Why Can’t I Find the Community I Long For? It seems that you read more and more articles like these everyday. (From Alex Ding, "Why I Stopped Going to Church")
I hate going to church. I’m not saying this as someone who went for a couple of weeks and then decided to stop going. I’m saying this as someone who has been attending church for pretty much all my life, every Sunday — for more than 20 years.
What I am about to say may not jive with the Bible, but it is honestly what I feel and have experienced.
Going to church is a waste of time. What happens in church? You go in a large room full of people. They are usually standing and singing some songs. Near the end of worship, people pass around the offering plate. After an hour of singing (and possibly dancing), the pastor prays. Then every sits down and listen to the pastor speak for another hour or so. After the message, some people leave. Some people linger and chill with their friends. And sometimes, there would be food. Then repeat in a week.
Is that what church is supposed to be? Singing songs and listening to some guy drone on for an hour? Would God be pleased with rituals and routine? What if I spend my time a bit more productively and helped out poor people instead?
I understand the Bible’s reason for going to church. I am there to encourage others to grow in Christ. Other can encourage me to become more mature in my faith. And since all Christians make up the body of Christ, we are supposed to be together and be there for each other. …
It sounds good and all … in theory. But in practice, it is not true. I’ve been to many, many churches and have even committed to a few of them for quite some years. Besides my bond to a few close bros, ones that I have grown up with since childhood, I have never felt like part of a “body.” The majority of my relationships were superficial. I felt like I was in a social group — a Christian social group. We eat out, go over some dude’s place, watch TV, play games, and do what normal people do when they get together.
But I never felt like church was my second home. It was a nice hangout place, but after more than 20 years of it, I grow tired of it.
I’m still a Christian. I know I’m a sinner. I believe in Jesus as my savior, who died on the cross for me. (Later on, I’ll reveal why faith is important if you have power.)
But based on my experience, I do not believe those in church are my homies. That’s fine. But don’t expect me to waste my precious time for strangers and casual acquaintances. Been there, done that.
My beef is when people throw cherry-picked Bible verses at my face and say that if I am a Christian, then I must go. But I say, “No!” Those who has no loyalty to me will not have access to my time nor my money. Actions speak louder than words. And through the church’s actions, I’ve realized that it is no different than the rest of the world. I’m checking out. Peace.
Acts 2:42 speaks to the community we long for, but does this in a surprising way. Not by focusing on building better community. in order to get to the community we long for we need to understand the nature of conversion. Only the truly converted individual finds in the church the community he longs for. Genuine Conversion Forms Genuine Community.
What is Conversion? It’s important that if you are here and you don’t yet know Christ, that you understand what is involved, count the cost. It’s important for the professing believer to ask each of these things about yourself. It’s important that we share these things so that when we share the gospel these are the things we look for.
- An Inward Devastation: They were cut to the heart: First, conversion is the work of God, through which the Spirit and the Word of God impact the inner man of the unbeliever, that he might receive the Word of God. This inward devastation comes about by the word of God
Heb. 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. This is the impact of direct spirit-filled preaching. “You killed Jesus”.
- A Christ-ward Redirection: Repent Repentance has been called a change of heart, and change of mind, and a change of direction. Not just from individual sins, but turning from sin to Christ, which means turning from individual sins. Repentance is not just being sorry, repentance is turning from sin to Christ. You can be sorry about your sin and not ever turn from it, you just remain sorry about it.
Repentance is the gift of God wherein our hearted are stabbed by the word and the spirit, and thus we are sorry enough to change. This inward devastation is a miraculous act of God
Acts 16:14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention - repentance was a work of the Lord.
- An Outward Demonstration: And be baptizedThe inward devastation and Christ-ward redirection must have an outward demonstration. A public profession of our union with Christ. Burning the bridges identification. No longer denying Christ before men, now we are professing Christ, me in him and he in me. My old life has died in repentance and raised in faith.
- A Spiritual Reception: for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit When this happens a miraculous transaction occurs, a heavenward reception. The reception moves in two directions at once. We are received into heaven by the forgiveness of sins. We also receive the Holy Spirit to be born-again.
