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1. How to Go to Heaven
2Basic Bible Doctrine in 94 Lessons
3. Unborn Black Lives Matter
4. Is Killing Ever Right?
5. The Role of Government
6. Should the Book of James Be in the Bible?
7. What Does the Bible Say About Love, Marriage, and Sex?
8. Did Noah's Curse Turn Ham's Skin Black?
9. Should We Eat Pork?
10What Do Evangelicals Believe?
11Frequently Asked Bible Questions
12What About Apparent Discrepancies in the Bible?
13American and Corinth:  Churches Molded by Their Cultures
14. Believe - A Synopsis of the Entire Bible
15Is the Bible Complete?
16. What Are Spiritual Gifts?
17. The Christian Life
18. A Summary of the book of Jeremiah
19. Pagan Influence Upon Roman Catholicism
20. What is Prayer (and Does God Answer)?
21. The Problem With Taxes
22. Do Christians Sin (1 John 1:8 vs. 1 John 3:9)?
23. How Do We Reconcile Science to the Bible?
24. Top Ten Bible Verses
25. I'm Not Proud to Be An American
26. True Christianity - The Doctrines of the Epistles
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28Why I Don't Go To Church
29How I Want to Die (My End of Life Strategy)
30. The Book of Philippians

Index to All Bible Questions
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4. The Book of Philippians
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Why I Don't Go to Church

I'm a God-fearing Christian, an avid Bible reader, and a believer in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.  I've been a Christian for nearly 50 years, and I've spent thousands of hours in Bible study, prayer, and church service.  I believe that Jesus Christ established His church for the unity and edification of believers; yet, I don't currently attend church on a regular basis.  How can this be? 

I'm not proud of the fact that I don't attend church regularly.  I lose the potential for enrichment every time I don't go, and I offer no excuses.  This writing is as much of an indictment against myself as against the church.  I even harbor a certain amount of shame, guilt, and embarrassment about it.  We have met all of our best friends in church, and it breaks my heart to think of the blessings that I'm missing by not going now.  If you have found a church that truly teaches the Bible, and edifies and encourages you, then God bless you--I could learn much from you.  However, I've decided to be completely honest here, and devote this writing to my sad predicament, in hope of encouraging others who might be in the same situation. 

(Skip the theology and history, and just tell me why you don't attend church.)

Obedience

First of all, I believe in obeying God's commandments, especially those in the New Testament epistles.  While cases can be made that we need not obey certain Old Testament laws, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the entire Bible was inspired by God, but that the epistles were written specifically by Christians, to Christians, about Christians, and for the benefit of Christians.  When I read through these epistles, I can easily summarize Christ's expectations of our obedience into ten distinct categories.  In what seems to be the order of importance (as emphasized, repeated, etc.), these are: 

1) Grace - We are expected to understand grace (2 Corinthians 8 and 9), and we are to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). 

2) Salvation - We are to understand that salvation is by grace (Ephesians 2:5)--one reason for first understanding what grace is--and that salvation is through faith alone (Galatians 2:16). 

3) Newness of life - We must realize that when a person believes the gospel (John 3:16), he actually becomes a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:10) with a new living spirit (Romans 7:6).

4) Pleasing God - We must know that the purpose of our lives is to bring glory to God, and to please Him (2 Corinthians 5:9, 1 Timothy 6:16).  We do this in a variety of ways, including:  faith (Hebrews 11:6), love (1 Corinthians 13:13); truth (Ephesians 6:14); prayer (Ephesians 6:18); thanksgiving (2 Corinthians 4:5); morality (1 Corinthians 6:18); doing good and sharing (Hebrews 13:16); being kind, patient, and gentle (2 Timothy 2:24-25); avoiding evil (Galatians 5:19-21); and, offering praise and worship to God (James 5:13)

5) Humility - We are charged to live godly, holy, and quiet lives (1 Timothy 2:2), actually considering others as being more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). 

