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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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Why Christians Don’t Go to Church (and Why They Must)

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The Story: A new survey finds the reason people avoid going to church is more often for practical or personal reasons, rather than lack of belief.

The Background: A new Pew Research Center survey asked Americans why they do or do not regularly go to church, synagogue, mosque or another house of worship. The overwhelming reason why people attend such services is to feel closer to God. But their reasons for staying away are more complicated.

Less than one-third (28 percent) say they don’t go because they are unbelievers. Among self-identified Christians, the predominant reason that non-churchgoers offer for not attending worship services is that they practice their faith in other ways. Almost half of evangelicals in this category (46 percent) say this is a very important reason for not going to church more often. The next most common reason evangelicals give for not attending services is that they haven’t found a church or house of worship they like (33 percent).

One-in-five evangelicals says they dislike the sermons, and a little more than one-in-ten (11 percent) says they do not feel welcome at religious services. About one in four (26 percent) cites logistical reasons for not going to religious services, such as not having the time or being in poor health.

As Pew notes, more than half of those who do not attend church or another house of worship for reasons other than non-belief are women, and they tend to be older, less highly educated, and less Democratic compared with those who do not go because of a lack of faith. Meanwhile, those who refrain from attending religious services because they are non-believers are more highly educated and largely male, young, and Democratic.

What It Means: Ask most churchgoers why think people in their community don’t join them in the pews and they’re likely to say it’s because most people aren’t believers. Yet ask those same church attenders how many people in America claim to be Christian and they’ll probably give close to the correct answer (i.e., 75 percent).

Perhaps I’m misjudging their responses, but it’s what I would have answered. As a pastor in a young church plant I tend to think of the “unchurched” as non-believers rather than as merely non-attenders. Despite being hyper-aware of the problem of nominal Christianity in America, I rarely make the connection that my own neighbors are the problem.

And the reason for my cognitive dissonance is likely because I don’t want to call them out on it. I truly believe in the paradox of church attendance: While you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian, if you never go to church you probably aren’t a Christian. But I have a hard time speaking that truth to my neighbor. I wish I had the courage to say, as Ricky Jones says,

I want you to understand that being a part of the universal church without submitting to a local church is not possible, biblical, or healthy.

First, it’s simply not possible. To imply you can be part of the greater community without first being part of the smaller is not logical. You cannot be part of Rotary International without also being part of a local chapter. You cannot be part of the universal human family without first being part of a small immediate family.

Second, it’s not biblical. Every letter in the New Testament assumes Christians are members of local churches. The letters themselves are addressed to local churches. They teach us how to get along with other members, how to encourage the weak within the church, how to conduct ourselves at church, and what to do with unrepentant sinners in the church. They command us to submit to our elders, and encourage us to go to our elders to pray. All these things are impossible if you aren’t a member of a local church. (See 1 and 2 Corinthians, James, Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and 1 Peter for references.)

Asking where the Bible commands you to be a church member is like asking where the USGA rulebook for golf insists you be a human. The whole book is addressed to the church.

This latest Pew survey is a reminder that if I love my neighbor—especially my nominal Christian neighbor—I will tell them, as my colleague Jeff Robinson says, that “when we say church membership/attendance is optional, we are also tacitly rejecting the very people Christ ‘bought with his own blood’ (Acts 20:28).” I need to find the courage to tell them that Christianity is not a choose-your-own path religion, and that the people we are to associate with have already been chosen for us.

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11 hours ago, News Feeder said:
and a little more than one-in-ten (11 percent) says they do not feel welcome at religious services. 

 

Do we greet 1st time attendees when they arrive? Do we try to even have a conversation with them? 

 I've visited churches where the only person that spoke to me for more than just a few seconds was the pastor. Some people in the church made it a point never to greet me. 

 

 I asked myself if I wasn't a Christian would I feel drawn in by the warmth of the church I just visited? More often than not the answer would be "no".

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1 hour ago, Faber said:

Do we greet 1st time attendees when they arrive? Do we try to even have a conversation with them? 

 I've visited churches where the only person that spoke to me for more than just a few seconds was the pastor. Some people in the church made it a point never to greet me. 

 

 I asked myself if I wasn't a Christian would I feel drawn in by the warmth of the church I just visited? More often than not the answer would be "no".

Personally  I prefer  it that way.

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I can understand not wanting to go to social events but Christians ought to be known for their fervent love for one another (1 Peter 4:8). If one is virtually ignored when going to church then that is probably a reason they will not attend. Why not just stay home and listen to a preacher and gospel singing on TV as opposed to being shunned?

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1 hour ago, Faber said:

 

Do we greet 1st time attendees when they arrive? Do we try to even have a conversation with them? 

 I've visited churches where the only person that spoke to me for more than just a few seconds was the pastor. Some people in the church made it a point never to greet me. 

 

 I asked myself if I wasn't a Christian would I feel drawn in by the warmth of the church I just visited? More often than not the answer would be "no".

Our church doesn't meet and greet people during the service, but elders are outside greeting everyone when they first enter in. At the end of the service we have fellowship time for about a half hour and everyone is encouraged to meet new guests and fellowship during the break before bible studies. Some 1st time attendees may bail before the fellowship time in order to avoid it - I guess.

 

In order to be a member and not an attendee of our church they'll have to get to know others. For one, they have to attend an initiation or orientation classes where essentials of our faith are discussed. At this time any new Christian will be exposed to "Reformed" doctrines. They then need to meet with the elders in a session and pass an interview. Then the church is called in the next session and informed on candidates for membership and the congregation may at that time express any objections or not. I'm actually not sure whether an actual vote occurs for each individual member because I have never attended one of those proceedings. If everything goes right the attendee is brought before the entire church to uphold the essentials of the faith and they vow to uphold our Confessions and be subject to the church in life and doctrine.

 

Through this process it would be difficult for an attendee to become a member without being known.

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