“I don’t need to go to church; I can worship God at home.” “I’m too busy for church.” “The church is too full of hypocrites.” People make all kinds of excuses not to attend church.
Perhaps you are one of those people, or you know one of those people. I’d like to suggest 3 reasons why people who claim the name of Christ don’t go to church. I didn’t come up with these reasons while thinking of any one person, and I don’t list them in order to judge the heart of any Christian. God alone knows people’s motives. All I’m doing is listing 3 reasons why people don’t go to church – whether or not these are the reasons any individual would publicly state for their avoidance of worship with God’s people – in order to help you “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing” (Col. 1:10). May each of us pursue this worthy calling with all our hearts.
1. They are living a sinful lifestyle.
Some people don’t go to church because they are not right with God. They have embraced sin and are revelling in ungodliness like a pig in a mud puddle. The preaching, the music, and the fellowship of a church is painful to them, and so they stay away. As Spurgeon said, there must be a divorce between a person and sin, or there can be no marriage between them and Christ. Even a believer can commit spiritual adultery like this and break their marriage vows to Jesus, so to speak; naturally, then, they are not eager to experience the presence of Christ in a church.
2. They have been burned by the church.
Others don’t attend church regularly because of a terrible past experience. Perhaps a pastor failed morally and this shattered their confidence in church leaders; perhaps a Christian friend at a church stabbed them in the back and gave the knife a vicious twist, and they don’t want to experience that again.
People in churches can do terrible things – even pastors. I would never minimize the great pain many people have suffered because of the arrogance, deceit, and immorality of professing Christians in past years. Such people need to repent of their sin. But we need to remember that the proper way to deal with someone else’s sin is not to commit more sin ourselves. If we have sinned, then we, too, need to repent of that sin. Jesus died for the church; the church is infinitely precious to Him – warts and all; He commands His people to be faithful to her; how can we justify disobedience to Him?
3. They don’t think they need the church.
Some Christians may say, “I can worship God just fine at home, all by myself. I don’t need to be in a building to sing praises to God, to read and learn about the Bible, or even to have Christian friends.”
This is true, as far as it goes. But church attendance isn’t about being in a building; it’s about worshipping Jesus in the way He has chosen. Who am I to dictate to God the way I will worship Him? If He has chosen for believers to gather together to hear His Word preached and to celebrate baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and to encourage and edify each other, no amount of justification or reasoning from me can overcome that. Isn’t Jesus the Lord? Let us not be modern-day Uzzah’s who put out our hands to steady God’s ark with perfectly good reasons – but in disobedience to God. That pleases God no more than did Uzzah’s response – even if He does not smite us dead instantly for our sin because of His great mercy and love for us.
The above three reasons do not make up a complete list, but merely a representative one of common reasons why some Christians avoid church. Of course, these three reasons are describing Christians. I say that because people who avoid church could simply be unsaved! Their label of “Christian” may only be as accurate as a box labeled “Fresh Oranges” that is filled with used baby wipes. The label promises delicious fruit, but when you open the box your nostrils are assaulted by another fragrance entirely! God alone knows our hearts; I pray that none of you reading this page are surface-believers only. (Of course, many people who do not avoid church but go religiously Sunday after Sunday are also still unsaved! Church attendance does not a Christian make.)
The church can be a boring, unpleasant, dry, even spiritually acidic place. People who go to church can be mean-spirited and selfish. Sermons can be dustbowl-dry, and the music can be boring, unexciting, or even too exciting. Nevertheless, God commands His people to be faithful to a local assembly of believers where His Word is preached and the ordinances are observed. There are some places where there is not such a church – but if there is a such a church, it is the responsibility of God’s people to be faithful to it, in spite of the hypocrites there and with all its warts and blemishes. Let me emphasize this as kindly and as firmly as I can: There is no such thing as a Christian who is right with God who neglects faithful involvement with a gospel-preaching church.
If you find yourself in one of these descriptions, why not turn away from church neglect and start going to church? It doesn’t have to be the church I pastor; I would be thrilled to know that you are faithfully attending any gospel-preaching church. If you’re in our area, send me an e-mail; give me a phone call; I would love to help you and welcome you to our church, no matter what you have done or how long you have been away.