6) Learning - We must understand the importance of Bible study (Ephesians 6:17).  How can we obey God if we don't know what His commandments are (John 14:15)? 

7) Prayer - We must learn to pray, with both thanksgiving and supplication (Philippians 4:4-9), without asking with the wrong motives (James 4:3). 

8) Evangelism (Matthew 28:19-20)--Again, how can we share what we don't truly understand?  How can we expect Christians to evangelize the world when they don't even understand the gospel message themselves? 

9) The Church - The purpose of the church is to equip the believers through encouragement and edification (Ephesians 4:1-16, 1 Corinthians 14:31). 

10) Judgment - We believers need to understand that we will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 14:10).  Although our salvation is eternally secure, we will be rewarded in eternity according to our deeds in this life. 

Of course, this is subjective, but it's how I read the Scriptures.  Now, let's take a deeper look at the church

The Purpose of the Church

We are fortunate to have a passage of Scriptures that clearly defines the purpose of the church, and gives us an outline for what a local church should be and do.  Ephesians 4:1-16 explains that the church is all about unity and personal maturity: 

Verse 3 tells us to "preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."  Church is about unity, the Holy Spirit, and peace.  Verses 4 through 6 explain that there is one body, one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God--who is over all, through all, and in all.  The church is supposed to be unified in a single body under Jesus Christ, consisting of believers who are indwelt by the same Spirit, but who, as individuals, bring different spiritual gifts to the table (verses 7-11).  Christ gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers. 

Now, when all of these unified believers come together in peace amidst one Spirit under Christ, what is their purpose?  Are they there to learn the philosophy of the world?  No, verse 12 says that they are there "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ."  Verse 13 goes on to say that this equipping and building up is to continue "until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." 

Verse 14 tells us that we should no longer be like young children in the faith, "tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, craftiness in deceitful scheming." 

Instead, verse 15 says that we are to speak the truth in love, and are to grow up in all aspects into Christ.  Verse 16 says that the church came from Christ, "being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." 

Historical Overview of the Church

Through the centuries, the church gotten out of control, and it's still evolving.  I fear, however, that any evolution of the church, from the first century model, is actually degradation--not improvement.  If the church changed from the (perfect) first century model, then it got worse, not better.  As it continues to change, it keeps straying further and further from perfection. 

The concept of unity somehow evolved into one of control.  Church leaders have forever been caught up with the idea that Christianity needs to be an organization with an official human government of sorts, so that it can be centralized, controlled, and monitored.  As a result, the church is polluted with power struggles akin to those around any corporate board. 

This notion probably began with Ignatius of Antioch in 110 AD (probably due to a mentality of Greek philosophy that elevated the search for "truth" above the search for God).  Ignatius saw a need for centralizing authority over Christians; he distorted the meaning of the Scriptures; and, he modeled the church hierarchy after the government of the Roman Empire of his time.  Bishops were given authority over their own set of house churches, and the house churches had elders and deacons.  Believers were expected to submit to the authority of the bishops just like they would submit to God.  They were to follow the leadership of the elders as though they were apostles; and, they were to accept the leadership of the deacons just like they accepted the authority of the Bible.  It is easy to see how this hierarchy then evolved into the Catholic church with a pope yielding ultimate power. 

In about 800 AD, Charlemagne expanded the control over churches.  Bible study was dictated by an elite group, and prepared sermons were delivered to the church leaders.  Throughout the centuries, popes, bishops, and priests remained very effective in squelching the priesthood of the believer. 

One of the reasons that the Crusades were conducted was in order to "unify" the church, and this resulted in killing Muslims, Jews, and even Christians.  Also, the terrible Inquisition "against heresy" was all done in the name of unifying Christendom. 

The Reformation resulted in a solid break from this idea of control, and the reformers were somewhat effective in their movement to place the focus back upon the individual.  In the 16th century, with the aid of the printing press, Tyndale published the first widespread Bible for non-clergy individuals, and Luther re-emphasized an individual relationship with, and responsibility to, God, as opposed to a corporate/church relationship. 

