Bnonn Tennant (the B is silent)

Where a recovering ex-atheist skewers things with a sharp two-edged sword

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Q&A: why should Christians attend church?

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8 minutes to read A reader asks on behalf of himself and his daughter. I briefly demonstrate that the Bible doesn’t just consider it normal to worship with other believers, but really a practice of such critical importance to our spiritual growth that avoiding it carries an expectation of furious judgment.

Another question from the backlog, this time around the role of the church and the importance of corporate worship:

I have a 15-year-old daughter that has been baptized as a Christian (she was perhaps 12 at the time) and is deeply spiritual. I think she is genuine in her faith, but we’ve recently encountered an impasse: she does not want to attend church.

I understand her reasoning to an extent. For example:

  1. She claims it’s possible to be a Christian but not go to church (I would say true, but not ideal)
  2. It has been difficult for her to find a place at our church and feels she does not fit in
  3. We attend a typical, “seeker-sensitive” American church that is all then rage these days… high on feels but low on substance, so she believes the church has little to offer

Would you be willing to help me out and provide some guidance I can share with my daughter?

I’d be more than willing, since this is a matter of inestimable significance to God, as I’ll shortly show. To answer your question, I’ll work through the three main reasons you give from your daughter for not attending church:

1. It’s possible to be a Christian but not go to church

In a trivial sense of course this is true. You could be stranded alone on a desert island for the rest of your life, have a Bible wash up on the shore, and be converted by reading it out of boredom. You’d never have any fellowship with other Christians, let alone attend church, but you’d certainly be a Christian and one of God’s people.

But we don’t judge questions by edge cases. Scripture is concerned with what is normal, and the New Testament just has no conception of a “lone Christian” in a normal religious situation. A Christian is a member of a family—what makes us Christians is adoption by God (e.g. Romans 8:9, 14–17)—and families love one another. This is the “new commandment:” that just as Jesus loved us, so we must love one another. “By this will all men know that you are my disciples: that you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35)

Can your daughter reasonably claim to love other Christians if she refuses to meet together with them to worship the God who gave that command? Love is the “perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3:14). [See my defense of love as “onetogetherness” in D. Bnonn Tennant, What is love? Part 2: the nature of triune love (August 2014).] Yet she refuses to have unity in that one thing that defines Christianity corporately? I don’t think that would fly before the judgment seat.

Consider also Hebrews 10:19–27, where the author, as he concludes his discussion of how there is no longer an offering for sin because of the better offering of Jesus, says:

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Hebrews 10:19–28

Typically it is verses 24–25 that receive focus in these discussions, on how we are to stir up one another and not neglect meeting together. Certainly those are sufficient to prove that Christians ought to approach God corporately on a regular basis; contextually this refers to agape-meals, which today we’d call the Lord’s supper at church.

But the whole thought sequence is instructive. It begins by noting that since we are able to come before the presence of God through Jesus—there is no longer a curtain separating us—we thus should draw near in the full assurance of faith. But notice how we do this: there are two aspects.

  1. The first corresponds to the full assurance of faith: we draw near by holding fast to our confession (v 23).
  2. The second corresponds to drawing near itself: we come before God’s presence by meeting together and building up one another in love and good works.

The two are intimately related: it is impossible, in the author’s mind, to both unwaveringly hold fast to our confession and come before God rightly, without meeting together with other Christians. We cannot be stirred up to love and good works without input from our brothers and sisters. Love is not a solitary activity, and we cannot claim to love God if we do not love his family (cf. 1 John 4:20–21).

Yet the passage does not stop even there. In verse 26 it makes a truly dire claim. If we go on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth—the knowledge, in this particular passage, that we are not to neglect drawing close to God by meeting with his family to stir each other up to love and good works—there remains no forgiveness for sins, but rather the fearful expectation of judgment! This is no idle matter; it is a question of salvation itself. Meeting together is not a suggestion; it is a command, and if we refuse to fellowship with other believers, we are about to trampled in the winepress of God’s fury.

2. She feels she does not fit in

This is something I can fully sympathize with. Speaking plainly, I fit in at my church like an onion in a bag of apples. That’s kind of how I fit in with everyone. I don’t think like other people think, I don’t understand the concept of accepting something just because someone said so, and I don’t get why you would avoid debate, so I am essentially relegated to the role of troublemaker in my church. I used to love serving our congregation by preaching, and believe I blessed many by doing so; but I had to step down due to disagreements with my eldership around my kingdom and covenant theology. [On kingdom, see D. Bnonn Tennant, What is the kingdom of God? Introduction: a tale of two kingdoms (October 2017).] [On covenant and its relation to justification, see for example D. Bnonn Tennant, Works-righteousness: a square contractual peg in a round covenantal hole (March 2018).] Then I alienated most of the women who still thought I was good thing by working through the biblical view of gender roles and coming out strongly against acculturated feminism, arguing that women shouldn’t be heads of state, [E.g., D. Bnonn Tennant, 5 clear reasons Christians should oppose female heads of state (November 2018).] that we shouldn’t be glorifying them in combat by making female superhero movies, [E.g., D. Bnonn Tennant, Why a woman bearing the sword is an abomination to the Lord (May 2018).] that Paul really meant what he said about them covering their heads in church…that kind of thing.

