Everyone's experience of church has been different. For me, I have been a part of a church since my conversion at age eighteen. However, some carry around old wounds and baggage from church hurts that resulted from poor leadership, unconfessed sin or differences of opinion. But is that a sufficient reason to give up on church?
Satan strikes when we are vulnerable, filling our heads with doubts and lies, downplaying the importance of church. Are you believing lies about church that prevent you from truly allowing yourself to belong to the community? Here are 8 lies you may believe right now:
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1. If I stop attending church, no one will miss me.
This is perhaps the biggest lie people tell themselves, especially if they have stopped going to church for a long time. One week leads to two weeks and before you know it, you can’t remember the last time you were there.
It is easy to justify your lack of attendance and feel like you are not missed. Yet, the Bible compares the body of Christ to our physical bodies: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you.’ Nor can the head say to the feet, ‘I do not need you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts we consider less honorable, we treat with greater honor. And our unpresentable parts are treated with special modesty” (1 Corinthians 12:21-23).
Whatever part you play in the body of Christ, you are needed. In terms of the physical bodies, there is no part that is not needed in the body. Even if you lost your appendix, your body would need adequate time to heal from the loss. In the same way, the local church you attend will need adequate time to heal from your loss. A body can’t be whole without all of its parts, and that includes you.
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2. If I stop going to church, I can always watch it on TV.
While it’s true you’ll receive the benefit of a sermon, church is more than just listening to a sermon or singing some songs. We were never meant to walk through our lives alone. We need each other to help, encourage, and challenge each other. While a sermon can challenge you from your seat, your brothers and sisters in Christ are there to challenge you when you walk out of the church doors and into the world.
Without my grandmother’s presence in my life, I don’t think I’d be where I am today. Similarly, without the aid of my kids’ preschool teacher, I would not have learned what I know now about writing. Because she took the time to teach me, I now can teach others what I have learned since then. I never would have received the mentoring I received from more seasoned Christians in my life, and I wouldn’t have the opportunity to pay it forward.
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3. I can’t use my gifts there.
Just because there are leaders that spearhead the various programs in the church doesn’t mean there is nowhere to serve. When someone is crying at the altar, who will pray for them? Who will pass them a tissue or wipe their tears? Who will offer an encouraging word or give them wisdom as to how to face their problems?
What’s awesome about spiritual gifts is that they are not all practiced in the spotlight. Some of the greatest servants are those people never see. They may be the ones cleaning toilets before Sunday or making food for the service at home the day before. God sees everything we do, from the worship leader singing into the microphone to the person who pops a get-well card into the mail for a fellow parishioner. Wherever you are gifted, there is a place for you. You just have to discover it.
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4. The church is full of hypocrites.
The church is not full of hypocrites. Rather, it is full of people who are trying to work out what their spiritual life looks like in their daily lives and how to apply biblical principles to a world that collides with their beliefs. Professing Christians are held to a higher standard. They are held against the biblical accounts of who Jesus was on this earth. Those are big shoes to fill! Is it any wonder they get it wrong sometimes?
Just as Jesus has grace with those He loves, so Christians need to have grace not only with others but with themselves. Christians are not perfect; just forgiven. Bear this in mind when deciding whether to go to church—it’s the place where broken people go to be made whole.
5. I have to go to a building to go to church.
The church is not a physical building. If your church building burns down tomorrow, you could still have church. The members of that church would gather in their homes, or a coffee shop, sing praises to God and teach the word to each other. The church still goes on whether they meet in a physical building or not. Pulling away from the community of church reveals a heart issue. While attending church does not necessarily indicate a changed life, a follower of Christ, whose life has been transformed by the gospel, will commit themselves to being with the body of Christ.
If your initial motivations for going to church have let you down, take a moment to check your heart. Start by worshipping where you are, inviting other believers with you. Feast on God’s word together. Praise the Lord through song. Seek out time with believers outside of church and strengthen those bonds of fellowship. Be Christ’s church as you walk through the world. You don’t need to be closed in by four walls.
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6. The Bible is irrelevant to my life.
This may feel very true for those who have never been shown how the Bible can be applied to their lives. Look at the world through a broader lens. That single mom who is struggling to raise her kids alone could relate to the woman at the well. The grumbling Christian who posts angry memes on Facebook about the world would benefit from looking at the eldest brother in the Lost Son parable found in Luke. That man who left his wife for another woman might find David’s story hits a bit too close to home.
Whatever the bible passage, there is a way to apply it to your life. There may not be a specific verse for every modern-day problem, but the themes of verses are universal: the world looks for love apart from Christ. The bible is God’s love letter to His children, beckoning them to return to Him so He can bind their wounds and welcome them home.
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7. Leaders don’t lead effectively within the church.
It is unfair to judge every church based on a select few churches. There will always be criticism of leadership in every church from those with opinions on how certain things should be done. But God has placed the leaders in your church where they are for a reason.
1 Peter 2:13-14 says, “obey all people who have authority in this world. Obey them, because that will make the Lord happy. Obey the king, who rules everyone. Also obey those officers of the government that the king has chosen to rule you.” A lay person’s job is not to criticize leaders but rather to obey and support them, submitting to their authority, even when they don’t agree with their leadership. Leaders are accountable to God for their actions. If the church has chosen well, they will have placed trustworthy leaders who know how to lead well and do what is right for the growth of the community, not just placate a minority.
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8. I have to be perfect to go to church.
In some cultural contexts, the church culture has consisted of perfectly dressed people who pretended to have no problems. With the proliferation of social media, however, lines have been blurred between what is private and public.
Movements like this have freed people to take off the church mask and be more authentic about their struggles. It is a sweet time to be a part of church, because it is filled with messed up people just like me!
Hebrews 10:25 says, “Do not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” We need each other just as much now as ever before. We need to encourage each other and stand in unity, not division. Consider being a part of a local church body so that we can grow together in the freedom of Christ.
Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children's Book of the Year, the Enduring Light Silver Medal and the Maxwell Award, she is a member of the Christian Author's Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She is also an associate literary agent with Wordwise Media Services. For more information, please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.
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Originally published Thursday, 04 April 2019.