Stop Going to Church!

Church of the Nazerene, Gottmadingen, Germany“When we stopped going to church …”

          There’s more to that statement, and I’ll complete the sentence in a moment.

          Going suggests a place, and, when we go somewhere, we usually have a reason.

I go to the local supermarket because I need groceries.

          I go to the gas station (usually a convenience store) because I need fuel for the car.

          I go to the library because I’m cheap and want to watch a movie.

          I go to … because … You get the idea.

          If church is someplace to go, what’s my reason for going?

          A worship experience?


          Christian fellowship?

          A timely word from the pulpit?

          And if my need isn’t fulfilled, then what do I do? For most people the answer would be, go somewhere else. The somewhere else may be another church place or it may be nothing so “spiritual” as that.

          Now for the whole statement.

          “When we stopped going to church and started being the church, something wonderful happened.”*

          In life, I do things. I am things.

Depending on my point of view, church can fit into either category. And my perspective on church (it’s where we go vs. it’s who we are) makes a huge difference.

          Things I do: read, write, preach, wash clothes, play basketball, mow the lawn, gripe about the weather, make awesome cinnamon rolls (for real!).

          Things I am: a son, a brother, a friend, a husband, a father.

          Let me pull one thing out of the I am list—a husband.

          What makes me a husband is my relationship with Ellen. We’re married (I know, I know. I’m only stating the obvious). We’ve taken vows and they remain intact to this day. We’re committed to one another (and I might add more deeply in love than ever).

          Has married life always been easy? No.

          Has our relationship been strained? Yes.

          But we’ve remained steadfast and faithful to one another. And the pleasure of our commitment has multiplied over the years.

          Okay, here’s the point. When I examine the I am category, I find the list involves my relationships with others. I am a son because I have parents. I am a brother because I have siblings. I am a father because I have a son. I am a husband because I have a wife.

          Now back to going vs. being the church.

          If I’m going to church, I have to have a reason. If the reason’s not good enough, I go elsewhere or stop going altogether. My attitude toward church is similar to my attitude toward the grocery store. I’m there if I need something. I’m not if I don’t. I’m simply a religious consumer.

          On the other hand, if I be the church, the being means I have a relationship with someone. I’m not a consumer but a partner, first with Jesus Christ then with those who call Him Lord.

          I’m curious. Which one best describes you—a person who thinks of church as a place to go or a community to be?

*Stutzman, Paul V. (2012-03-01). Hiking Through: One Man’s Journey to Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail (p. 268). Baker Book Group.

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About tnealtarver

I've traveled and spoken around the world but always love to come home. There I eat exceptional meals, drink coffee to my heart's content, and get loved like nowhere else on earth. I believe a community centered in Christ should be all that and so much more.
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9 Responses to Stop Going to Church!

  1. Kari Scare says:

    Ahhh… So good to have Tom back! You always challenge my thinking and I SO appreciate that. Interesting that you use the book “Hiking Through” for your post because I read it will vacationing in Gatlinburg, TN. We are doing lots of hiking & hanging out in the Smoky Mtns. this week. Going to have to see if I can find this book around here somewhere. Though not hiking the Appalachian Trail, I am sort of on my own journey this week. Felt almost swallowed up by materialism at home and am feeling the freedom of simplicity already just two days into vacation. The idea of “I am the church” is not a new one to me but one I need to deliberately revisit in the role of teacher. Very timely, Tom. Again, welcome back!

    • tnealtarver says:

      Thanks, Kari. Been awhile since I’ve traveled through the Smokies, but I know the mountains are beautiful. We’ve always been on our way to the North Carolina coast when we’ve gone that direction. I imagine staying in the Smoky Mountains is even more impressive and enjoyable. Enjoy your travels.

      • Kari Scare says:

        Very enjoyable! I could live here. Cabin at the foot of the mountains, possibly the river close enough to hear it. A perfect place to write and read and hike… Still haven’t found Stutzman’s book, but I hope to before I go home on Friday. If not, I will have to order it.

      • tnealtarver says:

        Ellen downloaded it for me on my Kindle. It was a free download at the time. Do you have a Kindle?

      • Kari Scare says:

        Yeah, I have a Kindle. Left it home though since I am a book on my son’s old Nook that he wants me to read. Saw it for $2.99 for Kindle. Can download it when I get home (after my Reading Callenge – see Tuesday’s post) if I don’t see it in TN to get as a souvenier 🙂 I want it not just because it sounds like a good read but also because it might help me in developing my own book idea.

  2. marymccauley says:

    I would not be surprised if this came from today’s sermon. So I can “be” the “church” wherever I travel, right? I know that I have and at times am guilty of going to church and not being the church, the extension of Christ’s hands and feet in the world. Now I don’t always go to church, but am learning more about being in a relationship that allows me to worship, pray, praise, and share wherever I am. And for me that is what happens when I “go” to church as well. Thanks. Look forward to hearing more from you and Kari both.

    • tnealtarver says:

      Mary, this may make it into sermon material some day but it was something I wrote a few months ago. As I shared last week, I stopped posting but I didn’t stop writing (although I did slow down, but no stopping). I’m still processing last Sunday’s message and a weekend with Suvir (our chef friend), so those two events may merge into a several posts. We’ll see. 😀

  3. Micah says:

    This is so cool. I do think it’s easy to get up in being a consumer rather than a giver these days and to then carry that mindset into our approach to church. Ironically there’s so much more we receive from being amongst the community of believers when we make it our focus to give. Thanks for these thoughts.

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