However, power struggles again quickly proliferated through the leadership ranks of the Protestant church as well.  Churches began splitting over control and theological issues, and they were quick to "organize" themselves into hierarchical groups again.  One group has their own "pet" theological issue, so they pool their money, build their headquarters, elect their officers, and have their own conventions--all under the controls of state, national, and global leadership. 

I cannot help but see an analogy here between the nation of Israel and the church.  In 1 Samuel 8:5-6, the people of Israel told Samuel, "Give us a king to lead us, like all the other nations have."  Then, in verses 11-18, he warned the people what it would mean to be like other nations: 

“This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots.  Some he will assign ... to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons ...  He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.  He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants.  He will take a tenth (a tithe) of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants.  ...  The best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use.  He will take a tenth (a tithe) of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.  When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.” 

Verses 19 and 20 say, "But the people refused to listen to Samuel.  'No!' they said.  'We want a king over us.  Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” 

The church wanted to be like "all the other nations," in that they wanted to be governed like a nation.  The church also asked for a "king" of sorts, and they got what they asked for with the succession of popes, etc.  However, the church is not like other organizations.  It is a one-of-a-kind organism, governed by the Son of God Himself. 

Why I Don't Go

I have identified ten reasons (from my personal experiences) why I don't go to church:  

1) Misguided Teaching

I believe that church has become a place where a person is involved in multiple activities that take his eye off of Christ, grace, Bible doctrine, and prayer.  The level of involvement in these activities have somehow made up the identity of that person.  The Christian community holds him in such great esteem for his "Christian service," much the same as his community would do in non-Christian circles, so that people can see that he's a significant person.  

In 1988, we had been actively involved in a church for many years, but we decided to change churches because we believed that our pastor was not effectively preaching the truth.  We didn't want to become like some people who just hop from church to church, so we were determined to find the right church.  We researched the hundreds of nearby churches, and visited many different churches, week after week.  We finally found a church that we felt God was leading us to--a Bible church

I was taken aback by our journey to find the right church.  It was almost unbelievable how most churches did not preach the truth.  Indeed, it seemed as though most churches were producing exactly what Ephesians 4:14 warns us about:  being young children in the faith, "tossed about by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, craftiness in deceitful scheming." 

Most people weren't attending church in order to be edified.  They just wanted to be pacified, and pastors were willing to feed their hunger for secular, inspirational messages; cute stories; clever presentations; emotional appeals; and, salesmanship.  The sermons were usually a nice philosophical challenge like one would hear at a secular event, with a distantly related Bible verse thrown in so that it could be called a sermon instead of just a speech.  Also there was usually an appeal for money, because it seems that most churches have a perpetual cash flow problem--which would seem to put the management of the leadership into question. 

In fact, most churches seem to foster the idea of guilt.  They make people feel guilty if they don't continue coming back.  However, guilt is a sin, and churches should not use this ploy.  They should instead cause people to want to come back because they're being edified and encouraged, and understanding the Bible so well. 

However, the pastors were also telling the people plenty of what they wanted to hear, and the people were keeping it coming by continuing to give their money to the churches.  However, the result was that the dumbed-down messages were producing people who were still ignorant about God's Word, and what He wants us to be.  The pastors were even dumbing themselves down by preaching these false messages week after week.  They had forsaken the Greek and Hebrew skills they had learned in the seminary, and they were settling for presenting the inspirational type of messages that the people wanted to hear--those messages that would keep them coming back, with their money.  These pastors were honing their presentation skills instead of their Bible study skills.  They usually organized their sermons by way of a clever acronym, and tried to include enough humor to make the congregation feel relaxed and comfortable.  Plus, many people had found that church was a great place to make business contacts. 

It would be common knowledge among believers that most people in most churches are quite ignorant about the Word of God, since most churches don't stress this as a priority.  However, it was very frightening to learn that this ignorance prevails even in Bible churches that presumably teach the Bible. 

