I have heard numerous excuses for not attending church.  If I take those excuses and apply them to other things that we do (or don’t do), like eating, they might look something like this.

I don’t eat anymore because…

  • I was forced to eat as a child.
  • People who eat all of the time are hypocrites; they aren’t really hungry.
  • There are so many different kinds of food, I can’t decide what to eat.
  • I used to eat, but I got bored and stopped.
  • I only eat on special occassions, like Christmas and Easter.
  • None of my friends will eat with me.
  • I’ll start eating as I get older.
  • I don’t really have time to eat.
  • I don’t believe that eating does anybody any good.  It’s just a crutch.
  • Restaurants and grocery stores are only after your money.

We who are inside and outside a local church can come up with many excuses to keep us from the very thing that can bring nourishment.  When I find people who are not attracted to the Church (universal, not local), it is usually because they have not been exposed to an authentic Biblical community.  They simply have not seen the real thing.  What they have seen, however, is way too many believers and too many congregations play church.

Churches in the United States have a problem.  According to the Barna Research Group only 10-15% of Protestant churches are found to be effective.  George Barna defines the effective church in this way:

A ministry is effective when lives are transformed such that people are constantly enabled to become more Christ-like.  Effective ministries foster significant and continual changes in how people live.

In my years of involvement in youth ministry in both church and parachurch settings, I have found that youth (and people in general) are interested in Jesus, but it’s the local church that often is a stumbling block for them.

Each local body of believers should desire to be a contagious community that infects the world around them with the love of Jesus Christ.  People who are in the church should have the type of environment that fosters Christ-likeness, and people outside the church should see what is going on and desire to be a part of that.

In a short series of posts I am going to look at the Church in Jerusalem just as it is starting as a model of what a contagious community can look like.  We see a great snapshot right after Pentecost.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved, (Acts 2:42-47, ESV)

In this passage we see three aspects which helped make this community successful – contagious communities look up, contagious communities look in, and contagious communities also look out.  In my next post on this topic I’ll explore how the Jerusalem church looked up.

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28 comments
  1. You forgot one: “the Bible doesn’t say I have to eat to go to Heaven or be a good Christian.”

    Nice little analogy!

  2. You forgot one: “the Bible doesn’t say I have to eat to go to Heaven or be a good Christian.”

    Nice little analogy!

  3. You forgot one: “the Bible doesn’t say I have to eat to go to Heaven or be a good Christian.”

    Nice little analogy!

  4. The analogy – as fun as it is – is flawed in comparison. Food is a neccesity to life (everyone needs it) – and church is a neccesity to…? Life? Community? Family? A friendship w/God? I can say my introduction and first learning happened there about the Christ – maybe that? Analogy – flawed by the obviousness of comparing apples with cement blocks.

    I think you are right that community does mean a lot – I am in full agreeance. I do not attend a church and have not for like 8 years or so – but that doesn’t mean my actions have been the best route to take. At one point I was part of the church community (6 years) and those were very meaningful parts of my life and helped to build me into the person I am today – and I thank a whole community for that.

    However, here is my problem with it. What if you love the idea of community but are not accepted in it? What recourse do you take? Accept it or change – even if change means denying the reality of what you know?

    I fall into the rock and hard place category here. I love the church community – always have – there is such a greatness to it that can be absolutely useful no matter where the communities are situated. I would also say they can achieve so much and so many wonderful things for so many – and this is glorious to me. I do not hold to orthodox beliefs in general like inerrency, the trinity, atonement, etc. I can be part of the community but I can never lead one – which to me – seems kinda tragic? But this is where I am at – and to deny what I know now is to bascially ‘lie’ to myself just to ‘fit in’…and I ain’t doing the peer pressure thing anymore.

    But I am not alone here – I think many people feel this way – like community – but hate the structure. For good cause, at some point the community starts to hold the walls up – At the expense of relationship. For some of us – that’s not only been true – but also is the reason we gave up on the structure in the first place – rules began to mean more than humans. That’s why I have always loved the Acts 2 example – they got the community part right and people want to be there.

  5. The analogy – as fun as it is – is flawed in comparison. Food is a neccesity to life (everyone needs it) – and church is a neccesity to…? Life? Community? Family? A friendship w/God? I can say my introduction and first learning happened there about the Christ – maybe that? Analogy – flawed by the obviousness of comparing apples with cement blocks.

    I think you are right that community does mean a lot – I am in full agreeance. I do not attend a church and have not for like 8 years or so – but that doesn’t mean my actions have been the best route to take. At one point I was part of the church community (6 years) and those were very meaningful parts of my life and helped to build me into the person I am today – and I thank a whole community for that.

