced and packaged in the same way we do in America. Though the biblical timeless truth will never change, depending on the culture we approach them different. For example, during the Hellenistic movement of the period of ancient Greek (Hellenic) with Alexander the Great prior to Christ incarnation with the movement of Roman Empire, people were not the same in the Jewish custom. As Christ ascended to heaven (Acts 1:8) they had to think of a creative way to fulfill to be a witness to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. How do they do this? They could have stuck their own ways and said, “Well, OT is written in the Hebrew language so we should stick with it.” No. For the new testament they contextualized themselves appropriately and wrote it in the common language of Koine Greek. Was that wrong? Certainly not. They were thinking the culture and appropriately fit themselves. Another more recent one will be Hudson Taylor in the early 1800s who spend 51 years in China a British Protestant Christian missionary the founder of the China Inland Mission. (Today, known as OMF) He was a laughing stock as he dressed as a fellow Chinese and learned the language of Chinese in order to take the gospel into the nation rather than on the east cost where there were many missionaries. As my seminary professor said, “Students, when you study the Bible, context, context, context is the key to studying the Bible!” Context is crucial for everything, and that will be the case for the differences between Japanese church and American church. What you were speaking earlier about hymns vs. contemporary is a great example. I tell our church Sunday morning, “Wouldn’t it be inappropriate if I came in my Jammies this morning?” well contextually at home in the evening will be appropriate, not there on Sunday morning. As well as me speaking Japanese in our suburban, middle-class, white anglo context church. There’s nothing wrong about that, but contextually it will be inappropriate for myself. Singing hymns or contemporary is not the issue, we have to understand the context and the vision of the church in order to make those decisions.

        Another differences that we see are how they differ on issues that are secondary doctrinal issues. There are doctrinal foundation that we cannot disagree upon such as Jesus not being fully the Son of God, the Word of God is not truly the Word of God, we are good enough to earn ourselves to heaven, the Holy Spirit is the power source to make us into heaven, we believe in three different gods…. etc those are heretical stand and we must avoid with all that we have within us.

        As the book of Ecclesiastes said, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Eccl 1:9) These are not new things that we haven’t seen in the past. But what can we learn? We have to go to the basic. How do we do that? Go directly to the scriptures and begin to model a church that is basic fundamental that is theologically driven. In order to do that we need more faithful men and women studying the Word and committing themselves to full time ministry and we ought to pray for them daily. For they will be held accountable to a higher standard. (James 3:1)

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