One of the most common statements I hear from people with regards to not attending and serving in a local church is that there are too many hypocrites in the church. People are judgmental, two-faced, and “clique-ish,” so I hear.
I’m willing to bet that you have heard this too for it is perhaps the most common response one gets for asking why a professing believer doesn’t attend worship. And I must admit I am always puzzled when I hear this response (I hope my face doesn’t show it).
In no other circumstance does that sort of response make any sense. Here are some examples:
“I don’t go to the gym because people there are overweight.”
“I don’t like going to the doctor because people in the lobby are sick.”
“I don’t like going to school because the people there are ignorant.”
“I don’t like going to football games because people there are rowdy and the band is loud.”
Those are simplistic and even laughable examples, but you do hear the ridiculous nature of those statements, right?
Of course there is going to be people in the gym who are working out that are overweight – where else do people go to work out and get in shape; and if you are not overweight and are already in shape, why are you at the gym at all?
Of course people in the doctor’s office waiting room are sick. They wouldn’t have reason for going to see the doctor otherwise.
Of course there are people at your school, in your class that are not well educated. The purpose for their attendance, outside of the mandatory state regulation, is for their maturation in math, science, grammar, technical skills, and social sciences – to cultivate them into a well-rounded productive member of society.
Of course football games and sporting events are going to be rowdy and loud. It is a spirited competition between well-trained athletes for which people, who have a deep interest and passion, paid a lot of money to attend and experience an environment of fans cheering at the top of their lungs, and singing the school’s fight song with the band.
Now, when it comes to church and this infamous response I think and say several things. Of course there are people there who are judgmental, two-faced, and “clique-ish” (or insert whatever moral and spiritual wrongdoing you take issue with). One, we are all sinners – imperfect and struggling. Two, what better place is there for people to come to hear the good news of the forgiveness and love of God in Christ?
If one cannot bring their sins and burdens to a local body of believers and be welcomed, encouraged, and walked with through their many difficulties then where else shall one go?
Just as the overweight person needs to be at the gym, the sick person at the doctor, the unlearned at school, the rowdy fan at a ball game, sinners, particularly those who profess to be following Christ, ought to give themselves to doing so with a like-minded gathering of people – a family.
Though it may be frustrating to some, “those people” – the judgmental, two-faced, and “clique-ish” – have just as much need to be there as anybody else.
Another thing that I find interesting is the people who give this reason for not attending church most of the time never own up to their own sins, and shortcomings. The blame is usually shifted to someone else, and their own hypocrisy, though its staring at them in the face, is lost on them. It is as if their issues are not as severe, or as sinful as another. They pass judgment on the “judgmental” by labeling and dismissing, and implicitly seek to marginalize the “clique-ish” by disassociation.
I try to remind them that it is by His grace that God hasn’t given up on any of us, that we as believers – though redeemed in the finished work of Jesus – are still being brought up into maturity in Christ. We are works in progress – saved, but not completely sanctified. And God designed the growing process to be done in a community with other believers, to bear each others’ sins and burdens, to encourage and challenge one another, and to worship and serve the Lord together.
Whether I have the time to generally say what I’ve said in the previous paragraph or not, I always, at the very least, try to say something to the effect of:
“We always have room for more, and you are welcome to join us. Hope to see you Sunday.”
Sometimes its taken well. Other times not so much. However, all the time, the point is made clear: no matter our sin, we all have a great need for Christ, His grace, and the spiritual benefits of being among His people, however imperfect we may be.
The good news of the grace of God is that there is room for more.