    However, here is my problem with it. What if you love the idea of community but are not accepted in it? What recourse do you take? Accept it or change – even if change means denying the reality of what you know?

    I fall into the rock and hard place category here. I love the church community – always have – there is such a greatness to it that can be absolutely useful no matter where the communities are situated. I would also say they can achieve so much and so many wonderful things for so many – and this is glorious to me. I do not hold to orthodox beliefs in general like inerrency, the trinity, atonement, etc. I can be part of the community but I can never lead one – which to me – seems kinda tragic? But this is where I am at – and to deny what I know now is to bascially ‘lie’ to myself just to ‘fit in’…and I ain’t doing the peer pressure thing anymore.

    But I am not alone here – I think many people feel this way – like community – but hate the structure. For good cause, at some point the community starts to hold the walls up – At the expense of relationship. For some of us – that’s not only been true – but also is the reason we gave up on the structure in the first place – rules began to mean more than humans. That’s why I have always loved the Acts 2 example – they got the community part right and people want to be there.

  6. The analogy – as fun as it is – is flawed in comparison. Food is a neccesity to life (everyone needs it) – and church is a neccesity to…? Life? Community? Family? A friendship w/God? I can say my introduction and first learning happened there about the Christ – maybe that? Analogy – flawed by the obviousness of comparing apples with cement blocks.

    I think you are right that community does mean a lot – I am in full agreeance. I do not attend a church and have not for like 8 years or so – but that doesn’t mean my actions have been the best route to take. At one point I was part of the church community (6 years) and those were very meaningful parts of my life and helped to build me into the person I am today – and I thank a whole community for that.

    However, here is my problem with it. What if you love the idea of community but are not accepted in it? What recourse do you take? Accept it or change – even if change means denying the reality of what you know?

    I fall into the rock and hard place category here. I love the church community – always have – there is such a greatness to it that can be absolutely useful no matter where the communities are situated. I would also say they can achieve so much and so many wonderful things for so many – and this is glorious to me. I do not hold to orthodox beliefs in general like inerrency, the trinity, atonement, etc. I can be part of the community but I can never lead one – which to me – seems kinda tragic? But this is where I am at – and to deny what I know now is to bascially ‘lie’ to myself just to ‘fit in’…and I ain’t doing the peer pressure thing anymore.

    But I am not alone here – I think many people feel this way – like community – but hate the structure. For good cause, at some point the community starts to hold the walls up – At the expense of relationship. For some of us – that’s not only been true – but also is the reason we gave up on the structure in the first place – rules began to mean more than humans. That’s why I have always loved the Acts 2 example – they got the community part right and people want to be there.

  7. First, I really enjoyed the post.

    Second, in response to societyvs:

    Shane said in his post: “When I find people who are not attracted to the Church (universal, not local), it is usually because they have not been exposed to an authentic Biblical community.”

    You perfectly illustrated his point when you said: “What if you love the idea of community but are not accepted in it?”

    God calls local churches to love and accept anyone and everyone. Not condone sin, but to care and meet the needs of anyone who comes.

    This post makes me think about Heb. 10:25 about “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” That sounds like a biblical mandate to me.

  8. First, I really enjoyed the post.

    Second, in response to societyvs:

    Shane said in his post: “When I find people who are not attracted to the Church (universal, not local), it is usually because they have not been exposed to an authentic Biblical community.”

    You perfectly illustrated his point when you said: “What if you love the idea of community but are not accepted in it?”

    God calls local churches to love and accept anyone and everyone. Not condone sin, but to care and meet the needs of anyone who comes.

    This post makes me think about Heb. 10:25 about “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” That sounds like a biblical mandate to me.

  9. First, I really enjoyed the post.

    Second, in response to societyvs:

    Shane said in his post: “When I find people who are not attracted to the Church (universal, not local), it is usually because they have not been exposed to an authentic Biblical community.”

    You perfectly illustrated his point when you said: “What if you love the idea of community but are not accepted in it?”

    God calls local churches to love and accept anyone and everyone. Not condone sin, but to care and meet the needs of anyone who comes.

    This post makes me think about Heb. 10:25 about “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” That sounds like a biblical mandate to me.

  10. Hey Society – you can only take an analogy so far – it was meant more for comic relief than to make a real serious point. There are no perfect analogies.

    That being said … the Church is a necessity to spiritual life (one could argue physical life when looking at the early church), to community, and to a relationship with God.

    Also one other thing – maturity. While one can be a follower of Christ without being part of a local congregation, I have encountered very few mature ones. BSCollins is right that you kind of make my point, though you are coming at it from a different angle as we would, I’m sure, define judging and acceptance differently.