How do I know that people are so ignorant?  I've asked them.  Here's a challenge for you:  Walk up to some long-time church members (or some people in leadership positions) and ask them how to get to heaven.  You'll be astounded at the answers you receive--usually some sweet story about being good, living right, loving people, or improving the world, but seldom just the simple gospel message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross to save us from our sins. 

Now, back to our "Bible church":  On one occasion, I had a specific concern, and I communicated the issue to the board of elders, along with supporting Scripture references.  After a review by the elder board, one of the elders told me, "We don't accept those Scriptures."  Say what?  A Bible church doesn't accept Scriptures from the Bible?  Now, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that he just used a poor choice of words.  Perhaps he meant, "We disagree with your analysis," or, perhaps, "We don't believe that you've applied those Scriptures appropriately."  Still, I believe that his quote was quite telling.

I also see the ignorance of church members because visitors to my web site send me Bible questions.  Here's a recent one:  "Are there any babies or old people in heaven, and if not where are the scriptures to back it up?  I asked this in my Church, but no scriptures were given to back up what they told me."  (FYI, although this isn't the point here, I explained the doctrine of the imputation of sin in Romans 5:12; salvation by grace through faith alone, as taught in Galatians 2:16; and, and King David's experience with the death of his newborn son in 2 Samuel 12:22-23.) 

Another recent question said, "I had an abortion... Will God ever forgive me?" (I explained temporal and eternal forgiveness, the plan of salvation, and eternal security.)  

Here's the point:  How well are our churches teaching the Bible if the pews are filled with people like these poor ignorant women?  They're understandably concerned about an issue close to their heart; they're directing questions to their church leaders; they're unable to get their questions answered; and, they're too distracted by these specific issues to go on learning any deeper truths.  Time after time, I receive questions from long-time church-going Christians who haven't been taught the Word of God, and this really bothers me.  In general, people are more concerned about mystical things, miracles, and the end times than they are about living the Christian life to the glory of God.  Hebrews 5:12 says, "Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!"  

A recent Barna Group survey revealed:  

- 46% of churchgoing Americans say that their life has not changed a bit due to their church attendance.  

- 60% said that they could not recall an important new religious insight from their last church visit.  

Clarence Thomas wrote that he found the church to be hopelessly irrelevant on social issues.  Regarding racial issues, he said, "Yet the Church remained silent...  I parted ways with the Church."  

2) Ignorance of Grace

In addition to the prevailing ignorance of church-goers in general, it's even worse when the basic fundamentals of Bible-believing Christianity are missing.  The doctrine of grace sets Christianity apart from all other faiths, and yet I don't hear much grace being preached in our churches.  Ask the average church member what grace is, and then get ready to fall out of your pew, because they have no idea.  As previously referred to, ask them what "salvation by grace" means, and again prepare for disappointment.  The answers, whether referring to salvation or to living the Christian life, will more often than not reflect (the very opposite idea of) legalism--salvation by works, or at least partially by works, or trying to do good deeds instead of living a Spirit-led life. 

When we're hung up on legalist issues (like drinking, tithing, honoring certain days, Catholic rituals, and countless others), we're unable to carry on with the important facets of Christianity, such as bringing glory to God by living the Christian lifestyle.  Isaiah 1:11-15 shows us what God thinks of such legalism: 

“'The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me?' says the LORD. 'I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.  When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts?  Stop bringing meaningless offerings!  Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.  Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being.  They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.  When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening.  Your hands are full of blood!" 

Likewise, Colossians 2:16-19 says, "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.  Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind.  They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow." 

3) A Relaxed Attitude Toward Prayer

I'm unaware of much prayer going on in most churches, although I could be wrong about this.  Yes, quite often a church service starts or finishes with a brief prayer, directed more toward the congregation than toward God, but I just don't see a truly effective ministry of prayer.  Yes, I hear verbal pleas from church leaders for prayer requests, and I hear the congregation adding to the list, but once the list is established, I hear hardly any prayer for those items.  Yes, I see a full page of prayer requests, in small print in the bulletin, but I'm still almost unaware of the prayer. 