I say this not to curry sympathy, to rather to demonstrate it: I know intimately what it’s like to founder for a place in the congregation—but it has not stopped me going to church. My prime concern in going to church is not, “how can other Christians serve me?” I am not commanded in Scripture to find ways for my brothers and sisters to stir me up; I am commanded to stir them up to love and good works. So my prime concern is, “how can I serve my own family by leading them before God, and how can I serve my church family by stirring them up to love and good works?”

At the most basic level, the response to “I don’t fit in” is: so what? It misses the point because it’s not about you. Do not be conformed to the Western individualist self-serving mindset, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, presenting yourself as a living sacrifice which is holy and pleasing to God.

At a more pragmatic level, my response would also be: have you tried to actually serve the church? Maybe the reason you don’t fit in is because you expect others to do the work of fitting you in for you, instead of taking some initiative. Have you looked for real ways to proactively offer yourself in the service of others? There aren’t that many people who do this, so the chances are that if you offer, there will be genuine interest and appreciation. And who cares if it’s a menial task; can you do it? So do it. Many of the most important tasks for the smooth running of an assembly are mundane and unrecognized, but they still need to be done, and offering to do them will be a good, biblical way of finding a place there.

3. She believes the church has little to offer

In this she may be right. If your church is seeker-sensitive, it is time to move; the term is effectively synonymous with “non-gospel-preaching.” Your daughter should absolutely be attending church, but she has to be attending a genuine assembly of God; not a fake substitute where they play make-believe at being Christians. Although the emphasis in assessing a church shouldn’t be on how it can serve you so much as how you can serve it, nonetheless a social club with religious veneer will not stir you up to love and good works, nor plant or water the seeds of the word. The chances are that you’re not even getting fed spiritual milk, let alone meat.

The reason for this is simply that it’s impossible to preach the gospel, which is an offense to the natural man—it cannot even be understood (1 Cor. 2:14 etc)—if you’re trying to please the natural man and give him something that appeals to his natural mind. You’re inevitably going to give him something quite different.

I recently saw a quote on Facebook which made the observation that if you, as a Christian, went to a service at a mosque, or a synagogue, or a pagan blood ritual, you would feel distinctly uncomfortable. Why? Because you recognize that the god being worshipped there is not your own; that there is a fundamental conflict of loyalties. Your place in the world is not their place in the world. And that being so, why on earth should we expect unbelievers to feel comfortable in church? Certainly we should welcome them, encourage them, befriend them, beseech them, and even comfort them with the hope of the gospel—but expect them to be comfortable? That makes no sense. So the very concept of “seeker-sensitive” is incoherent from a biblical point of view.

Now, I am very opposed to church-hopping, because family loyalty is highly prized in the Bible, and churches are families. But one should not have loyalty to a fake church, an apostate church, or even to a very weak and sick church that is willing to avoid telling people to bow the knee to Jesus in order to get bums on seats. If that is the kind of church you are in, then you must move, for your sake and your daughter’s (and the rest of your family).

So that is what I would say to your and her questions; I hope it’s helpful.

 11 comments

Olivia Pierce

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. There are a few points in which I disagreed, however that is bound to happen since a blog is basically a one-sided conversation. Nonetheless, I would like to thank you for the time, effort, and compassion that you put into writing this and answering the questions. I, actually, am “the daughter” that is mentioned in this post, and I deeply appreciate that you were willing to write this. I am excited to read your future posts. Take care!

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

Happy to oblige, Olivia, and happy to discuss points of disagreement if you wish as well.

One thing I didn’t mention—I couldn’t find a comfortable place for it—is that corporate worship isn’t merely about building up other members of God’s family on earth. It also involves a unique participation in a current, heavenly reality. (I’d be careful to distinguish this from the Catholic view of communion of the saints, though there are some similarities.) The Bible presupposes that when we gather together in worship, Jesus and the angels are present also (e.g., Mt 18:20; 1 Tim 5:21; 1 Cor 11:10; Heb 12:22–24; 13:1–2; Rev 1:20). This was the idea behind constructing the temple as a throne-room, reflecting the heavenly model, with God seated between the cherubs (e.g., Ex 25:22, 40; Heb 8:5; 1 Sam 4:4; Ps 80:1; 99:1; Num 7:89). Just as worshipers at the temple were participating in the heavenly court “on earth, as in heaven,” so worshipers today enter into the presence of God and his angels when they meet together to break bread. Indeed, I assume this is the significance of John receiving his Revelation on the Lord’s Day; he was caught up in the spirit to the heavenly reality in which he was already invisibly participating.

