Yes, you read that right. Christians spend too much time at church. I’m a pastor. I’m employed full-time by a church. If no one showed up, I would be out of a job. If I get more people to show up, people generally think I’m doing a better job. Christians spend too much time at church.
Here’s what I mean: I would argue that Christians spend too much time “at church” when they should spend more time in the community “being the church.” Right off the top we have to reiterate that the church is not a building. When Jesus told Peter that he would build his “assembly” or “gathering” (what ekklesia literally means), buildings and cathedrals were the furthest thing from his mind.
But in our minds today, going to church is equated with a building, a service, a location. Now, going to church isn’t in and of itself a bad thing. But it can become a distraction when it takes us away from our mission as Christ followers. It’s hard to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19) when we’ve completely surrounded ourselves with Christians and we’re so busy doing Christian activities that we don’t have the time or energy to build intentional relationships with non-believers.
Churches don’t help this mindset either. For decades the strategy was to keep Christians so busy that they didn’t have time to sin. I remember working at churches with the mindset that an empty calendar meant someone wasn’t doing their job. I think we’ve changed the common phrase “cleanliness is next to godliness” to “busyness is next to godliness.”I remember working at a church (what would be a ‘successful’ church by most standards) but feeling incredibly convicted because I had no meaningful relationships with non-believers. I was preaching to my students that they needed to tell others about Jesus, but I didn’t have the time or margin to follow my own advice. All I knew were Christians. I spent too much time at church.
Our mission as Christians isn’t fulfilled when we finish walking verse-by-verse through a book of the Bible. Our mission isn’t completed when we nail that four part harmony to our favorite song. We’re not done after we finish building or paying off a building. It’s not even done when we hold an epic event and 1000 Christians from other churches attended our church for one night. Our mission is completed when we make disciples of all nations. Not just converts. Disciples. That means we need to have a meaningful and sustained presence in our community. We need to get out of the church building more often. We need to have church and be the church in our community. That means stripping away lots and lots of programs, sacrificing even some good activities so that the mission can move forward.
I’m a full-time pastor. I love when people come to church. But a building, a program and a service can become a distraction from our main mission if we’re not careful. Christians spend too much time at church.
QUESTION: Thoughts? Am I off base here, or am I onto something?
(P.S. Don’t use this as an excuse to start missing church altogether. Making disciples of all nations doesn’t mean fishing, sleeping in or catching a NASCAR race. This is a plea to churches to reprioritize their energies, not an endorsement for people to start attending Bedside Baptist with Pastor Sheets).