None can enter into God’s holy presence carrying the guilt of sin. Christ’s death has atoned for sin, and thus forgiveness of sins is extended to those who are found in Christ. Having been found in Christ, we now are received into God’s presence. The first reception. The second reception goes the other direction. We are not only accepted into God’s presence, but we also receive God’s presence within us, in the promise of the Holy Spirit. We are born again, sealed with the Spirit, and by the Spirit we cry out ABBA Father!
- A Community Dedication: Conversion is not just individualistic - perhaps that is one of the greatest heresies of the modern western church.
41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
- Dedicated to the Apostles Teaching
they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching … 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles … attending the temple together … 4:33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.
The church of every age devotes itself to the apostle’s teaching. The apostles both set the pattern for the preaching ministry of the church, but they also provided the material. there preaching was initially accompanied by great signs and wonders - note the signs and wonders were being done through them, they had a special grace and anointing to perform these miracles that attested to their unique commission by Christ. In 2 Cor 12:12 the Apostle Paul speaks of these gifts as a mark of those who are apostles, indicating that there was a unique anointing upon them: “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.” This anointing was to affirm their ministry as those who would lay the teaching foundation in the church. Eph 2:19 speaks of these apostle and prophets having a foundational ministry in the building up of the church. “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”
We, the church, still dedicate ourselves to the apostles teaching as it has been recorded for us in the New Testament. This teaching is foundational in the life of the believer. It is authoritative as these men were led by the Spirit of God to lay this foundational teaching in the churches.
- Dedicated to the Fellowship
and the fellowship … 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need … Acts 4:32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common … 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
They were dedicated to the fellowship. Notice the expansion. Why would they do this? Remember, many of those becoming Christians that day were travellers, visitors to Jerusalem. Many of them stayed in Jerusalem to dedicate themselves to the teaching, which means they needed places to stay, and food, because they didn’t have jobs immediately. And so the church took care of one another and met each others needs.
- Dedicated to the Each Other
to the breaking of bread … 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,
This is probably what we think of more when we think of fellowship - it does seem that they not only shared possessions with one another, but they shared life together. This is the community of brothers and sisters that forms out of necessity when you no longer find friendship with the world an attainable thing.
The breaking of the bread mean’s eating together, but some also note that in the early church it seems there regular gathering was around a meal during which they would literally break the bread of the Lord’s Supper. It’s why we do it every week. It’s why we must limit the participation to the Lord’s supper to those who've been converted.
- Dedicated to the Lord’s Presence and Power
and the prayers … 47 praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Finally, just as the small gathering of 120 were devoting themselves to prayer before the Spirit came, they continue to devote themselves to prayer after the Spirit filled the church.
- Dedicated to the Apostles Teaching
So let’s go back to that original question: Why cant I find the community I long for. Genuine Community is formed of the Genuinely Converted. Sometimes in order to find the community we long for, a Remember that article we read from Alex Ding? He made a follow-up post after his original posting. He had a change of mind, change of heart:
There’s something weighing heavily on my mind. Since the start of my website until now, I have learned a lot. I adapted and evolved. And sometimes, what I through was correct in the beginning was wrong. When I realize my errors, I admit that I was wrong.
But the heaviest thing that has been on my mind was my article on how I gave up church. I reviewed the article again and cringe that I wrote what I did. It was all about what I could gain from church, but there was nothing on what God gained.
I reversed my stance since March 2015 and have gone to church quite consistently. There are days that I cannot go, due to scheduling conflicts that are out of my control. During those days, I wish I was at church. But whenever I have a free Sunday, I go to church. I want to go to church. I want to worship God and know more about Him.
Going to church and observing the Sabbath isn’t supposed to be for man, but for God. Sure, it is a day of rest and to catch up on chores. But more importantly, it is a day to draw close to God, to make time for the first love in a Christian’s life.
Loving God means sacrificing for God. There is no love without sacrifice. And if the sacrifice is to endure through boring sermons and superficial friendships for a few hours, then it is the sacrifice I will make. Again, those are the worst case scenarios. Sometimes, the sermon rocks. Sometimes, superficial friendships turn into something deep.