  11. Hey Society – you can only take an analogy so far – it was meant more for comic relief than to make a real serious point. There are no perfect analogies.

    That being said … the Church is a necessity to spiritual life (one could argue physical life when looking at the early church), to community, and to a relationship with God.

    Also one other thing – maturity. While one can be a follower of Christ without being part of a local congregation, I have encountered very few mature ones. BSCollins is right that you kind of make my point, though you are coming at it from a different angle as we would, I’m sure, define judging and acceptance differently.

  12. Hey Society – you can only take an analogy so far – it was meant more for comic relief than to make a real serious point. There are no perfect analogies.

    That being said … the Church is a necessity to spiritual life (one could argue physical life when looking at the early church), to community, and to a relationship with God.

    Also one other thing – maturity. While one can be a follower of Christ without being part of a local congregation, I have encountered very few mature ones. BSCollins is right that you kind of make my point, though you are coming at it from a different angle as we would, I’m sure, define judging and acceptance differently.

  13. “You perfectly illustrated his point when you said: “What if you love the idea of community but are not accepted in it?”” (bscollins)

    What’s actually odd about that is nobody even answered it – but offered idealistic points of view – which I understand and make all the sense in the world (ie: mandate or maturity).

    “the Church is a necessity to spiritual life…While one can be a follower of Christ without being part of a local congregation, I have encountered very few mature ones” (Shane)

    I would say I meet quite a few people that have left the church to only find their spirituality has become greater than they even expected – mainly due to the fact the church was close minded on ideas these people were looking into. There are those that leave and find trouble – true – but again – why leave such a great place for something so much less ‘great’? See, that’s the problem – people have reasons and I think the church almost refuses to believe they just might be pushing some people out the door unintentionally.

    I also think idealism is good – don’t get me wrong – but it needs to peppered with reality also. Now if everyone has a great church experience – I have no real basis for any single thing I say – but if we do see people dis-satisfied with church – then let’s at least ask ‘why’ and find solutions.

  14. “You perfectly illustrated his point when you said: “What if you love the idea of community but are not accepted in it?”” (bscollins)

    What’s actually odd about that is nobody even answered it – but offered idealistic points of view – which I understand and make all the sense in the world (ie: mandate or maturity).

    “the Church is a necessity to spiritual life…While one can be a follower of Christ without being part of a local congregation, I have encountered very few mature ones” (Shane)

    I would say I meet quite a few people that have left the church to only find their spirituality has become greater than they even expected – mainly due to the fact the church was close minded on ideas these people were looking into. There are those that leave and find trouble – true – but again – why leave such a great place for something so much less ‘great’? See, that’s the problem – people have reasons and I think the church almost refuses to believe they just might be pushing some people out the door unintentionally.

    I also think idealism is good – don’t get me wrong – but it needs to peppered with reality also. Now if everyone has a great church experience – I have no real basis for any single thing I say – but if we do see people dis-satisfied with church – then let’s at least ask ‘why’ and find solutions.

  15. “You perfectly illustrated his point when you said: “What if you love the idea of community but are not accepted in it?”” (bscollins)

    What’s actually odd about that is nobody even answered it – but offered idealistic points of view – which I understand and make all the sense in the world (ie: mandate or maturity).

    “the Church is a necessity to spiritual life…While one can be a follower of Christ without being part of a local congregation, I have encountered very few mature ones” (Shane)

    I would say I meet quite a few people that have left the church to only find their spirituality has become greater than they even expected – mainly due to the fact the church was close minded on ideas these people were looking into. There are those that leave and find trouble – true – but again – why leave such a great place for something so much less ‘great’? See, that’s the problem – people have reasons and I think the church almost refuses to believe they just might be pushing some people out the door unintentionally.

    I also think idealism is good – don’t get me wrong – but it needs to peppered with reality also. Now if everyone has a great church experience – I have no real basis for any single thing I say – but if we do see people dis-satisfied with church – then let’s at least ask ‘why’ and find solutions.

  16. Society I think you can look to future posts on this topic as this post was an introduction. I also think that some answers were explored in the UnChristian Book Summary I did as well.

    Your experience with people growing spiritually and mine are quite different. I think that we would define growing spiritually quite differently though. To me to grow spiritually is to become more Christ-like. Ultimately it is the work of the Holy Spirit, but is best accomplished in the fellowship with Christ’s bride, the Church. For instance when you look through the Pauline epistles and see numerous “one another” commands (I believe there are 37 or so of them), how is that to be accomplished outside of fellowship with followers of Jesus Christ?

