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The Vanity of Churchless Spirituality


What's the point?

This is the lingering question that surrounds those who are at rapid fire pace choosing to be done with the church. Why does church matter?

It is a question as a pastor I have tried to answer, and still do. I labor hard to try to answer this question. I think Pastors and leaders have a responsibility to. But, do you know one thing I found? The answers can be right, but they are not good enough for people who have already made up their mind to abandon Christ’s body.

The Abandonment of Christ’s Body

Christ never proclaimed that he was going to make his church completely perfect on this side of eternity, however he has claimed to perfect her (Eph 5.26). He has said that he desires to make the believers one in him (John 17.20-23). We see all through the Scriptures the promises of God in Christ Jesus that the church is the safest place to be in the whole world, because he will never abandon her (John 14.18).

All through the new testament we read of the messiness of Christ’s church, and the same thing rings true today. The Holy Spirit spoke through the apostles to give us the rich truths of the New Testament written in context to the church Christ loves and died for. Peter says it better than I can when he says.

1 Peter 2:9–10 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Keeping up Appearances

When a Christian says they are done with the church in word and their actions it is abandonment of Christ’s body. It is saying, "I no longer identify with the people of God". It is saying I no longer believe in God’s promise of sanctification for God’s people. The irony of this, is there is still a semblance of spirituality. The Instagram stories of rich devotionals still make their appearances on social media. The latest Christian worship song that makes the heart feel full pops up on their Spotify playlist. Even the reading of an orthodox Christian author (insert John Piper, Tim Keller, or Elyse Fitzpatrick here) is still taking place.

However much we keep up the appearances, feed the fires or emotions, and sharpen the mind with orthodoxy it is all vanity. It is all a chasing after the wind. Because the promises of God is not for our individual spirituality but for the church. Christ died for those who belong to his church.

My purpose in the article is not to wade into the debate of whether someone can be a Christian while not belonging to the church. However, I would say that the author Hebrews gives us a massive warning when he says Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.

I would say that we fall into the category of the “self righteous” when we choose to be done with church. Because, in effect we are saying even though Christ will not abandon his church, I will. Even though Christ is not done with his church, I am. Then we proceed to individualize those promises that were made for the church that Christ bled and died for, and we misinterpret them to be given to “me” and not to the church. This is a form of legalism and self-righteousness that needs to be repented of.

It is vanity. It is spirituality without substance, and in the landscape of emerging American Christianity it is becoming a Christless way of life that keeps up appearances. I say Christless way of life because there are no Biblical examples of someone who follows Christ but does not belong to his church.

I will continue to give answers to the question “What's the point?”. I will preach, pastor, labor, and strive to give those answers however imperfectly with word and deed and lead a church to do so. No matter how compelling the answers may be, I realize that some will still say, “no thanks”. To them our doors will always be open, because we believe that Christ has not abandoned us. I write this with a deep longing to see those whom I love return to the people that God calls his own in the church.