Dec 142017 6 Responses

Your Christianity Isn’t Christian

“I have faith.” Those are the commonly spoken words of good people living good lives proclaiming a genuine feeling of connection with God. They can tell of a past experience of conversion. They speak in meaningful terms regarding experience of God’s presence.

But there’s a problem.

On any given Sunday, they aren’t worshipping with other believers.

  • They don’t submit to the spiritual leadership of others.
  • Their lives are not structured around living and worshipping with like-minded people regarding faith.
  • They don’t sacrificially give of their time, money, or resources within a local context of believers.

They may read their Bible. They pray. They are able to answer many questions correctly.

Ask them and they say they are Christians. But there is a problem–their Christianity isn’t Christian.

There is a difference between having faith in our faith compared to having faith in Jesus. The latter is Christianity; the former is not.

Trusting ourselves, believing in our faith, finding hope that we believe, feels like true Christianity. It carries the same language and might even lead to a similar lifestyle. But at its heart, it is radically different. (See: How to Come Back to Faith)

Christianity is built on Jesus. Christians believe that every human being is sinfully wicked and in desperate need of God’s rescue. We have a radical distrust in ourselves, how easily our hearts can be deceived, and how prone to rebellion we are. Because of this, a Christian places his hope in Jesus. His actions define our lives. His work on the Cross is the source of our hope. A Christian believes everything depends on Jesus and nothing on us.

If my hope is in me, I’m hopeless.

But many modern believers have exchanged true faith for a pseudo-faith which resembles Christianity but is actually a dangerous counterfeit. Instead of trusting Jesus, they trust themselves. Instead of following the teachings of Jesus, they are attempting to create their own way.

Nowhere is this more evident than in a lackadaisical relationship with the local church. Jesus instituted the church. While that includes every believer who has ever or will ever live, it expresses itself in meaningful ways on a local level. Believers live their lives connected to other believers where they serve, love, worship, pray, and grow together. I don’t understand why this is God’s plan. And while I see many flaws with every church I’ve ever been associated with, it cannot be denied that participation in local church is an integral aspect of someone who is following the way of Jesus.

It’s possible to be part of a local church and not be a believer. Many are often shocked when I tell them that it’s likely that 30% of the people who attend corporate worship services at the church I pastor may not be Christians. Many are trying to figure faith out. Some are simply going through the motions. Presence in a local church doesn’t guarantee saving faith, but absence from a local church greatly casts doubt on the sincerity of one’s belief.

Jesus created the church. He gave his commands to churches. There is no evidence that living life in submission to others is optional for a Christian. A Christian is involved in the local church.

“I have faith,” someone says. But is that faith built on Jesus? Is it aligned with his teachings? If not, you might have faith, but it’s not Christian faith. (See: Spiritual Check-up–10 Questions for a New Year)

“My faith is personal,” someone else says. Good. Faith should be a deeply personal value. Yet Jesus shows us that personal faith also has very public consequences and community responsibilities. If your faith is solely personal, it might be faith, but it’s not Christian faith.

“I hear from God better in nature,” another person says. Wonderful. God’s creation is a powerful way in which He reminds us of his existence and our need. Yet nature existed before the church, but God created the church anyway. Church involvement is not simply about feeling God’s presence, it’s also about serving, loving, and learning from others. It’s about worshipping God and giving a testimony to the world. If you hear God in nature, you should spend a good amount of time in nature, but do so around active involvement in a local church.

“I watch online,” some say. Technology is great. Podcast, Facebook live, and video streams are a great way to learn, grow, and stay connected when we aren’t able to gather with a church family. However, church is far more than a sermon and being part of a church requires physical presence. Technology should aide our connection with a local church instead of creating more physical distance between us and others.

Faith is not enough. Humanity’s plight is not a minor blemish which a little bit of personal faith can take care of. Our need is so great that we are totally dependent on Jesus for any chance of salvation. Having received His grace, we respond by living in accordance to His Word. That Word teaches us about the local church.

Have faith in Jesus. He’s a lot stronger than your faith.

