Weekly Church Attendance: A Modern-Day Confessional?

By Eric C. Wheeler  eric@sharingtheway.com


Today, I went golfing with a friend who claims to be a Christian. Yet, every time we are golfing he is always lustfully gawking at women, talking about his past sexual conquests, or talking about how women have always been so easy for him to get. My friend, who is married, and now quite advanced in years, used to be a star athlete in his younger years, and so I am sure that while in college, he was quite the “ladies man” at one time. But now he claims to be a Christian, attends church faithfully each week, cheerfully helps feed the homeless, and dutifully volunteers to take care of the church building and to manicure its lawn four times a month. Yet surprisingly, whenever I try to mention the name of Christ or point to His example, or even introduce a Bible verse into a conversation, he quickly changes the subject or walks away.

Because he is a relatively new friend, I wasn’t quite sure where he stood in his relationship with Christ. So I have been very gentle in dealing with him; taking things slowly, and just trying to be a good example, especially since he is much older than me (see I Tim. 4:12; 5:1). However, today truly astounded me!  As we were waiting on the tee box of the 18th hole, waiting for our turn to hit (because there was a bottleneck on the last three holes because of slow-players in front of the players in front of us). Another friend who was playing with us asked the two younger guys coming up behind us if they wanted to tee-off with us because we were all waiting to play the last hole.  My elderly friend turned to me and said, “No, they can’t tee-off with us!”  (Incidentally, there were only three of us playing).  I asked my friend, “Why not?”  And he replied, “Because on the last hole, one of them hit into me!” (Apparently, one of the men hit his tee shot before we were on the green. This is understandable, because on the 17th hole there is a hill which makes it impossible to see the guys playing in front of you.)  Knowing that my friend is a professing Christian, I simply said, “Well, that’s good then! Here’s your chance to show him that you forgive him and that there are no hurt feelings. Here’s your opportunity to let your light shine and to be a good example in Christ to this young man.”  My friend immediately looked at me with a funny look on his face and said, “Ha! That’ll never happen! He has to apologize to me first!” I replied, “Jesus never got an apology, and neither did He expect one; yet, He forgave us.”  My friend retorted, “That was Jesus – that’s not me!  “Yes, but you claim to be a follower of Jesus, don’t you? Then we are supposed to be doing what He did.” I softly admonished. Looking a bit uncomfortable with our conversation, my friend then responded, “Maybe some other time, but that isn’t going to happen today!”  I quickly answered, “Who said that you are going to have tomorrow?  You have no guarantee that you are going to wake up tomorrow morning, and that this isn’t your last day on earth. I would certainly hate to wake up tomorrow standing in front of Jesus knowing that I didn’t do the right thing in regards to this man.”  At that comment, my friend just shook his head, as he rolled his eyes, and walked away headed to the tee box, obviously annoyed that I would even dare say such things.

As I was driving home only a few moments later, the following perplexing thoughts and questions suddenly arose in my mind: ‘Why then, would my friend profess to be a Christian – if he is not truly interested in following Jesus or emulating His example?  Why would he spend such time and energy week after week going to church, when he is not really interested in what Jesus taught or did? Why do people bother to go to such great lengths in order to go to church and to identify themselves as “Christian”, and yet not really care about what Jesus taught, or about reading their own Bibles in order to truly find out how Jesus lived?’  Suddenly, the answer then dawned on me: Many people just aren’t really interested in following Jesus or emulating His example.  They just want to play church! At that moment, the following Scriptures came to my mind: “You draw near to Me with your mouths and honor Me with your lips, but your hearts are far from Me. Your worship toward Me is in vain being the teachings and traditions of men. For you are not willing to come to Me in order that you might truly know Me and to have life!” (Mark 7:6-7; John 5:40; Hos. 6:6).

What is it about mankind that we think that going to church and/or identifying ourselves as being “a Christian” is going to save us?  If anything, it is only going to further condemn us. Because now, not only are we going to be judged for our sinful lifestyles which we are refusing to let go of, but now we are adding blasphemy (taking His name upon us in vain), hypocrisy, and lying, to the charges against us! Why then do people who aren’t really interested in truly following Jesus or repenting of their sinful lifestyles and habits feel a need to call themselves Christian – which literally means “a follower and emulator of Jesus Christ”? Why do they feel this inherent need, and in many ways – an actual compulsion – to faithfully attend church services week after week; and yet don’t want to really change or get closer to God in any true and tangible way?  I don’t get it.  What is this compulsion by people to identify themselves as “Christians” when many of them don’t even have the slightest clue as to what Jesus actually taught? And neither do they truly want to know what He did or taught! Even though like never before in the history of mankind, we now have the Bible so readily available to us, yet fewer and fewer people actually even know what it says or what it teaches. Where are the people who are earnestly hungering and thirsting to grow in the knowledge and teachings of Jesus Christ so that they can emulate Him in all that they say and do?  After all, THAT is what being a Christian actually means!

As I was sharing these thoughts with a sister in the Lord recently, she said the most profound thing to me.  She said, “Eric, I think that attending church has become, to many, a confessional. That is, a modern-day confessional! A place where you can go at the end of each week to be absolved from your sins; the sins that you so willingly committed throughout the week.  A place where you can go to feel good about yourself again, and feel cleansed, in order to become guilt-free once again, so that you can go on sinning and continue living the lifestyle that you really want and that you so thoroughly enjoy. Too many, church attendance has become a form of doing weekly penance.”  I feel that my spiritual sister is really on to something here.  I think that she hit the nail right on the head, so to speak!  I think that for many people going to church has complacently and conveniently replaced being the church!  Church has become something we do, instead of something we are. This is VERY dangerous territory.  For I even heard God sternly say to me once – in reference to us who call ourselves Christians: “Stop going to church! And start being the Church!”

Just as Scripture forewarns us all: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he [or she] be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he [or she] was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:26-29).

Brothers and sisters, and all who call themselves by the name of God – meaning “Christian” – take heed and take warning: “Because you take My name upon you, I will judge you”, says God, “to see whether or not you have taken My name in vain. Therefore, repent, and do My works”, says the Lord, “and I will forgive you; else I will come in an hour and in such a way that you will not be prepared for Me or know Me, and I will remove you far from My house and rip My name from you, and leave you desolate and naked and exposed before all.”




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