As a believer in Christ, and being raised in a Christian home, I have belonged to church all of my life. But there are many different opinions about church attendance, membership and to what extent to be involved.
First of all, I’d like to speak to the non-believer. I’ve heard various reasons why non-believers do not like churches or Christians in general. Those reasons are the following: Christians are un-loving, judgmental hypocrites; churches only care about money; pastors only care about money, power and fame; churches are abusive; churches take advantage of tax loop-holes (501C3); churches ultimately care more about their own agenda than people; Christians are racist, sexist, bigots, homophobes; Christians don’t care about the environment; Christians don’t care about animal rights; Christians don’t care about the poor except when it furthers their agenda, and the list goes on.
If you have been hurt by churches, pastors or Christians, I’m sorry for that. We believe as Christians that the only sinless person to walk this Earth is Jesus, noted in 1 John 3:5 which states, “And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him.’ I am not saying this to justify our actions, but rather to say we all sin and we are to repent/apologize for those sins.
I know I have struggled with judging others, but I have learned that we as believers should not judge non-believers because you have not committed to following the Word of God and may not even know the commandments or the Christian way of life.
Now to understand, besides out of obedience of being a Christian, I love belonging to a church because of the love, care and acceptance I do receive in the church. I know that there are some Christians who are mean, judgmental and unaccepting. But I also have experienced hate and bullying in places outside of the church such as work and school. Church is the one place I can truly say I’ve received the most unconditional love from people. When people could have rejected me because of my sinful behaviors, quirks, insecurities, background or economic status, they accepted me anyway and showed kindness towards me.
People in the church have helped me mature as a person and Christian. When I was struggling in a dysfunctional marriage, my Christian friends and the church were the ones who helped guide me and comfort me during the difficult times. It was a Christ-centered program called Celebrate Recovery which helped me come out of denial of co-dependency and recover from the past hurts of abuse and divorce.
Honestly, during the times when I’m most stuck in sin and have a lot more pain is when I went away from the church and tried to handle things myself. It wasn’t until I was honest with people in the church that I received the most support and the best guidance.
I find that we tend to lie or hide the truth out of shame of what people will think of us. We fear the rejection. And yes, some Christians and churches have flat out rejected people. But if you have been rejected by a church and not helped by it, then I would suggest you find another church. But that also means that a church isn’t called to just let you sit in your sin either.
We are studying the book of 1 Corinthians in my church on Wednesday nights. The study addresses the messiness and the miracles of the church. I 100% agree that there is no perfect church, however I do believe the church is supposed to be the support system for people who are struggling and to help the people come to know Christ, grow spiritually and heal.
This leads me to address Christians in the church. There are those Christians who are quick to judge. The Bible has several scriptures telling us to be slow to judge others. This doesn’t mean that we don’t point out the sin, but that we must first look at ourselves, see Matthew 7: 5.
Sin is a symptom of something else. It is often a response to anger or hurt. Someone hurt us so therefore we want that person to feel the same pain. So we sin against them. Jealousy can cause us to sin. We covet money, things or even relationships / spouses of other people. And sin has a ripple effect, so it can end up hurting people around us who weren’t even the ones who initially hurt us.
Believers in the church sometimes focus heavily on sin without clearly seeing the reason why the person is sinning. And this is where being too quick to judge doesn’t help matters. Some believers don’t want to spend the time or money helping the person. Or they fear how this person may negatively impact others in the church so they quickly want to just reject that person for the sake of others.
I know that it is very hard to help someone recover. Discipleship takes a lot of work. But if we all just took a little time to disciple maybe one person each; it would take the burden off the community or Government and also help lead people to the church and ultimately to God in the process.
I have focused a lot of the church itself. But the mission of the church is to point people to God and Jesus. When the church doesn’t do that, then it has failed in the mission. Its mission is not to maintain the current church members and please them in hopes that money keeps coming in. While yes, money does help in achieving the mission, it shouldn’t become the number one priority.
The mission of the church is this:
16 Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,[a] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28: 16-20