This gives us another reason to take worship extraordinarily seriously. If we really are coming before God’s throne, into his very presence, and if we are surrounded by the same great cloud of witnesses that comprise his heavenly court, then do we dare dismiss this, or treat it as a light thing? Should we not come in all reverence and fear?

In the west, we have largely abandoned the fear of the Lord, and it shows in how we come before him. The idea of “Sunday best” is treated as a joke. Why make an effort to have one’s best clothes clean and ready on Sunday morning, when you can just grab whatever is left from the laundry? Despite the fact that we all know 90% of communication is non-verbal, we’ve somehow bought the lie that what we wear has no meaning at all. Men come to worship in Hawaiian shirts and beach shoes, or tee-shirts with funny prints. Women wear pants that might as well be paint, or skirts designed to expose the maximum leg possible. And Paul’s clearly universal command to cover the head as a sign of submission and deference is treated as a humiliating relic of the dark ages, no longer required since the advent of feminism enlightened us.

All this to say, it’s not just the question of whether to attend worship that is important, nor where, but also how.

Benjamin

Attend Church? Is that place church? Aren’t Anointed followers the church itself? I know you think this, so isn’t the idea of attending church just more christianese that a former atheist who is opposed to the old time religion would want to shed off so he can pursue the real Anointed One? I think we need to be our part of the church, yes, but when do we shake the dust off of those who aren’t doing their part and just move on? You shall know them by their fruits. Is what you have called “fellowship?” I mean the type that 1Jn. 1 talks about. Again your honesty and courage is appreciated. I know you don’t speak to glorify yourself.

It seems to me that what you are encountering is just persecution by gospel deniers. That’s a sign that those people aren’t the church. The church doesn’t persecute Anointed followers. By God’s Spirit they say, “Jesus is Kurios” Isn’t belief in the gospel of the kingdom just belief in the gospel itself? So then if they won’t agree with your views then aren’t they denying the original gospel, so clearly found in the Scriptures?

What I mean is where do we draw the line? Christians are so divided when Jesus prayed we would be one. What do we unite around?

The belief that Jesus is the Anointed and that his Kingdom is coming in full force some day? I think so. And that means pistis for all of us if we are to follow him as our King. Otherwise we are liars.

We can get so bogged down in the details and throw around the word “heretic.” I’m definitely a heretic. So I’m not at all sure that those people are my people. You seem to stand in the middle.

Adam was given the power to name. I name these people Lo-Ammi

If we aren’t divisive we can’t unite either. I sympathize with that little girl. Sometimes teenagers have better instincts than those of us who are adept at complex and abstract reasoning. They just see things as they are. “Those people aren’t nice Daddy.” Not only does the church have little to offer her, it has little tolerance for what she has to offer it.

You shall know them by their fruits. Some people are wolves in sheep’s clothing. I can’t fault anyone for accurately smelling the flesh of a dog and being turned off. Good for them.

And seriously I’m asking you these questions. I’m like you in that I’m not afraid of truth. I have nothing to lose. Praise God you’ve stepped down from their authority structure and alienated yourself. I’m proud of you. They can’t speak the truth because of their positions.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

I’ll try to do justice to your questions.

Firstly, as you know, I prefer the term assembly. Since I’m answering a questioner on his own terms, though, I’m using his terms. In this case I think it’s a fairly semantic point, because an assembly that doesn’t assemble is a contradiction in terms. I’m certainly interested in ways we can return to a more biblical model of assembly—one which doesn’t take its cues from either lecture or concert halls, for example—but assembling together at all is still important.

Secondly, for all its faults, the local assembly I attend is not (in my estimation, of course), a false church. It’s a flawed church, and some of its members are more faithful to Scripture than others. But there’s a difference between the foolish censure of mistaken believers, and the foolish censure of unbelievers. I have experienced both, but I have not experienced the latter in my assembly (again, in my estimation). It is definitely difficult being under teaching that chafes against obvious biblical truths, but most of the teaching is not like that. And as I noted in my kingdom series, the evangelical gospel that my assembly staunchly defends is not a false gospel; it’s just a kind of incompetently lopsided one.