 

6 Responses to Your Christianity Isn’t Christian
  1. A Friend Reply

    While I agree with the majority of what you said, I do have a point of disagreement. Would you say this to those who are or ever have been in prison in other times or places where a “church service” was not available? Say Paul for example, or the Christians who worship in secret and fear from being caught in non-Christian countries? Not all who believe and are truly saved have access to a service in freedom the way we have in today’s age and technology, and the USA. As for others, there are many reasons why one may not be currently associated with a local body of believers. When you assume to be on God’s level of knowledge concerning any of his children and their true level of Christianity based on church attendance, then you have a problem. Don’t assume anything based on attendance or you will have to extend that same judgement to all the world and all situations regardless of where those believers find themselves. If you want to pronounce a cloud of doubt on one’s true faith – a saving faith that is genuine – based on this, you might want to do some research and walk in someone else’s shoes for a bit and then revisit this post.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I do not believe this applies to those who do not have the ability to gather with other believers. Notice the article was about those who believe church participation isn’t a vital part of the faith. It was never implied that this relates to those who are unable to participate–illness, imprisonment, etc. I have not assumed to be on God’s level of knowledge. I have sought to do the opposite–to communicate His teachings which confront many in today’s world who are elevating their own feelings above God’s Word.

  2. A Friend Reply

    I guess I missed the part where you explained that specifically? I saw: “many modern believers have exchanged true faith for a pseudo-faith which resembles Christianity but is actually a dangerous counterfeit.” And “Nowhere is this more evident than in a lackadaisical relationship with the local church.” Yes, Jesus instituted the church, but it was radically different than what we do today. I just think you should give those that truly have hard or different situations the words that back them. Or that there are many who may just be “asleep in the Light” and need a nudge to wake up, rather than state their Christianity might not be real.

    Give words to them, not just make it sound like all who don’t attend a church and submit to the local “Spiritual Leaders”, and give to support their work, are not true believers, or that their faith comes into question. That, is where I find the issue. That is something you can’t say as a blanket statement. Jesus also said in John, “The sheep hear His voice, and He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out; He goes before them, and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.” Jesus is our first & true Spiritual Leader, all the rest of us are on the same level in His eyes in terms of his body & church. “We are all one in Christ Jesus”. We should submit to one another – as long as we keep His voice/words above all others.

    I apologize for the harshness of my statement of assuming to be on His knowledge level, but don’t we all do that when we pass any form of judgment on another person’s spiritual state or mindset? It just must be crystal clear to all who read it. To me, it just came across as a judgmental, blanket statement that those who do not attend a local church, give their money to support only the church, and obey those “Spiritual Leaders” in said church as possibly not being truly a Christian. Isn’t that what your title said?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      My intent (which I may not have communicated) was to speak to a general, over-arching situation which I see at play. A churchless Christianity is not congruent with Biblical teaching yet many are trying it. I wasn’t trying to be judgmental but was trying to make the point that what many call Christian doesn’t resemble what the Bible calls Christian. I was hoping to raise questions by talking about it “casting doubt” rather than it being a definitive statement that all are lost.

  3. A Friend Reply

    Dialogue is a great thing. Examining motives and intent of the heart is necessary in His body. And while I didn’t express my thoughts very well, I appreciate the ability we have to engage in conversations. I do believe there are concerns such as what you stated, but I’m always going to err on the side of supporting what none of can ever be sure of – the true intent of someone’s else’s heart. Only God knows the depth of our beings and souls as well as our faith. For that, I’m thankful! Love & peace to you!

  4. Neil Bradshaw Reply

    Can I add to this convo – I would tend to agree with Kevin’s assertions – being involved in a local fellowship is crucial – because it enables us to have an opportunity to live out the “one anothers”. Even in very conducive environments I am amazed how little I live these out. I need to create surroundings that encourage me to live these out – and even then my attempts are weak and miserable:) How much tougher for someone who does not surround themselves with other believers? Who am I going to teach to obey all the Jesus commanded if I don’t have good authentic relationships with other believers? If I am serious about doing this – the first step is to find some other believers – the easiest place to do this is a local church? No?

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