E.M. Bounds said, "Lazy, heartless, feeble, and indifferent praying by us mars and hinders the effects of Christ’s praying." 

4) Use of Finances

I see our churches collecting a lot of money from well-meaning members, but how is most of that money used?  Most of it (almost all of it) seems to be used to simply keep the self-feeding organism of Christendom alive, by paying staff salaries and building new buildings. 

What happened to Paul's example of tent-making?  Why do we insist on the model of "professional" staff members (as in any other "profession")?  Why can't our leaders have other jobs that fund their own lifestyle, like everyone else, and then serve God with their time and money, like everyone else? 

Why do we insist on the finest buildings, etc.?  Are Protestants trying to rival the fine cathedrals of Catholicism?  When we do find a church that's smart enough to rent weekend facilities from a school, we usually discover that it's only a temporary situation until they can start a building fund. 

Perhaps this is because most people believe that our current system is serving us just fine. The staff members earn a good living from their ministries, and the church members are satisfied because they've made a sacrifice by contributing their money (thus, perhaps, freeing themselves of further responsibilities, such as making sure that their money is put to good use.) 

There are plenty of opportunities for giving outside the local church.  I know that I may be wrong, but I don't see how it glorifies God to give to a church that spends 95% of its money on buildings and salaries, and only 5% on real missions. 

5) Loss of Integrity

Here's a personal story from that (highly respected) Bible church that I mentioned.  As with previous churches, we became quite involved in that one--attending regularly, and faithfully, giving our money and time--teaching Sunday School, serving on committees, etc.  One of the committees that I served on was the Missions Committee.  The church was still relatively new, and one of the things that had initially impressed me about it was its commitment to missions.  The church was so mission-minded that it had made the following commitment:  Within five years, 50% of the money collected by the church would be spent directly upon missions; i.e., funding its own missionaries, on both foreign and domestic mission fields. 

I was still serving on the Missions Committee toward the end of that five-year period.  By that time, it was still spending only about 5% to 10% of its money on missions.  I was praying expectantly about the transformation that God was about to work in that church when it suddenly honored its commitment and shifted its focus onto missions.  So what happened?  The elders simply changed their minds, and the church reneged on its word, while most of the congregation remained quite oblivious to all of it.  (Unfortunately, I couldn't partake of this blissful ignorance since I was privy to this otherwise secret information, because of my participation on the committee.) 

Yes, the elders (an insiders' group of young (?) rich guys) just changed their mind, and decided that the church would not be spending 50% of its money on missions.  Apparently they had received a message from God that the current 5% to 10% would do just fine.  (I sometimes wonder if they didn't owe a refund to all of the church members who had been giving their money for five years, based upon false pretenses.) 

If we can't find integrity in the church, then where can we expect to find it (1 Timothy 3:4-5)? 

Mohandas Gandhi once said, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."  

6) Confusion About Church Attendance

Hebrews 10:24-25 says, "... let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another..." 

You know how some verses are often taken out of context.  Well, this is one of those verses that is often "taken out of priority."  It suits the church-goer so well, that it's truths are elevated above others. 

One problem with "assembling together" in this verse is that it's isolated.  One of the rules of hermeneutics is that we can't build a doctrine on a single verse, and it's difficult to find other examples of this teaching in the Scriptures.  I'm not saying that this verse isn't valid.  It is valid, and we need to obey it.  However, we have taken this verse and built upon it whenever we have a drive for membership or funds.  We act like all of Christ's other commandments for us are secondary to this one.  In fact, this passage is also telling us to love others, to do good deeds, and to encourage each other (Ephesians 4:1-16), and all of these things are adamantly reiterated throughout the Scriptures. 