Thirdly, I am keenly aware that people not unlike me have a tendency to fall into ditches. There’s a sane road between the extremes, and abandoning any local assembly seems like an obvious ditch. Starting my own church also seems like an obvious ditch, because even if I had the time and energy, it would be oddly cultic. I’m also keenly aware that the internet spoils us. Throughout history, God has seen fit to place people in assemblies that were, almost without exception, full of people who disagreed on important points. I don’t imagine there is one pastor in history who has avoided teaching something dubious, and the sizable majority have probably been lucky to keep the dubious teaching in a slim minority. So while I am eager to improve the situation, and see many opportunities and tools for that now, I am not eager to throw the baby out with the bathwater. My assembly is not yet as bad as the one in Corinth, yet Paul did not give up on them.

Fourthly, given the state we’re in as a culture, we need to distinguish between people who are resistant to Scripture because they’re unbelievers, and people who are resistant to Scripture because they’ve been taught falsehood their entire lives and are emotionally invested in a lot of foolish things (especially young people). Being one people doesn’t mean that being of one mind comes easily or naturally. It often means, rather, that not being of one mind is a burden that some must bear in the pursuit of gradually reforming the others. Transformation and renewal are not always given rapidly or in great quantity.

Fifthly, and without wanting to sound conspiratorial, there can be a sort of “church within a church.” There are some people in our assembly with whom gathering and fellowshipping are of great benefit to me, even though they are not a majority. For the sake of a few I would not destroy it, if you catch my drift, especially since I have no angels on hand to compel them to leave.

Finally, I think you’re quite right about authority structures. Being caught up within them can be debilitating. Our church is confessional, which means essentially that even if our pastor came to agree with me on certain points, he would be unable to say so without widespread structural changes or great upheaval. For now, I believe I should stay, but I hope the future holds something better.

Olivia

I completely agree with your observation that fear of God has been abandoned in some cultures. I have come to find that have been raised in a society that only wants to experience the graciousness of God, and almost refuses to acknowledge his devastating power. This may very well be a reason I don’t view church as I should; I have been raised and taught (not by my parents, just to be clear) to focus more on how God can help me, rather than how I can follow God.

That being said, let me elaborate on a few of the reasons I didn’t want to attend church:

I felt that in order to be a Church, a people of God, I didn’t need to physically go to church. I fully understand that congregation is an important thing, however it has to be a true congregation (this also falls into the “church has little to offer” part of the discussion). My church’s congregation consists of the following: a few worship songs, announcements, a sermon, and occasionally another worship song.

First off, while sometimes I enjoyed the worship, I had also been dealing with some anxiety issues and often found it difficult to let myself be truly immersed in the songs. I love music and I love God, but I wasn’t able to glorify Him in the way that I felt He deserved. Instead, I would find times at home to play my instruments and worship, which made the experience much more emotional and spiritual for me. I realize that I was being a bit selfish, but I wanted to be able to give God my full attention when worshipping Him, and singing in church didn’t really allow me to do that.

Next, the sermons. I absolutely love our pastor. He makes sense to me, he keeps me engaged, and he connects his listeners to his speeches. The problem was, since I am only 15, that most of his sermons were unrelated to my experiences. I was unable to relate to them, so I couldn’t use his teachings and apply them to my life so I could further serve God.

Outside of church, I am always trying to find new ways to connect with others and help them become closer with God. I love sharing His word with others, because I know how powerful God can be. It is one of my life goals to successfully strengthen others in their faith so they can have the best relationship with God possible. I believed these moments and experiences to be my Church. In addition to that, I am involved in many religious groups that I gather with regularly. I do not really believe that Church is being in a building on a Sunday, but instead that it is being together with God’s people and serving Him.

I hope that all of that made sense, and helped you to better understand my reasoning and hesitation when it comes to attending church.

Like I said before, I disagreed with a couple of things you wrote in your original post.

I have already covered some of this in what I have written above. You ask in your post if I can truly claim to love other Christians if I refuse to meet together with them and worship God. My answer is yes, because I can meet with them and worship God in different ways and places. You may be familiar with the phrase, “Home is where the heart is.” I believe that church can be the same. Each individual person’s Church, while it should not stray very far away from God’s commandments and ideal church, is different. Now, you are definitely more knowledgeable about what God says as far as what he wants church to be, but I still think that each person’s Church is more of a people than a place. I believe that Church is where your heart is able to fully give itself to God.

My next observation is not so much a disagreement, but rather a clarification. You asked if I have actually tried to fit in to my church. When I was reading your post, I actually said, “Yes!” out loud, because I have tried to be involved in many ways and only ended up frustrated. That’s where my reasoning of not fitting in comes into play, but you shot that down quickly with your “so what?” argument, which I agree with wholeheartedly.

I suppose I didn’t really disagree with as much as I thought, but those are my responses to what you wrote. I hope to hear back from you soon.

