the weblog of Alan Knox

Going to Church

Posted by on Sep 11, 2008 in edification, gathering | 11 comments

My friend Lew, from “The Pursuit“, recently moved to Athens, GA with his wife so that she could finish her college degree. A friend of his asked him where he was going to church now. Lew responded that he was not “going to church”, and he was not interested in “going to church”. His friend didn’t understand, so this was Lew’s explanation:

I am very interested in meeting with other Christians to fulfill the things that Scripture seems to indicate that we should fulfill (i.e. Encourage one another to maturity, stimulating each other to love and good deeds, etc.). I have generally come to the opinion that what happens on Sunday morning prevents most Christians from actually doing what Scripture says we should do. The lack of participation and involvement from all believers doesn’t seem to match what I see Scripture describing. I find myself sitting in a chair for one-two hours listening to one person talk about something that I already know… then it’s time to leave. I generally feel like I could spend my time better somewhere else. I guess what I’m looking for is not always the same as “going to church”. I’m more interested in sharing Christ with other believers and non-believers.

I love this response! No, there’s nothing wrong with “going to church”, but there’s not necessarily anything “right” with “going to church” either. The question is not, “Do you go or do you not go?” The question is, “Why do you go? And what do you do when you go?” There is nothing sacramental about attending a church meeting.

In Scripture, we see believers gathering together very often – sometimes daily. But WHY did they gather together? They gathered together so that they could encourage one another (edify one another) toward maturity in Christ and toward love and good works. They exhorted one another to love God and love others.

But, their meetings were the tip of the iceberg – so to speak. The only reason there was life together in the meetings was because there was life together outside of the meetings. They did not live individualistic lives – separate from their brothers and sisters in Christ – but, instead, they lived life together – sharing the good and the bad, the tears and the laughter, the excesses and the needs.

So, along with Lew, I don’t care about “going to church”. Instead, I desire to live life among a group of brothers and sisters in Christ, so that we can mutually encourage one another toward faithfulness to God and love and good works toward other people. Will this happen if I “go to church”? Maybe… maybe not. Will this happen if I stop meeting together with other believers? Nope. Will this happen if I only meet together with other believers once or twice a week? No again.

How will this happen? When we live our lives together in community – with Jesus Christ being the center and head of that community.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 9-11-2008

    Excellent post Alan. I wish I could tell you how this happens. It seems in my little area it doesn’t for the most part.

  2. 9-11-2008

    Alan–I’ve mostly been a reader here, but the question (Why do you go to church?) really hits home. I know that for me, even when I was a “leader” in the church, I would have often answered, “Because that’s what we do on Sunday.” And that’s a bad answer.

    You’re right. Meeting with other believers should be a vital part of our life in Christ. But going to church can easily become a duty we perform to keep God happy with us.

    Thanks for some thought-provoking writing!

  3. 9-11-2008

    this may be part of our conversation tomorrow.

  4. 9-11-2008


    This is right where my wife and I currently are. We both feel like going to church is more of a hinderance to our walk than it is a help, at this point in our lives.

    We’re waiting on the Lord to show us the next. We’re thinking He’ll have us start a house church.

    For years we’ve been afraid to step outside of the institutional church. Because, of how it might affect our son and we were afraid it would cause us to backslide.

    But, it’s getting to the point where we’re afraid to stay. Because, we’re afraid it will cause us to backslide. And, our son is no longer getting anything benefitial out of the experience.

    It’s funny how life often comes full circle.


  5. 9-11-2008

    Is this not lovely? I am greatly encouraged by this post Alan. Its funny that you said it isn’t about going or not going but what you are doing. Its funny that maturity can be measured by doing absolutely nothing.

  6. 9-11-2008

    I guess maybe I’m just lucky to be at a church where we do this kind of stuff. The huge benefit of our local gathering is that I don’t really get to choose what kind of people I’m connected with in the body. So we get all kinds. And that teaches us to love all kinds, whether they’re “like-minded” in all matters or not.

    I’m not saying that you or Lew or anybody here is like this, but I do find that many people who are disconnected from the visible local body just hate church people.

  7. 9-11-2008


    I’ve received many emails from people who say the same thing that you said. My suggestion: Keep your eyes open for God to bring brothers and sisters into your life in ways you don’t expect.


    I “lurk” around your blog also. :) Yes, there is a big difference between meeting as a duty and meeting with people because you want to share your life with them.


    Sounds like an interesting conversation. Maybe you can share part of it.


    I woulnd’t worry too much about putting a label (like “house church”) on what God may be doing. Instead, just look for people to share life with.


    I agree, its not about going or not going. Its about sharing life in Christ together.


    Its good to have you back in the blogging world. Actually, I am part of a “church”. We meet together weekly in a hybrid-traditional type meeting with singing and teaching. However, this is not the extent of who we are as the church. We spend time with one another outside of that official meeting. Again, that meeting is only the tip of the ice berg. Also, we welcome any brothers or sisters in Christ to join our group. I’ve learned alot and grown in maturity through relationship with believers that do not agree with me.


  8. 9-12-2008

    As I think through this, I think part of the problem in this discussion (which, if I understand it correctly, is essentially the same as in Barna’s “Revolution” book) is that, on so many occasions, “going to church” today, in our modern Evangelical culture, does not amount to the same thing “going to church” did among the early Christians.

    We have added on a lot of additional things that are not essentials, and have, as a result, “crowded out,” as it were, a lot of the true essentials, such as mutual edification and true one another fellowship and ministry.

    However, I think we must be careful to avoid “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” on this one. I do think it is important that we identify with a local group of believers who know us, and we know them, and who all agree together to hold each other mutually accountable, and to edify one another.

    At the same time, the church (or Church) is broader than this, and we should not limit our fellowship, mutual edification, and accountability, to this local group alone. But it is a good, healthy thing, even necessary, in my opinion, to be a regular part of a group that, whenever you are not there, the others naturally ask where you are, and feel free to call you up and ask you about it, without wondering if you are going to respond “that’s none of your business.”

  9. 9-12-2008


    You said, “Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.” And, you listed some things that are “true essentials”. What “true essentials” do you think Lew is “throwing out”? Because, when I read through what he says, it looks like the essentials are there.


  10. 9-13-2008


    Based on the quote you give from Lew here, there is not enough information to determine whether he is leaving out any “true essentials” or not. I give him the benefit of the doubt on this.

    However, the impression I get from some comments I have heard or read that seem similar (such as in “Revolution”) is that it is okay to sort of be a “drifter” or an “at large” member of the Body of Christ, without any specific ties and commitment to a smaller group in which the members know each other on a more intimate basis, and commit to hold each other accountable and practice the “one anothers” in a more specific way.

    Of course, there are also many who are “members” of officially organized local congregations in which they do not really know each other and hold each other accountable and practice the “one anothers” either. I am not saying that this is necessarily an improvement over the “drifter” or “believer at large” model.

  11. 9-13-2008


    Although I have seen a few who suggest the idea of a “drifter”, it has only been a very few. I don’t see how a “drifter” could build the kind of relationships that Lew is talking about.

    I think the difference is in your concept of “specific ties and commitments to a smaller group”, which we’re talked about before. Just because someone doesn’t make “specific ties” doesn’t also make them a “drifter”. The important aspect is the relationships.