The phrase “unchurched Christian” is an oxymoron. An oxymoron is “a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.” It is putting two words together that contradict each other. I think that is true in the phrase “unchurched Christian.” At least biblically. Yet the two words seem to go together fine these days, and it seems more Christians say that they don’t attend church. To me this is troubling. Not only because I am an unashamed proponent of the local church, but also because there are some that believe that church is only the universal Body of Christ and that local congregations are not important. I believe in the universal Church as the Body of Christ, but Paul also recognized and wrote to local congregations of people that knew each other, were committed to each other and met on a regular basis. I think that what has happened is that the culture of being uncommitted and unattached has seeped into the thinking of Christians.
There are reasons why some Christians are unchurched. They are concerned about the state of the church or have allowed their experiences within the local church to push them away from biblical fellowship. Christians have disregarded the admonition to
” . . . consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) Somehow we are moving away from biblical fellowship and are missing out on God’s best by not recognizing the fallacies of this “unchurched Christian” mentality. Let me address a couple of those fallacies.
One of the reasons that people have dropped out of the local church is that they frankly are burned out and tired of dealing with other Christians. Because of past difficulties or painful experiences, they have decided that it is much easier to isolate themselves from the local church with (admittedly so) its drama and frustrations. These issues are present in churches because we are imperfect and don’t always handle things correctly. But is the remedy to avoid the church and isolate us? This is not biblical.
Over and over Paul encourages Christians to “love one another” (John 13:34), “be devoted to one another” (Romans 12:10), “be patient, bearing with one another” (Ephesians 4:2), “carry each others burdens” (Galatians 6:2), and ” forgiving each another.” (Ephesians 4:32) Ironically, rather than follow Scripture, we throw in the towel on the church and sadly live apart from God’s desire for our lives. How are we to be known as Christians? John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” I wonder what the world around us thinks when we are not willing to really love each other and be together?
The other factor that has invaded Christians thinking is the “me” mentality. The thinking is, “if the church doesn’t add something to my week, it’s not worth attending.” The consumer mentality has invading our thinking. There may be something better going on or I just need a day to sleep in. We miss the reality that we are not to be consumers but servants in the local body. Paul’s whole teaching about the role each Christian plays in the local body involves our connectedness and impact on each others’ lives. This is seen in 1 Corinthians 12-14. The illustration of the human body underlines the significant role that we each have in helping each other and the loss that is experienced when we are absent. How would you function without an arm or leg? If you were missing an eye or a hand? And yet some Christians fail to see that they have an obligation as part of the body of Christ to use their gifts in the building up of other believers in the local body. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:12 that it is the saints (every Christian) that are to do “the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” If you pass on church attendance, even if you listen to sermons online, you are missing this vital opportunity and responsibility to fulfill your calling. A calling that you are accountable for to the Head of the Body, Jesus Christ.
My point? You should be in church this Sunday! There are still great, Bible-teaching churches around. Pick one and be there. Commit yourself to a local assembly of believers, to all the people that you have to put up with and love and bear with. The people who need you there to encourage them and who need your gifts and influence. There is a Day coming when the Lord will return. And we need to be together, “encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”