Benjamin

Bnonn,

Thanks for your thoughtful response. I understand your reasoning and will weigh it as I continue to struggle with these same issues.

Your first point, totally granted. I was just using that language as a springboard for my reaction to the entire article. Please forgive my haste. I appreciate your kind attitude.

In response to your second point, I can only speak from my own broad experience. I think you’re optimistic about the big picture. These places are most often enemies of your gospel and change is more than slow. Your gospel is opposed in most of these places, like the way the Jews opposed the Apostles and they shook the dirt off their feet. Christianity was just a Jewish sect, but it realized when it needed to separate from certain types of Jews who opposed the gospel. What you’re talking about is separating the sheep from the goats because as you say in point 5, yes there are sheep in these places. They have nowhere else to go and they are hungry. They tend to hear the good and forget the bad, I’ve noticed. Continuing to attend and be “the church within the church…” is understandable. But at some point might that be submitting to the world’s kingdom when you’re called to be in God’s instead? I’m not at all suggesting that I can advise you on your unique situation. I’m talking about big picture thinking.

I really like Kierkegaard’s statement that historically “they/we have replaced Christ with Christendom because that’s the only way they/we could deal with him.” In other words they’re anti-Christ…. It sounds extreme and Kierkegaard went crazy, but you’re not far off from making statements like this yourself. Certainly many must view you as crazy. I don’t mean to give you a bad name by being the type of person your website attracts, but I say a hearty Amen to all 10 articles in your gospel of the kingdom series. There were maybe 6 sentences in the whole thing I couldn’t agree with in terms of theology, and the rest was spot on! I will also have to think more about the post-mil idea as opposed to some sort of a historic pre-mil view which emphasizes the resurrection event and the consummation above the work now. But I totally get where you’re coming from on that and I think that aspect ties in with where I may need to keep thinking and weighing things.

On your third point, you have obviously thought a lot about this and that’s why I asked. I have been overwhelmed by the fear of not wanting to be a “cult” leader myself in trying to start fellowships myself. Isolation is a pitfall that one should desperately avoid and I’ve spent a lot of time isolated against my will. But I’ve also learned a lot in the wilderness and God knows my conscience is clear in that I have suffered much for the sake of failed fellowship attempts that had to turn into confrontations over the gospel itself. My own despising of the world’s and consequently the churches anti-kingdom authority structures means that I have little impetus to try to lead others, other than for the right reasons…. That doesn’t get you far. I’m not interested in moving up through their ranks. I prefer to hop churches than to acknowledge any single one, because I am looking for unity between them and rejection of all of them. Like yourself I don’t see anyone else leading as they should. Those who move up through the ranks are often abusive and false. I have a heart for the sheep and for the Great Shepherd who calls them to himself. In fact Ezekiel 34 describes what I see really well. And I don’t want those who know the true gospel to compete with the world/”church” on its own terms, but to establish God’s kingdom in the way that Jesus taught. The greatest shall be the servant.

Quite honestly a fellowship of true believers is never a cult. Isn’t that just a fear of shame or persecution. Certainly you could become more extreme than you are and then you’d even look more ridiculous. But what heresy are we to fear if we are faithful to the cross in our vision of the gospel of the kingdom, following Jesus as our King and worshiping God? If we are afraid of the implications of that basic unity statement then are we maybe afraid of shame and persecution? I feel like only groups like that can do inter-church mission work, since they alone have an open enough doctrinal statement to accept the diversity of believers on the true grounding of the gospel. There’s a lot of shame in the “cult” label or the “heretic” label, and let me be honest that I fall into those categories in every way. But not by the standards I set above. I believe in the gospel of the kingdom and I believe Jesus is the Christ. I don’t think evangelicals know what a Christ is! They use the word like an alternative name. You say that your leaders are constrained by their doctrinal statements. That’s so telling, isn’t it? So how can those doctrinal statements be justified as being THE criterion for what constitutes the church of the living God? You know they can’t be. They are inherently divisive about issues the Bible doesn’t give warrant to divide over. So then you might be submitting to a church that denies Jesus’ core wish that his people be one, no? Divisions are the work of the flesh. How are you truly being divisive yourself if you make the gospel of the Bible the only thing we unify around? The gospel you know to be true with your whole being. Shouldn’t it alone be the criterion of faith? I don’t mean that people have to know every aspect of the divine council. I mean the big picture. What are the core two to three ideas? Is that enough to draw the line with? Or on the other extreme should we submit to plays that will divide over the L in a flower? Is the gospel or history more important to our group?

