You Can’t Go To Church

I love going to the gym at 5:00 am. I like the physical exercise, the routine, the discipline and I like the group of guys I have met who have become friends of mine. We talk and laugh and work out. One Monday morning I was talking to one of my friends about his weekend. As he was telling me what he did, he mentioned to me that he watched church on Sunday. That statement flipped a switch in me.  I told my friend that it is impossible to watch church. It is impossible to go to a church. Church is not a religious service, and church is not a building. The church is the people of God. The church is the body of Christ. Church is not something you attend but it is who you are – and who we are collectively.

I know “watching church” has become common because of Covid-19 as churches were forced to shut down Sunday morning attendance for almost a year. I know that it was necessary but it has never set well with me. In fact, many aspects of church life during the pandemic have frustrated me.

I tried watching church. Maybe this is more of a reflection on me, but I soon found myself distracted and gave up all together. I knew, and you know too that this is not what Jesus meant when He said “I will build my church”. Jesus did not envision His church as a bunch of people sitting isolated from each other in their own homes. What Jesus envisioned was a body that is necessarily and intimately linked together with Him as the head. We can’t chop up the body into individual parts and stick them in different rooms and expect the body to function as a completed whole or even to function at all. When we “watch church” we strip away the intimate connection we have with one another. All the parts of our physical body are connected. We would never think of amputating all of our parts and separating them from each other. None of them would work. And I will tell you that if this is what you are settling for in your spiritual life then you have amputated yourself from your own body and you are spiritually dying.

Jesus did not envision His church as a bunch of people sitting isolated from each other in their own homes.

The sad reality is that even before Covid, many people attended church but were effectively shut off from the body. Walking into a church building, sitting in a chair, listening to a sermon and singing a couple songs is also not what Jesus had in mind when He envisioned His church. Most Christians have become spectators to religious activities and it has contributed to the rapid decline of the church in America. In 1980 60% of people in America attended a church service on any given Sunday. In January of 2020 – just 40 years later the national average was 33%. When the dust settles from Covid the number is projected to be 25%. From 60% to 25% in one generation. That does not sound like winning to me. There are many other factors that contribute to this statistic, but the sad truth is that the church has settled for a faith that is inactive, individualistic, and challenges us to nothing great, nor does it promise anything great. It holds no attraction to those who are not believers and is pushing away those who do believe because this kind of faith has been tried and found wanting.

I was driving through Houston recently and all over the city there were billboards advertising a local church. In big bold letters there were three words, “Listen”, “Watch”, “Attend”. That is the bar that has been set for what it looks like to follow Jesus. I believe this is what Jesus meant when He said, “So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16). Followers of Jesus do not just listen, watch and attend. They obey and follow. They fish for men. They count the cost. They deny themselves and pick of their cross. They serve and reach out to the poor and the outcast. We are not passive observers. We are active followers. We are not meant to do any of this in isolation. We are meant to do all of this in vital connection to one another and to Jesus.

It is impossible to go to church. The church is not a building. The church is you. The church is us together. We were never meant to be spectators of religious events. We were meant to be the hands and feet of Jesus – together. We were meant to live lives of radical obedience to the risen Savior. Whether you attend a religious service in person or online, don’t be seduced into thinking that your attendance at that service fulfills your obligation as a follower of Jesus. That is way too safe and it is not what Jesus had in mind. He desired us to follow and obey and serve and sacrifice, and love and give and pray and die. Don’t’ settle for “listen, watch, attend”.

If you are a follower of Christ I want to ask you a few questions. My prayer is that these questions will cause you to think and challenge you to move you to a greater obedience to Jesus and participation in the body of Christ.

  • Where do you actively engage with other believers in authentic, transparent relationships that encourage and challenge you to greater obedience?
  • Are you concerned with and actively engaged in the growth and maturity of others in the body of Christ or are you simply concerned with your “own personal relationship with Jesus”?
  • Are you actively engaged in fulfilling the Great Commission by discipling others into a relationship with Jesus?
  • Are there currently areas of your life that you are actively seeking to bring under the lordship of Jesus Christ?

I love the church. It is the bride and the body of Christ. I hope you will love the church too. If you have been turned off of church for any reason, my prayer is that you would not be turned off to Jesus. If you are interested in talking about what it means to be the church and not just go to church I would love to dialogue with you.

2 thoughts on “You Can’t Go To Church

  1. Amen, Pastor Paul! This is a good, strong wake-up call for the body of Christ. For those who are able-bodied, instead of listening and watching its time to love, pray, and encourage one another in person, and then go out to serve our city together!


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