I'm just saying that, if one had to quantify these commands in order of importance, the "assembling together" would be lower on the list than most of the others--not higher.  In other words, the Bible isn't very adamant about church attendance.  In addition, it doesn't give any details about assembling together.  The first century Christians were completely autonomous--just meeting in homes, without reporting to anyone, and they probably didn't even meet on a truly "regular" basis.  They just got together, ate a meal, sang songs of praise, and read God's Word.  In addition, this verse says that this was "the habit of some," implying both that it was the habit of some believers, as opposed to a command from God, and that it was not the habit of all believers. 

We don't have a lot of guidance on this in the epistles, but perhaps we can use the Jewish synagogues and temples of Jesus' day in an analogy.  In Matthew 6:2 and 5, He cited the hypocrites in the synagogues who lusted for attention.  In Matthew 23:6, He noted the pride that was fostering competition for "the best seats" in the synagogue.  In Matthew 21:12, He drove those from the temple who were buying and selling there (using it for business purposes).  Also, Isaiah 1:13 says, "I cannot bear your worthless assemblies." 

By the way, in my own case, I truly have trouble knowing how to justify (quantify) "regular" attendance.  I do attend regularly, just not every week.  So, even though I've stated that I don't attend church regularly, maybe I actually do. 

C.S. Lewis wrote (in The Screwtape Letters), "Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours--and the more 'religious'... the more securely ours." 

7) Confusion About Worship

We have just drifted into communities who just "feel good" about offering praise and worship to God (James 5:13) on Sunday mornings.  We don't bother with offering praise and worship to God individually, during the middle of the week.  This is probably just as well, because the average church member has no idea what worship is anyway.  They think it's the time between the announcements and the sermon. 

The Bible clearly and explicitly tells us what worship is.  Romans 12:1- says, "... offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is his good, pleasing and perfect will."  Worship is simply continually sacrificing ourselves to God; resisting the world; renewing our minds through Bible study and prayer; and, then having the wisdom and maturity to discern God's will in daily matters. 

A worship leader at one church recently told me that too many worship services are "attractional," letting human talent get in the way of worshiping God.  

8) The Hierarchical Structure of the Church

Perhaps my personal experience in this matter leaves me with my most bitter taste of the local church.  There's much debate about the proper hierarchical structure of a local church.  Again I offer a personal illustration from that Bible church

This church was ruled by a board of elders, and those elders decided that it would be nice to gather input from the members of various committees concerning the concept of authority in a local church.  As an officer on the Missions committee, I was apparently privileged to be a part of this meeting of the elite inner circle of church leaders.  The idea was for each person to voice his opinion about whether a local church should be ruled by a board of elders, or by a senior pastor, or by (a democracy of) the congregation, etc.  Each person at the meeting was asked to write down what he thought was the Biblical model of hierarchical authority within the local church.  When this assignment was completed, the senior pastor first shared his list with us; then, we each shared our own list with the group. 

It was no surprise that all of the elders placed the authority of the elders (themselves) above the congregation.  Then, a couple of others had placed the senior pastor above the elders; some had placed the congregation above the elders; etc. 

Then I shared my list.  From bottom to top, it went something like this:  the congregation; the deacons; the elders; the senior pastor; and, Jesus Christ.  As the senior pastor heard those last two words, he suddenly realized that, so far, there had been no mention of Jesus Christ in the entire discussion of the authority in His Church.  Well, the senior pastor immediately made a joke out of it, citing that he had just assumed that everybody's lists had included the implication that Christ was the Head of the Church.  Yet, I remained unconvinced.  This is like entering someone else's house and failing to acknowledge the home owner--only worse, because, in this case, the owner is God.  

Until that moment, I had had the utmost respect for that senior pastor and the rest of the elders.  However, in that moment, I lost that respect.  I also lost the respect for my own service to the church.  What had I been doing all of my life if serving a church that didn't understand Christ's role in itself?  Was this just like any power struggle in any corporation?  Was I as much of this problem as everyone else?  Did I think that I was quite a personality in the local church because of my service as a deacon, a Sunday School teacher, an officer on various committees, or a faithful giver of my finances? 