What is the gospel and basic, elemental Christian beliefs that Christians should anchor around? Would you maybe consider this question for some time and do a blog post about it if you haven’t already? If you have then direct me there and I’ll look at whether I agree or not with your conclusions. I’m not looking for a creed formulation as much as a general statement. For me it’s very basic. Faithfulness to the idea that Messiah Jesus came in the flesh and was Christ, in the real meaning of that word. Belief about the story of the cross and resurrection and a hope in the kingdom of God that calls us to follow him. I may put it more elaborately than that myself, but that’s all I would require for someone’s fellowship. There’s nothing in there of division about anything other than what should really matter.

I’m learning more and more about how authority operates in God’s kingdom all the time. Your articles provided some helpful points as well. Honestly I have nothing in common with evangelicals. I can’t think like them, talk like them, value what they value. I’ve tried fellowship and it turns out to be the opposite. The few sheep in every church are compromising themselves by staying, if you asked me. Many are just doing their best with what’s given to them. Of course some are resistant to truth due to programming. But you know the passages in Paul where he says that false teachers bring destruction on both themselves and their hearers both. Election can’t operate separate from acceptance of the gospel. I think that staying in these places is possibly an attempt to continue to work through the world’s authority structures which already exist, rather than suffering in the ones that are of the kingdom. I don’t think these churches are establishments of God’s kingdom. The only thing I see positive about them is that the words of the Bible are read and largely preserved. But most of the time the people are fed a constant line of poison that blinds them to understanding the very Scriptures being preserved.

As far as the evangelical gospel. I can accept some of the statements. The meanings are all totally different in my understanding. Without getting into specifics, I’m more extreme than you and so that’s where I land. I am looking for meanings, not words. You don’t have to respond to this unless you want to. I’ll continue to interact here on your blog. I hope my writing here was clear enough. I am tired.

Jane

Olivia,
I can really empathize with part of what you are saying here. When I was your age I felt similar. I wasn’t particularly satisfied with my parents church. I didn’t particularly feel like I fit in, I didn’t particularly feel like the service was offering something valuable, and I didn’t feel that the song portion of the service brought me close to God. I did continue to go to church with my family but I also started looking for other Christian things to go to.

As I’ve aged, however, I see things differently. One thing I’ve come to realize is that teenagers, and especially teenage girls, tend to be ruled by their emotions. Now, emotions are immensely valuable but they don’t always tell us the truth. One thing emotions often lie to us about is how close we are to God. If you are involved in a corporate service God is there, we know this because Matthew 18:20 tells us that where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them”. We might not feel like God is near but that is just our feelings lying to us. Similarly our feeling will tell us that some worship is more valuable than other worship because we feel closer to God. But the truth is that if you are singing praises to God there is great value in that whether you feel close to God or not. Worshiping or praise God really isn’t about how we feel it is about God.

Another thing I have come to realize is that for better or worse church really is the only place that fully serves the function of assembling together . It is the place that Christians gather together in family units with everyone from babies to the most elderly meeting together. For the most part other gatherings of Christians don’t do this they segregate people by age and gender so you do not meet with the whole family of God you only meet with the part that is most like you. Additionally, Christian families should be gathering together as families under the direction and authority of the father of each family. Something is deeply wrong when Dad’s “church” is here and Mom’s is there and the kids “church” is off someplace else.
This all being said I think there are real reasons that church often doesn’t feel satisfying. My husband is in the military so we move regularly and I have been in a lot of churches at this point. There are many problems that are common everywhere in the US and the feelings of dissatisfaction are sometimes connected to these problems. Often both the preacher’s message and the songs that are sung are vapid, shallow, or even teach falsehoods. This can make it very difficult to apply the teaching to your life and can make the song time less satisfying. Another thing churches tend to do is age segregate every thing. This is very sad. It means teenagers come in contact with very few people who are mature in their faith. It is also sad for the elderly who lose the opportunity to mentor and impact the lives of the young people in their congregation. This age segregation also makes it incredibly difficult for teenagers to become truly involved in service to others in the congregation. I think age segregation is a big reason youth don’t find church to feel satisfying. But church isn’t about our satisfaction. Although our dissatisfaction can point to serious problems that should cause us to consider finding a new church, most of the time that’s not the case.

I want to encourage you to continue to go to church with your parents despite the fact that it isn’t satisfying to you. Even if the church isn’t the best one out there, there is value in doing so. If nothing else you get practice in submitting to your fathers authority. I’m pretty sure no teenage girl on earth wants to hear that, my daughter rolled her eyes at me as I read this out loud to proof read it, but there is value in doing it lol

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

Olivia, forgive my tardy reply. I’m pressed for time, so extra to Jane’s excellent comment above, I’ll just quote a few of your remarks to push back on—with no unkindness intended:

I wanted to be able to give God my full attention when worshipping Him, and singing in church didn’t really allow me to do that.

