Not going to church (even though you want to)

A post on an important subject:

For the first time in our Christian lives we experienced the total despair of essentially giving up and not going anywhere for almost six or seven months. And I didn’t miss it. I didn’t miss the clueless worship, lack of Bible, historical ignorance, Great Commission absence or lack of community. If your church has no community, then staying home on Sunday isn’t much different from going on Sunday morning except for the lack of driving and going through the motions in a service that grates on you from beginning to end as people ignore you on the way in and the way out. I can’t justify not going – I know the commandment and I know I was not keeping it, but I didn’t see any way to keep it and stay sane.

This is very well put.  I myself had that experience 25 years ago, after a serious illness.  I have never been a regular church-goer since, although I remain a committed Christian.  Not because I do not want to be; but because I could not afford the drain of strength from non-church any longer.  I would gladly support a church  that supported me.  As it is, my giving goes to St Andrew the Great in Cambridge, where I received the only help that I have received in all that time since.

This experience must be commonplace.  Is there some way, I wonder, for all us Christians who can’t face the non-churches, yet remain faithful, to link up somehow?

14 Responses to “Not going to church (even though you want to)”


  1. Stuart

    This is all too familiar Roger and a story told over and over again. But as you rightly allude non-church going Christians are linking up more and more online on forums and the such.

    I don’t know if this development is for good or for ill, but at least it’s something eh.

  2. David S.

    Roger you’ve touched on a topic that seems merely irritating on the surface, that is, the dynamics of modern churchgoing. However, i feel that if we look deeper this is symptomatic of a larger cultural shift that will have a profound effect on traditional Christianity. Your post deserves closer attention. Hopefully I can return during my “off-peak” hours and leave another comment. Thank you for your blog.

  3. Roger Pearse

    Glad to help!

    I have an idea that this is a really major problem, which deserves some serious thought.

  4. Roger Pearse

    Stuart, I would like to think that Christians ARE linking up in online fora. Which had you in mind?

    But I have my doubts. Posting in a few fora isn’t the same as linking up.

  5. Stuart

    Roger the Premier Radio forum is very popular, however, it can become a snake pit and is frequented by quite a lot of atheists also, who do ridicule our faith….

    http://www.premiercommunity.org.uk/

    I do agree with you that it’s not ideal, but maybe it’s something. You do tend to get to know others surprisingly well, and it can function as a platform for mutual support.

  6. Roger Pearse

    I’ll take a look – thanks.

    The snakepit syndrome is one I have encountered. It is endemic online, as you know.

  7. FrJohn D'Alton

    In Australia there is solid research that shows there are now currently more Christians not going to church than going. They all tell similar stories. My wife and I went through this too about 20 years ago. It seems a sad factor of modern Protestant/consumer/mega-church culture.

  8. Matthew Hamilton

    The phrase used by Fr John D’Alton: “a sad factor of modern Protestant/consumer/mega-church culture” is interestingly ambiguous.
    Either
    1. more of us Australian Christians who now don’t go to church do so because it is somehow our fault – we being “consumers” who are too picky in our consumption of churches, or,
    2. Australian churches have a mega-church culture of pop music, Christianity-lite anti-intellectualism, and all the rest of it that makes some of us want to puke – it is the churches fault for catering to a consumerist culture.
    Perhaps both are true?

    Matthew Hamilton (currently non church going Australian evangelical Anglican)

  9. FrJohn D'Alton

    LOL, I definitely meant the 2nd version. Most Protestants now gather in some version of “megachurch” (read “rock concert” with emotive hype overlay and shallow “theology”), and the rest huddle in dwindling introverted fearful remnants or experiment with “anything-goes emerging/lost/totally confused” “churches” :-(

  10. Roger Pearse

    The thing to do is find solutions, rather than being super-spiritual and ignoring the human factors (which we tend to do) and just lecturing people to go down to the local non-church.

    I would like to avoid a “blame the victim” scenario. Most people who don’t go, don’t go for a real and substantive reason which they have no power to overcome.

    Matthew: good to hear I am not the only one.

  11. Joel W

    I don’t have any solid answers, but I would say that it is vital to try and meet for prayer weekly with another Christian or two. Also, you can use the BCP in your home with other like-minded believers if you know some and keep the embers burning. In the USA, there are possibilities for connection due to the missionary status of Anglicanism here, but I have no idea what it is like in the UK or Australia.

  12. Roger Pearse

    All these things are good if you can do it. Indeed nothing wrong with sitting down with a servicebook by yourself. Whatever works, feels good, and is not troublesome.