  17. Society I think you can look to future posts on this topic as this post was an introduction. I also think that some answers were explored in the UnChristian Book Summary I did as well.

    Your experience with people growing spiritually and mine are quite different. I think that we would define growing spiritually quite differently though. To me to grow spiritually is to become more Christ-like. Ultimately it is the work of the Holy Spirit, but is best accomplished in the fellowship with Christ’s bride, the Church. For instance when you look through the Pauline epistles and see numerous “one another” commands (I believe there are 37 or so of them), how is that to be accomplished outside of fellowship with followers of Jesus Christ?

  18. Society I think you can look to future posts on this topic as this post was an introduction. I also think that some answers were explored in the UnChristian Book Summary I did as well.

    Your experience with people growing spiritually and mine are quite different. I think that we would define growing spiritually quite differently though. To me to grow spiritually is to become more Christ-like. Ultimately it is the work of the Holy Spirit, but is best accomplished in the fellowship with Christ’s bride, the Church. For instance when you look through the Pauline epistles and see numerous “one another” commands (I believe there are 37 or so of them), how is that to be accomplished outside of fellowship with followers of Jesus Christ?

  19. “Ultimately it is the work of the Holy Spirit, but is best accomplished in the fellowship with Christ’s bride, the Church.” (Shane)

    I am not denying that one iota – however – to become Christ-like does not require a church but fellowship. I seem to recall a strange fact – Jesus’ community was not located in the church of the day – but in the wide open skies of the plains of Israel. There is no true ‘hard and fast’ rule to where one finds their community.

    “For instance when you look through the Pauline epistles and see numerous “one another” commands (I believe there are 37 or so of them), how is that to be accomplished outside of fellowship with followers of Jesus Christ?” (Shane)

    The gospels also point to ‘one another’ commandments – ie: ‘love your neighor’ or ‘do unto others as you would want done to you’ – on these hang the Torah and Prophets. However, this means the way we treat every single person we meet – whether in a church community or outside that community. Following the ‘one another’ commandments is something we live – in the community and out of it.

    I personally like community – however – I do not have one per se (a church one anyways). But I am on the outside of those communities looking in – again – namely due to some doctrinal issues (which would ultimately mean I can have no position of meaning). For me, going to a community like that is quite self-defeating and de-values my abilities. I guess it’s a catch 22 of sorts.

  20. “Ultimately it is the work of the Holy Spirit, but is best accomplished in the fellowship with Christ’s bride, the Church.” (Shane)

    I am not denying that one iota – however – to become Christ-like does not require a church but fellowship. I seem to recall a strange fact – Jesus’ community was not located in the church of the day – but in the wide open skies of the plains of Israel. There is no true ‘hard and fast’ rule to where one finds their community.

    “For instance when you look through the Pauline epistles and see numerous “one another” commands (I believe there are 37 or so of them), how is that to be accomplished outside of fellowship with followers of Jesus Christ?” (Shane)

    The gospels also point to ‘one another’ commandments – ie: ‘love your neighor’ or ‘do unto others as you would want done to you’ – on these hang the Torah and Prophets. However, this means the way we treat every single person we meet – whether in a church community or outside that community. Following the ‘one another’ commandments is something we live – in the community and out of it.

    I personally like community – however – I do not have one per se (a church one anyways). But I am on the outside of those communities looking in – again – namely due to some doctrinal issues (which would ultimately mean I can have no position of meaning). For me, going to a community like that is quite self-defeating and de-values my abilities. I guess it’s a catch 22 of sorts.

  21. “Ultimately it is the work of the Holy Spirit, but is best accomplished in the fellowship with Christ’s bride, the Church.” (Shane)

    I am not denying that one iota – however – to become Christ-like does not require a church but fellowship. I seem to recall a strange fact – Jesus’ community was not located in the church of the day – but in the wide open skies of the plains of Israel. There is no true ‘hard and fast’ rule to where one finds their community.

    “For instance when you look through the Pauline epistles and see numerous “one another” commands (I believe there are 37 or so of them), how is that to be accomplished outside of fellowship with followers of Jesus Christ?” (Shane)

    The gospels also point to ‘one another’ commandments – ie: ‘love your neighor’ or ‘do unto others as you would want done to you’ – on these hang the Torah and Prophets. However, this means the way we treat every single person we meet – whether in a church community or outside that community. Following the ‘one another’ commandments is something we live – in the community and out of it.

    I personally like community – however – I do not have one per se (a church one anyways). But I am on the outside of those communities looking in – again – namely due to some doctrinal issues (which would ultimately mean I can have no position of meaning). For me, going to a community like that is quite self-defeating and de-values my abilities. I guess it’s a catch 22 of sorts.

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