OK, but why not do both?

I was unable to relate to them, so I couldn’t use his teachings and apply them to my life so I could further serve God.

Something is going wrong here if there’s such a communication gap that you can’t see how to apply the teaching of Scripture to your life. That does sound bad. Without knowing more I don’t want to weigh in, but my instinct is that you need to be under a pastor who is qualified for the job by being skilled at teaching.

It is one of my life goals to successfully strengthen others in their faith so they can have the best relationship with God possible. I believed these moments and experiences to be my Church.

They may be fellowship, but they aren’t “church” according to the model given in Acts 2:42; 20:7.

I do not really believe that Church is being in a building on a Sunday, but instead that it is being together with God’s people and serving Him.

Right, but the latter typically happens during the former…

I still think that each person’s Church is more of a people than a place.

Well yeah, place doesn’t really matter at all; there’s nothing about a building that somehow validates our worship. The NT assemblies met in houses. What is at issue is not where, but when and why and how. Are you meeting together on the Lord’s day for the ministry of the word, the breaking of bread, prayer and fellowship? If so, there’s no problem. But if not, I think you need to be able to give a good answer for diverging from the practice of the NT assemblies.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

Benjamin, I appreciate your comments, and the challenge. I’ve been too optimistic before; it’s quite likely I’m being so again. Perhaps it’s just because the problem is so much bigger and harder if we can’t reform from within. I can see how internal reform could work, at least in principle. I don’t even know what the alternative looks like. But I am sure God does, and that he will lead me where I need to go.

Benjamin

Your message is about the kingdom of God. I think this contrasts directly with the kingdom of the world, right? As an alternative to it.

It isn’t just that the origins of authority are different in the kingdom of God, but also the principles of organization, the core values and the path of entry. Much more could be said….

The Bible draws this message out from beginning to end. The ways of God are always contrasted with the ways of rebellious man and his kingdoms.

So I think the more we think about reform within the present “church,” the more we may be compromising allegiance to the kingdom of God by trying to reform the kingdom of the world instead. If the “church” doesn’t believe the Biblical gospel then it isn’t the church. It’s just another part of the kingdom of the world with a more “Jesus” friendly tone. It shows it doesn’t believe this gospel, not just by the message it does and doesn’t preach from the pulpit, but by the very way it is organized, the culture it creates, the culture it doesn’t create, the way it organizes and doesn’t organize, the fruit of the people, etc…. “The medium is the message.”

They can’t enter into a kingdom they don’t even believe in. And they can’t believe in it when their core structure and way of life is opposed to it. They can’t preach something which contradicts their own existence. The reason the church has so much power is because Satan’s kingdom does too. It’s tempting but then that’s exactly what Jesus resisted in the wilderness. You used to be an Atheist. Have you ever read “The Grand Inquisitor?” from BK (Dostoevsky). It cuts at an angle like this, even if it is Orthodox.

We should have no ambition to maintain and reform the present order, since it’s organized in a kingdom of the world way, thus expressing the origins of its authority and purpose as well. New wine needed new wine skins and unfortunately after being given those new skins by a Jesus who said, “call no one leader”, it was again replaced with the old wine and the old skins all over again. Thank-you to the kingdom of the world “gospel” preached from Rome for this…. Jesus didn’t come to reform Israel or Rome. He created a new Israel around himself and told the present establishment it would descend into the grave. We live in the wake of the legacy of the world’s gospel, not the gospel of Jesus. So we mistake the world for the church since it is involved with the ever present struggle to sound as similar as it possibly can. Otherwise it can’t ignore the main points?! Even Luther succeeded because of politics while the Anabaptists were drowned in the rivers by Catholics and Protestants alike.

I do believe there are small groups of people all over the world who do celebrate Jesus as the Anointed and serve one another in love. I’d suggest that is the narrow path that leads to life. The big buildings on the street corners with the sign “church” on them are just facades if they don’t preach the gospel. They are a waste of time, money and energy.

So what does the alternative look like? I think this answers it:

Matt. 5: 10-11 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

It looks small and unpopular. It looks weak and pathetic. It looks unacceptable and ridiculous. Religious people will persecute you because they will think they are offering service to God in doing so.

Matt. 11:25-26 At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26 Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.

For the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength, and the foolishness of God is stronger than man’s wisdom.

Matt.7: 13-14 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

So all of 1 Cor. 1-4 is very appropriate to this discussion, but I’ve already quoted enough Scriptures.

I have another question for you. At the centerpoint of each of the synoptics is the story of Peter’s proclamation that Jesus is The Anointed. This passage was twisted by Rome to establish it’s line of Popes. Amazing that the core statement of the gospel is turned on its head by the blind. But if you have eyes to see yourself then look what immediately follows the message you are proclaiming? How do we enter the kingdom of God? Not only is the cross brought up for the first time in the synoptics in this place, but it’s explained by Jesus in clear terms as to its meaning.