9) Community

If church is all about unity and personal maturity, then how can we expect the church to function properly if its individual members are broken (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)?  Pastors love to remind us that "celebration is best done in community."  Well, this is a man-made statement, not a Biblical one.  The unfortunate result has been that we have confused "community" with "corporation."  The idea of operating the church as a corporation is similar to that of operating it as a governing body.  The church has evolved into a place where people can be involved as a community, but it has lost the intensity expressed in the Epistles for personal, individual spiritual growth and maturity.  As a community, we can just let church leaders run things, and we don't have to get too involved with it.  In fact, we can just let them study the Scriptures for us, and teach us the parts that they want to teach.  However, we also incorrectly believe that we can then claim ignorance on Judgment Day, and just plead that we were just doing what the other guys said and did. 

I remember hearing one pastor (who I truly respected) say that one can grow spiritually only if he sits in an authorized church, under the authority of its pastor-teacher.  I'm not sure whether or not this is true.  I hope that it isn't.  I feel like I'm growing spiritually, but I know that it's sometimes easy to deceive oneself.  I tend to feel that spiritual growth, like salvation, is an individual event, between a believer and God--not a corporate one, and needing no additional priest or mediator.  The church should assist believers in spiritual growth, but I'm not convince that an organized church is a necessary part of spiritual growth, without which the believer is unable to grow spiritually.  Even if it is, we've certainly added a lot of man-made stipulations about making a church authorized, controlling it, and dictating it's actions.  This is how churches are treated in China today.  At least there, everyone is aware of what's going on. 

Mike Huckabee once said, "In my early years of ministry I was idealistic, thinking that most people in the congregation expected me to be the captain of a warship leading God's troops into battle to change the world.  As the years passed, I became increasingly convinced that most people wanted me to captain the Love Boat, making sure everyone was having a good time.  Too many people seemed unconcerned about how many marriages were salvaged, how many kids got off drugs, or how many teen pregnancies were prevented. Rather, the chief concerns seemed to be whether the menus for Wednesday night dinners were appetizing, what color the softball jerseys would be, how loud some guest musicians might sing, whether the coffeepot was ready in the Sunday school building, and whether there were paper towels in the women's rest room.  I grew increasingly frustrated.  I wasn't bitter or angry; I just wanted my life to count for something more than an ordained cruise director."  

10) Me

I'm not a big enough (or good enough) person to get past all of these things.  I just don't see the unity, peace, and maturity in our churches, as described in Ephesians 4. 

Oddly enough, church became a stress factor for me--one that was removed when I stopped going to church.  Somehow, the pressure of the church, and knowing about its inner workings, caused a lot of stress for me, at a time when I desperately needed to relieve my depression and anxiety.  Ironically, perhaps I've been edified by not attending church

Furthermore, I believe that it may be God's will for me not to attend church.  I think that the churches I would attend are better off without me.  I would just be disrupting things as noted above.  

Summary

So, am I any better than our church leaders?  No, I'm not.  However, none of my experiences have helped me to feel any better about this dire situation.  After seeing the inner workings of the church, as mentioned above, I lost my will to serve my church in any public capacity, and I resigned from my committee memberships.  In short order, I stopped teaching Sunday School, and soon after that I found that I was hardly attending church at all.  Or, maybe I do still attend church regularly, just not in the traditional way.  I believe that anyone who meets for Bible study, gives to the poor, or cares for the sick is practicing Church. 

Am I just another whiner, who doesn't receive enough strokes in church?  Maybe so.  Has Satan found my weakness, exploited it, and fooled me into stopping my commitments to the church?  I don't know--maybe so.  These are additional struggles in my dilemma.  I don't know whether to feel guilty about not better serving my church, or to feel good about "stepping out" in my faith.  
 
Owen Weber 2011