  13. David

    “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’” Psa 122:1

    I must admit I am not very literate when it comes to computers so I try not to get into any online discussions yet I use this blog for its many very useful resources. I was shocked to see this post in this blog since it mainly deals with academic topics.

    What made me more shocked though is not the fact that there are people out there who have problems with going to church but in the fact that none of those who replied feel the importance of church attendance which made me feel like Eliho, one of the friends of Job, who said:

    “For I am full of words; The spirit within me compels me. Indeed my belly is like wine that has no vent; It is ready to burst like new wineskins. I will speak, that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer. Let me not, I pray, show partiality to anyone; Nor let me flatter any man.” (Job 32:18-22)

    Just to confirm, my problem is not that some people out there have a problem with going to church for various reasons, this is a very common feeling in all Christian traditions, Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, traditional, liberal; if not for the “rock concerts” like described above it is because of the repeated prayers in the more liturgical traditions. But to agree with that and try to find an alternative in an individualistic or even Cyber worship is I think unbiblical.

    In the OT Jacob gives us the definition of what the church is. After he saw the vision of the ladder and the angels going up and down from heaven he said “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” … “Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.’” (Gen 28:17-20). So the church is first and foremost “The House of God”. It is the place where man meets God. This understanding is also shown in the tabernacle (the OT church) which was the place where God dwelt among his people.

    In the OT also there is no one like King David who sang about going to the house of God. “When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go WITH THE MULTITUDE; I went with them to the house of God, With the voice of joy and praise, WITH A MULTITUDE that kept a pilgrim feast.” (Psa 42:4) he also said: “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (Psa 84:10) also elsewhere “Those who are planted in the house of the Lord Shall flourish in the courts of our God.” (Psa 92:13)

    Examples are numerous for this blog but if we jump to the NT we all know how St Paul rebuked the Corinthians for having two or three faction in the church, can you imagine what he would have said if he heard that everyone decided to do his prayers at home?? And from what we know of what was going on in the church in Corinth at the time, Christians had every reason to do their worship at home.

    During the era of martyrdom, why would the Christians risk their lives to meet in underground churches when they could have done their prayers in their homes? I am not against praying at home, The Bible says we should pray without ceasing, but we CAN NOT ONLY pray at home.

    In the Christian Arabic literature which this blog does an excellent job at promoting, we read in Kitab al-Idah attributed to Sawirus Ibn al-Muqaffa (10th century Bishop in Egypt) that there are three things which are vital in any Christian person’s life.

    1. Unless you have extreme circumstances, to go to church in the morning before work to do your morning prayers and the same at night.
    2. to go to church on Sundays to have communion.
    3. To give money to the poor

    On a practical note I think that our attitude to what church is, affects our experience of going church. The problem is sometime we have a high expectation from the congregation that we expect everyone in church to be the ideal Christian. But the fact is that church is a hospital and you do not go to hospital expecting to see healthy people. Every member of the church is a sick patient. The only doctor who is able to heal is Jesus Christ, in the Orthodox Church for example every member of the church including the Priests, Bishops and Patriarchs goes to confession therefore realising his sickness and his need of being healed of his sins by Christ in confession.

    Please note, what I just said does not put the blame on church goers and that the church has no responsibility. But what I am trying to say is that despite the state in which the church is in, we should try to change our attitude.

    I am sorry to do your heads in, but there are two books that you might want to read about the topic.

    C.S. Lewis, Screwtape letters, especially letter 16 which I think is a masterpiece, I recommend you read it.

    T. Malaty, The Church House of God, which is a bit more theological. There is a free online copy in this link.

  14. Roger Pearse

    Thanks for your comment, which I appreciate. Of course I well remember the Screwtape letter to which you refer, and the points are well made.

    The key thing you said, I think, is this:

    What made me more shocked though is not the fact that there are people out there who have problems with going to church but in the fact that none of those who replied feel the importance of church attendance.

    Here I think we’re at cross-purposes. Everyone posting, I believe, knows that it is important to meet with other believers regularly. If that is not accepted, then this post and comments have no meaning.

    But the point of the thread is the large number of people who, knowing this, cannot stomach the pretend-churches any longer. Rather than ignoring it, or responding with demands that they keep beating their bloodied heads against a wall, I thought it was important to acknowledge all this, and start thinking about it as a problem.

    You see, it does no good to say, “Jesus says you must, so you must either do something you know you cannot do, or else apostasise”. We do NOT want to reduce things to that! (And it isn’t true anyway) Imagine having to explain to the Lord on the last day how we caused those in trouble to be lost by insistence on the Law?

    So the question then becomes “What CAN we do?”