So what does Paul mean when he says that he determined to know nothing among the Corinthians other than Anointed and Anointed Crucified? You are proclaiming the “Anointed” part. How does the “Anointed Crucified” part fit in to the Anointed part, in Jesus’ own initial words on the subject? The original core idea of the cross? How did Jesus enter into authority in his kingdom? (Phil. 2:8-9) How are we to enter into authority in his kingdom?

I’m just giving you these things to think about. No need for response. You are like Peter in your vision of the anointed. But Peter immediately turned the vision of the anointed into a vision of the anointed coming to power by Satan’s worldly kingdom path and not God’s path of the cross. Jesus had already been through the wilderness and had defined the differences to himself. Jesus showed all of us the contrast there with his response to Peter and consequently to us. He explained the cross in clear terms to follow. The one who said, “follow me” got more specific. If we can’t imagine what radical obedience to the gospel of the kingdom would look like, it may be because we actually do recognize it looks a lot like death by crucifixion. Are we not just willing to go there but are we going there because we are loyal to Jesus and to his Father?

So my thesis is that it is only in rejecting the kingdom of the world in all of its facets, including as “church” that we enter into the faithful and persecuted path of the cross, and share in the sufferings of the Anointed. That’s where the story of Phil. 2 moves into the continued story of Phil. 3 and the vision of the resurrection of the righteous. Otherwise we are going to end up like Peter in front of the little girl when we find his path too shameful to handle for our tastes.

If the gospel is to work then it must work the same in every generation. It’s always a challenge to recognize it past our own desires. We have not come to the founder of the world’s biggest religion. That’s the anti-Christ. But to another kingdom which the world will not recognize. We have come to a man who said, “Come unto me” when it was shameful to do so. It is still shameful. Some came by night. Like Jesus always said, “he who has an ear to hear, let him hear.”

Prayers friend,
Ben

Sharkly

Your daughter should absolutely be attending church, but she has to be attending a genuine assembly of God; not a fake substitute where they play make-believe at being Christians.

I laughed when I read that. I doubt you meant to refer to the “Assembly of God” denomination of churches. I believe them and some of their “charismatic” ilk to be the fakest bunch of phonies. Simple Christianity is not enough for them, they have to add in their own substitute for their lack of enthusiasm about a religion that they might otherwise feel Luke warm about. Their services come complete with “card trick” miracles and “horoscope like” prophecies, people are often cured of invisible ailments, and are given the gift of speaking in gibberish, while some are even rendered unconscious by “the spirit”. It is a real clown show! If you get the opportunity to attend, try it once, just for the laughs.

Now, I am very opposed to church-hopping, because family loyalty is highly prized in the Bible, and churches are families.
LOL well, while we’re living based upon applying analogies, wouldn’t the rest of the family of God, that you never visit, feel slighted? I feel that every time I’ve switched churches, it was for a good reason. And if I were Charismatic I’d claim “the spirit” led me to do it. Either way, if you feel compelled to search for a better church, is that wrong?

All this to say, it’s not just the question of whether to attend worship that is important, nor where, but also how.

I think Benjamin gave you some good stuff to think about.
My late father used to joke about the late Robert Schuler’s Drive in Church. Where you could attend without ever getting out of your car. I think if the true church is so scarce, as to be hard to find, that the church exists, in a fashion, wherever you can find it. I attend online. I mentor and fellowship at work with folks of varying beliefs, yet while on the internet I try to fellowship, contend, sharpen, and learn from more likeminded believers. The internet is a powerful medium that can bring people together. Especially folks with rare eccentricities, who can find their fellow devotees. If unity is a mark of a good church, then I believe the internet has provided me with great fellowship. For all the bickering and contentions for the faith, We are largely of one mind on the issues that bring us together. I learn more in a day at my, seven days a week, “internet church” that I would learn in a month at my previous Megachurch/Coffee Shop. I also get way more fellowship. The Mega church had “greeters”, because otherwise nobody spoke to you the whole time, except for the entertainers who spoke at you, often by live video feed, if you couldn’t make it into the main auditorium. I found out that if you ever wanted to speak back to the head pastor, between services, he had a bodyguard to screen out folks who had something to say back. LOL Apparently he was afraid he might get persecuted, and was spending God’s money on preventive measures. Anyhow, I don’t dismiss the idea of finding or starting a good church, but in the meantime I’m doing the best I can to find fellowship in Christ on the internet, when I’m not finding porn, funny cat videos, and fake news. /S

 


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