“GOING TO CHURCH”
A RELIGIOUS MINDSET
Perhaps all of us have used the phrase “going to church”. And that phrase indicates we are headed for a building which is a colloquialism for church. But not only is there no building or place which can Biblically be called a church, but that inaccurate reference indicates a startling mindset. In America we have come to see and understand the church as a building, a place, and even an organization. And yet nothing can be further from the truth.
The Greek word for “church” literally means the “called out ones” and it generally refers to a group of believers who have gathered together primarily to worship God. It never refers to a building or an institution or any place. But since the word has become to be accepted as referencing a place or a building it has created a disturbing mindset. We pass a building and we say “There is our church.” Or we get up on Sunday and say “I am going to church.”
And these kinds of remarks continue to lead us astray and further into an earthly mindset. This mindset has had disastrous consequences and has altered God’s vision for His people. It is impossible to completely identify all the ways in which this church mindset has kept God’s people in bondage to a religious system which does not reflect a true expression of Jesus Christ. And because we have become accustomed to this system and in reality know little else it is most difficult to understand what God’s church should look like Scripturally.
You see, we have in our minds a model that organizes a local church in a certain building in a certain place and then through that organization we do some things that we think Jesus wants us to do. That has unwillingly created an unbiblical mindset which makes a building a church and us its servants rather than seeing us as the church who is the living conduits of Jesus Christ. Now that is most difficult to understand and embrace and to live, but when we have the wrong vision of the church it becomes impossible. We are left with an earthly model with religious overtones but without the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let me confess that as a pastor I was imprisoned by this mindset. The average pastor reviews his Sunday morning attendance and the offering and evaluates his approach to leadership based largely upon those criteria. If more people are coming then subconsciously you feel that everything is good and you also subconsciously and consciously say things that will not drive them away. It is quite a phenomenon and it is practiced all across the evangelical community.
Col.2: 8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
The external always vies for power over the internal. The temporal always vies for power over the eternal. And so it is with the collection of believers known as the body of Christ. What once was a spiritual discipline where believers gathered for prayer, communion, worship, and the ministry of the Word all wrapped up in a celebration of Christ and the agape love they had for one another has now turned into a redundant exercise which is scripted, time framed, predictable, and formulated primarily to make people feel good. And somewhere along the way the body of Christ ceased being the church and now goes to church. And as I have said it is really impossible to realize just what a New Testament gathering should look like without a painful inventory and self examination based upon God’s Word. When people say and think along the lines of “going to church” it reveals that the very foundations of what it means to be the church have been undermined.
We are the church of Jesus Christ. We are the body of Christ. But we have reduced that great mystery into buildings and programs and celebrities. And in so doing we have forfeited the sacred power that comes with a Spirit filled follower of Jesus Christ. The sacred mystery and power has been sucked out of the faith and all that is left is a few scraps of morality, patriotism, and utilitarian principles. The glory and majesty and high calling of following Jesus has been defined by earthly causes, and when some important preacher is interviewed on worldwide television he speaks of Islam or gay rights or socialism or some other moral or economic issues. Does he speak humbly about the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus and the undeserved calling as a follower and worshiper of the Risen Christ? No, because the world has dictated to him what they wish to discuss. They really have no interest in Christ and preachers bow to their fallen wishes.
But in the end a carnal cult of codependence is formed and it gives birth to many creations of men in order to keep its people interested and attract goats as well. One can hardly imagine what kind of monstrosity is built when it is designed and fueled by those kinds of strategies. This not what Christ commanded and it is the opposite of what the early believers practiced. We have come so far away from what Christ’s body should be that like Hansel and Gretel we cannot find our way back.
But out of this mindset has grown the “church service” which is neatly organized with music, announcements, greetings, the offering, and a sermon from the pastor. But it was never supposed to be like that at all. In the early years believers gathered for most of the day. They fellowshipped, they ate, the observed the Lord’s Supper, the sang praises, they worshiped, they opened the Word, and all of those in no particular order.
The average local church advertises itself as a warm and friendly place where you can find a welcome for your family. They have a great music program, a wonderful Sunday School system, a great youth program, an anointed pastor, and modern facilities. You see when people look for a church they want to see what benefits them. But how many pews would be filled if a church placed this kind of an advertisement:
We are a place where you can deny yourself.
We challenge believers to sacrifice for Jesus Christ.
Congregants must be willing to take up their cross.
We stress profound humility for all of us.
We teach not to love nor seek money.
We take care of our pastor but with no set salary.
We refuse to borrow money.
We use almost half of our offerings for missions.
We love all sinners with the love of Jesus.
We pledge allegiance to Christ alone.
We stress holiness without legalism.
We have many prayer gatherings throughout the week.
We pray for a long while before the Sunday morning gathering.
All of us are called to repentance.
We observe the Lord’s Supper every Sunday morning.
Everyone gives as the Lord leads.
One Sunday every month we eat together and the gathering lasts into the afternoon.
Do you think the church doors will be beaten down? Renew your mind. Gather together with other believers, however you are the church.