I love my faith. It’s a very important aspect of my life that is the foundation for all I do.
I admit I’m not perfect at following every commandment and verse to a T. We’re all human, after all. But one thing I’m especially not great about doing, something that is integral to most religions that I rarely do? Going to church. Worshiping as a member of a congregation.
I haven’t stepped inside a church for months. I don’t have place of worship I call my own. Some might say I’m not a good or “true” Christian or religious person by not going to church on any regular basis. It might even be absurd that I’m aspiring to attend seminary and become a missionary/pastor myself, all while still approaching faith as an independent person not keeping the Sabbath Day holy.
The Bible says so.
Scripture has plenty of examples on the importance of going to church and being involved in a spiritual community. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Christianity is not like other religions focused upon an individuals’ spiritual journey: it’s about forming relationships with fellow Christians to continue believing and spreading His Word.
Going to church is incorporating yourself in the Body of Christ. Yes, His body is made of many working parts, but it comes together in a unified entity. This Body is what keeps religion afloat. 1 Corinthians 12:12 says, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.”
We can only do so much as one person. Christianity offers spiritual growth by using fellow believers as examples, and the surefire way to these examples is at church…right?
I’m not alone.
As more people are forging their own paths as spiritual and not religious, that means church attendance is going downhill. Less than 20 percent of Americans go to church on a weekly basis.
Why the change? Recent years have been a transition in how we view church and what role it should play in our lives. Everything from technology, diversity, and leadership controversy has affected how we spend our weekends and where we put our tithing money.
While most Protestants go to church twelve times a year or less, we still tend to identify with our church roots. We might not even be members of a particular congregation, or we’re inactive in the one we belong to, but we still believe in a church culture that might be all smoke and mirrors.
I don’t think we’re just becoming lazy people who don’t feel like going to church. Part of the disconnect is from not resonating with traditional doctrine. What seems relevant for baby-boomer churchgoers feels outdated to a younger audience. More than one-third of millennials now say they are unaffiliated with any faith.
Despite most of us growing up in Christian households, many young people are dropping that part of their identity. When something doesn’t align with everything else we stand for, it simply holds us back. Especially on political issues of gender equality, same-sex marriage, abortion and climate change, why spend time singing century-old hymns and listen to a pastor talk about a Bible story when we could be out making a difference in a tangible way?
We need change.
As one of these people who isn’t drawn to put on my Sunday best every week, I know something needs to change on both ends of the conversation.
I don’t think I should feel immensely guilty for being in the majority of low church attendance. I’m still active in my faith, but my actions are far different than church founders probably ever expected.
I’m sharing my spirituality to anybody with a wifi connection every week on an expansive platform. I’m reading the Holy Word on a handheld device that also has many Bible studies and other community members at my disposal. I can type into a search bar and find countless videos and audio clips from sermons I would have never heard or seen otherwise.
I’m connected to church, just in a new way. However, I do think having a congregation to physically visit and worship is also important, but you shouldn’t settle or feel pressured into fitting into a mold not made for you. Just like religion itself, follow what speaks to you. Don’t be afraid to try new things and step outside your spiritual comfort zone to make a home for yourself, no time frame required. It’s all about the journey, and even if you don’t end up becoming a member at one location, you’ll still learn from other people and grow in your own faith.
Churches have an important responsibility whilst on a threshold of change: they need to adapt accordingly. Some people who have left the Christian faith will never come back, and that’s okay. But others who are open and ready to find a home are looking for more beyond going through the motions of a weekly service. The Jesus we learned about in Sunday School, someone in the clouds looking down upon us, isn’t cutting it. We need the Jesus who took action, who addressed social justice by challenging the status quo and standing up for the weak, poor and oppressed.
Activate faith by walking, not just talking, the Word of God. Welcome that faith to everyone, regardless of their differences. Listen to their needs and desires in a church. Update older doctrine to reflect a modern thinker.
So yes, I think I’m still a “true” Christian when I don’t go to church. In this stage of life, this is what works for me, and I’m sure that will change and evolve into a new relationship with the church and God. But something has to give for me and many others to reach a point where we’re really drawn to a congregation.
Mindful meditation: Lord, forgive me for not obeying Your commandment of meeting on the Sabbath. Although my faith in You is steadfast, my faith in church communities is a work in progress. I pray You guide individuals to find one another in Your Word and support churches in reaffirming their positions in a changing world. Amen.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie