Jesus Didn’t Go to Church

Jesus didn’t go to church and neither can I.

On May 5, 2011 I posted this article: Should I Start Another Church?. Boy, was that a mistake!

A mistake for certain reasons:

  1. I upset people. Some people from the church I left over a year ago misunderstood and thought I would set up an alternative or competition and threaten the life of that church. I had no intention of doing that and still don’t.
  2. I excited people. The expectations people have for “church” are just so loaded that I would just never be able to fulfill them all. Not that I ever tried to fulfill expectations before, but the volume (both in mass and decibels) of expectations in response to my post was just overwhelming and impossible. To be honest it completely freaked me out.

But, even though I believe it was a mistake to write that post the way that I did, I certainly learned something from it. I learned that I can’t even use the word “church”. It is too loaded. I also learned that I can’t go back into the church as we know it. I simply can’t. It would kill me and hurt others. Neither can I start another church as we know it. It would kill me and frustrate too many people.

I still believe in the right, privilege and freedom of Christians gathering in a healthy manner. But how that is done is of increasing importance and impossibility.

The post was a fortunate disaster. I apologize.

Jesus didn’t go to church and neither can I.

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  • Gene

    You should start a hospice for dying churches. (I kid)

  • kls

    Well, you’re completely right about saying the word “church” is too “loaded”. But then that doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t go to “church”. If you like to look at it that way, he did hang around a lot in synagogues. But then, what IS church? Is having fish or wine with friends and talk about God church? Is hiking town-to-town church? Is sitting on a hillside and eat with thousands of others church? Is having dinner at a conman church? We need more of these “churches” I think, where Jesus did hang out.

  • Anne

    Maybe just visit a synagogue now and then :=) EO services are very similar. Sometimes go when I want a taste of other worldliness. I, too, cannot do church anymore. Sometimes saddening, sometimes freeing. I have a hard time explaining it to folks. Often feels like your reading my mind…. ooooooh, spooky.

  • Jesus didn’t go to temple?

    He didn’t go and study and preach the Scriptues?

    Hmmm…must have been some other Jesus.

  • joni

    Why in the world would it upset people?? I don’t get that at all. Good grief!

    Ok so no church… how about we all get together and hang out… and well it looks like what it looks like and it gets called whatever it gets called. But for goodness sake, let’s get together!!!

  • gibby

    David…why was it a disaster? I re-read the post and comments. There was nothing that seemed out of sorts. There must have been some one-on-one contact that made it a disaster. Everyone has their thoughts on the issue. In the end it will be the leading of the Spirit in you that will determine what you do next, church or no church gathering.

    You and I both know that as we peel this religious onion back, layer by layer, we find that it’s about the relationships we have and those to come. Let Jesus be incarnate in you and don’t worry about the “starting a church” issue.

    We just released and sent a group from our gathering to start their own work. After it was said and done we discovered that it was not multiplication, but division. There were underlying issues that came up that revealed some sad truths about the new community.

    What’s done is done. The thing the Spirit showed those of us left in the original community is that we were the ones being released and sent onto a new mission for the sake of the kingdom and not “the church.”

    We were trying too hard to keep “the church” thing going that we lost sight of the kingdom. There is still healing to come, and the joy is being restored.

    Thanks for your posts. They challenge me and cause me to dig deep. I don’t think you have reason to apologize, but I don’t know the facts either.

    grace and peace…

  • I think that if you don’t want to go to church, or be a part of the church, then you have every right not to.

    But I don’t believe that the Holy Spirit is creating Lone Ranger Christians.

    I think He brings us together for a reason. Whether we like it, or not. Quite often I don’t like it.

  • Pam

    I think when we are called to God’s will and we may not always know what that looks like to ourself, and others…but our intention is not to hurt any one….we need to be obedient in what he has called us to do!
    Timing is in God’s hands…

    I don’t think in any way do you need to apologize for something you feel led to do!

    I agree with you David..

  • JD

    If there were people that didn’t like that you were creating competition with your old church, that’s their problem.

    Steve Martin, I think you misunderstood the point of the post. I also see that the cliche of “Lone Ranger Christians” is still alive. It’s not that he’s saying that it’s bad to get together. I think he’s saying that the meaning and connotations of the term church has been excessively constrained, and that’s the problem.

  • Always remember, organized religion killed Jesus.

    Agreed. Jesus didn’t go to church. He was a hippie. “Christians are generally creepy people as a direct result of the dysfunctional dynamic of worshiping a dead naked hippie.”–Die Warzau, Engine Tour Shirt, 1995

  • Not only didn’t Jesus do to church but . . . “The Bible can atheist any book under the table on some pages. It presumes faith in God, yet it also often gives voice to the most profound and menacing doubts about the security of that faith. The Bible is not a book of answers but a library of questions. How rare such places have become in a society addicted to quick fixes, executive summaries, and idiot’s guides. The canon of the Bible is that kind of place.”

    “Ambiguity is the devil’s playground. Let it creep into your faith life and all hell will break loose. So some say. For them, faith is essentially a battle to keep up the wall of certitude against the immanent floodwaters of chaos. Uncertainty is a crack in the dam of faith. Rather, faith deepens not in finding certainty but in learning to live with ambiguity, as we ride our questions as far into the wilderness as they will take us. Biblical literature hosts that journey.” SOURCE:

  • Considering the fact that I’m was once a SDA Seminarian and now an outspoken atheist I can’t believe I’m about to say…

    You’re obviously an open minded person who isn’t afraid to point out Christianity’s weaknesses and flaws, but you still cling on to aspects of the culture, tradition, and faith. Perhaps you should create a Christian Humanist Church, which for all I know would be the first one. If you don’t want to use the church label then go with fellowship. If you do this you would probably weaken the objection your getting from those you are upsetting, while further exciting the rest.

    You should not feel bad for your original post. There is never a need to retract an admission of your need for community and desire to create one that’s lacking. If people get offended, then that’s their problem, not yours.

  • JD,

    There are a lot of Christian cliches that still work.

    We are meamt to be a community. But, many churches do make that almost impossible because what keeps the community alive in Christ (the Word and the Sacraments) has almost disappeared and is being replaced by self-centered, self-transcendent religion.

    I guess I can consider myself fortunate to belong to a community where we are not the focus, but rather the forgiveness of our sins, and the encouragement of others along our journey in this “veil of tears”.

  • Donna Lindsay

    Isnt this the church ???

  • Michael Peele

    I can’t go back to “church” either. There is too much garbage going on that I know is against what Jesus taught, too little agape, and too much Phariseeism and I can no longer remain silent about it. So, if I go to “church” I wind up going to a war.

    As far as what Steve Martin says, I partially agree. But, we’re not alone are we. If two meet in Jesus name He is there. (even if the meeting is in cyberspace)

    While I agree we can’t do it alone, where I disagree is that we need a building, organization, backbiting, treachery, graft, or selfish childish church politics to have fellowship.

    I need fellowship, but, I don’t need all that Pharisaical BS.

  • If two meet in Jesus’ name…there is the church.

  • So don’t call it church. If there is a group of friends who like to gather once a week, play some music, have a discussion, maybe share some food, say a prayer or two…you can call it anything you want. I called a spiritual group. If you meet at an off time…we met on thur. nites…you aren’t competing with anyone. The word church is loaded. Have a non-church. You don’t have to be PASTOR…facilitator works…create community and call it what you want.

  • kls

    Churchgoers Anonymous 🙂

  • james

    trust yourself and the holy spirit that lives within you.

  • Great post David,
    Love your honesty, you’re right the word “church” is so loaded.
    To gather with other believers is by no means wrong, in fact it is good and healthy, the problem as I see it is the context, or perhaps I should say construct?
    What does church look like outside of the construct? the rules, regulations, power structures etc?
    Besides don’t you already belong to “Church” it’s just not yours?
    Peace Jx

  • thanks ed. good thoughts and quote.

  • thanks dustin. that really means a lot to me. keeping it.

  • i get that a lot donna. yes it is. imo.

  • “So don’t call it church.”

    Yeah…call it…The Elks Club…or whatever.

  • james

    if my expereince of coming out of the church is anything to go by – I expereinced it like a loss. A loss of belonging, a loss of what I was familar with, a loss of friends, a loss of identity, and I was angry, sad, depressed and greiving. At this time it is easy to feel that a mistake has been made and i tried several times to look for soemthing else, a different shape but nothing really emerged. So I can understand your desire to create something to fill the void – but maybe you need to experience the void, the loss, the nothingness a little longer and find god in these difficult spaces.

    After about 10 years of letting go, I still feel the loss of belonging, but I know i can’t go back. I think you are right – jesus didn’t go to church / the body – he was the body and he created an authentic simple community.

    warm regards

  • ya that’s very helpful steve. besides, that name’s already taken.

  • james: ya, but even his “community” was very loose… very.

  • james

    yeah – loose is ok. He seemed to go to different people to get his needs met. maybe it is important to accept that we need different types of community experiences to meet all of our needs. Your blog is one way of connecting, family another, work collegaues another, sports clubs etc. Perhaps the problem comes with church when we think all of our needs will be met my this group (mega church model)and the expectations are too much.

  • JD

    “If two meet in Jesus’ name…there is the church.”

    Steve; maybe that is true by a definition of church, the text doesn’t say that directly.

    “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

    The word church wasn’t used. If you want to call it church, that’s fine, it’s probably valid, but that’s a lot broader than what most people think of when they hear that word.

  • Alice

    It seems as though your idealism holds you back. In other words, because church as we know them are imperfect (as they are all bound to be), you can’t participate. For one who is opposed to vision, isn’t that the same thing?

  • hey alice. insightful question.

  • Paul

    I suspect the problem is in the definition of church. How many different definitions are there? Just read the responses here and you can see the variance. Do what Jesus called you to do and don’t get hung up in semantics 😉

  • If you have to start a church doesn’t it mean it wasn’t there to start with?

  • fishon

    Preacherlady {alice},
    Did you ever get my reply to your e-mail?
    Still waitin for summmer.
    fishon [jerry]

  • JD,

    Maybe you are right. But I think if Jesus is hanging around, then you have a church.

  • fishon,

    Long time no see!

    How are you?

  • Crystal

    Goodness, David, whatever was that all about? – starting a new church!

    I hadn’t read the original post – I took a bit of a break from this blog, but not for long – I’m back! but I went and read it and didn’t find anything you needed to apologise for. I just don’t think you need to consider starting a new church. You said that you would have more credibility if you were connected to a church – or something like that, I believe, but honestly I can’t see you gathering a congregation around you that would constitute a church. Not the way that the Christian community interprets churches anyway. Perhaps I’m wrong. Even if I lived in your community, I don’t think I would be interested in an organised church, no matter what it looked like.

    Think about the people who frequent this blog. They would be the kind of people who you would attract, if at all, to the concept of a church, no matter if it was a home church or a larger setting. Many of them have broken away from “church” and you have said that’s okay. True, you haven’t said that going to church is not okay either. You’re open to either expressions.

    I believe you are suffering from a lack of connection to those old roots of yours. After all, you are a pastor at heart, but do you really want to go back there? I like your free-lance pastor concept. The institutional church is dying. I see it everywhere where I live. Many of them are on artificial life support, and it isn’t pretty. They have no idea they are’nt even doing their own breathing, but they’ll soldier on until someone pulls the plug.

    I’m rambling, I know, but you have to do your own evaluation of this. You need fellowship. I think that’s what one misses the most in these situations. You really do feel like the umbilical cord has been severed, and who do you now go to for that confirmation of who you are? You are a pastor who is used to leading his sheep. Now your flock is scattered, or in cyber space, but you know something – they’re not lost. You’ll find them in all sorts of places.

    You must have read C.S Lewis’s “Mere Christianity” – an old book – but at the end, in the part called Beyond Personality – the last chapter called “The New Men” he talks about how Chrisianity has appeared to have died so many times, but that it always comes back in a different guise. He says that new men are dotted here and there all over the earth, and they are not at all like what we think of as “religious people” from what we have formed from our general reading. He continues on that they are not all alike. This book – this little gem – was written in 1943 but still has its ring of truth and excitement.

    Perhaps you, David, are one of the new men that C.S.Lewis wrote about all those years ago. You are forging a new and different path.

  • that is a great book Crystal. I forgot about that part. Thanks for the encouragement.

  • I’ve been putting in some fairly agonising thought about all this today. It has bothered me for some time how there could be this feeling of being outside and outcast, and what it could mean. I think I have an answer, and I posted it to my blog:

    Look for Christian Pirates. We are all different in the paths we are on. No one is “wrong,” just different.

    David, I want you to know your insights from your cartoons have touched me greatly and are a blessing. Hope I am able to bring something your way too. THAT really is what being part of the body is for.

  • john f.: you just did. thanks bro.

  • fishon

    Thanks for asking.
    Doing very well.
    The Church [body of Christ] I serve in is doing well.
    Battling a bad lower back–lifted one to many very heavy flower pots.

    By the way,Steve, Jesus DID go to Church [“ekklesia”]; he went to Temple and synagogue “as was his custom.” Of course, he couldn’t go to the Church he established; it hadn’t come into being until the day of Pentecost, and he was in heaven by then.

    I wonder, did he quite going to church[es] [temple and synagogues] when he realized that the leaders were against him and out to kill him?
    May our Lord bless you,

  • fishon,

    God bless you, fishon!

    I hope you are feelin better soon.

    Did He quit after He knew they were going to kill Him?

    I don’t know. I suspect so, because He had a mission to carry out and needed to go to the cross.

  • Ant

    Heya David – I dont think you need apologise – people on this forum know what you are on about and what you stand for, sure ‘church’ is a loaded term but whatever it is it can be called by another name and hopefully that will have less connotations attached to it.

    In regard to the comments personally for me I try not to think of church or a gathering of believers in some shape or form. I look to connect with people on a daily basis. People are people. To say I belong to or attend a church causes division since most people dont attend church and once stated it often tends to alienate rather than form connections. Jesus didnt say anything about worshiping him or attending an organised regular meeting of believers. So why should Christians? Why create divisions and cut ourselves of from so many wonderful people who have so much to offer us. I have learnt so much from people that arent Christians and I have found a freedom in connecting with people without an agenda. That way everyone has the opportunity to be themselves and truly connect and something meaningful is established when that happens.

  • Jerry…got the e-mail and computer crashed before I answered. Lost it and all my e-mail addresses. Send me your address so I can answer.Alice

  • The American “church” model is so enmeshed as a part of our culture that it may be impossible to step back and look at it with the transcendent eyes of God’s culture. Like others who are reading David’s thoughts in this blog, i am neck-deep in trying to do just that. I find it amazing how much of what we do in the current institutional church – no matter what flavor- is simply a result of being American, or Western. Having grown up in the world of Americanized Christianity, it has been hard to ask such questions of Mother Church, but it is unbelievably illuminating. And I still wonder what Jesus wanted his Body to look like 2000 years after he ascended.

  • Crystal


    He certainly didn’t want it to look like what wwe have today. I’m positive of that!

  • fishon


    Glad it was only a crashed computer.
    Wait, no, I would go crazy if I had a crash.

  • joni

    yanno, i’m still really bothered by the fact that this would upset ANYONE! i just don’t understand it. why would someone feel threatened unless they themselves were hugely insecure. i just don’t get it. would others not be cheering you and saying “go for it” and encouraging you to get together with people and grow, learn, share, challenge each other. since when, when did we ever look at people getting together as a threat or a negative thing. this really bothers me, sorry.

  • Incognito

    Meant to post to warn you ‘church’ was a loaded word. Figured out some fall-out due to changes online for some. Followed up and heard a bit more. Makes me feel sad that caring people are injured when insecure people flail about without regard for others. Go for coffee with friends…that doesn’t need a ‘name’.