...And how to respond to them.
There have been dissertations, books, articles and songs written about this. This is only my two cents worth...hopefully something that will arm you with a response the next time you hear one of these. Or, perhaps you have been saying one of these lately and this will help you through it. This might be a bit risque for a pastor's wife, but i assure you this post is not written because of or modeled after a particular person :) These are things I've heard since I was a youth...and now that I've had some experience working in churches, worshiping in different churches and learning in different churches, I see where these people are coming from...but I also have an idea of how to respond. Here goes...
1. "I can worship from home. I don't need church." Yes you can (and I hope you do), and yes you do. The book of Acts talks about the first church and why it was needed and how it came about. We are to surround ourselves with other Christians so that we can praise, worship and learn as a community. We pray for each other, we help each other, we teach each other and by being around other Christians we inspire and motivate each other to be better Christians. Face it, it's not always easy being a Christian - by standing in the midst of others who believe what you do, you feel empowered. Once, when working in Peru at a Christian School, I was out for a few days because I was sick (probably "tummy buddies"...which us foreigners affectionately called the parasites and amoebas we sometimes got :) ) The headmaster stopped by to check on me and completely shocked me when he entered the room upset. "Why didn't you tell me you were sick? Why were you hiding it?!" He made me turn to James 5:14 and had me read "14Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.…". Point taken. We are a community. "Worshiping at home" is a wonderful concept and I hope we all do it. Truth is, when I hear this excuse from people, most of the time they aren't really doing it - they just want you to know they don't think the church is necessary.
2. "I had a bad experience in a church when I was little" This is quite common - especially from people who went to Catholic schools. This is also harder to deal with because you know this person has a faith background, understands and knows quite a bit about God and church...and still rejects it because of a bad experience. The only thing I can say to this is - the church (or school) you went to when you were little...there isn't another one like it. My church isn't like it, the church down the street isn't the same either. If you have the desire to find a church that fits your "idea" of what church should be - I will help you find one. If you're still holding on to the bad experience that happened ten-twenty years ago...it's time to let go. Don't let past experiences keep you from future ones. What you experienced long ago wasn't "God" or "the church" - it was individuals who were obviously not acting in what you would consider a "Christian way'". Don't blame the church for these individuals' faults.
3. "I don't have time." In our culture today - especially for young families - this is way too common. Sports, hobbies, etc get in the way of church. I could write pages about this, but I'm just going to say - you make time for the things that are important to you. If you aren't making time for church, perhaps it's not very high on the priority list for you. If that doesn't bother you, then continue your lifestyle. If what I just said ruffled your feathers, then perhaps you need to look at why. Luckily, in many cities now, you can find worship services on Saturday nights, Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings. If it's important to you, you will find a way.
4. "The church is full of hypocrites." Yep. It is. This is my favorite excuse and I hear it a lot from "new Christians" who have just started going to church. They are all excited about their new faith and church family and then someone disappoints them, or offends them, or does something they don't approve of. All of a sudden, the church is seen as flawed. I hate to break it to you...but it is. Why? Because we are humans - we aren't Jesus. We aren't perfect and we are all going to mess up. If someone offended you, maybe, if you give them a chance, they'll apologize. Maybe they won't. Not all good people are Christians and not all Christians are good people. What you need to do as a Christian is model what you think is the correct behavior. I've had to apologize to people at church for offending them. It happens. You can confront whoever upset you and let them know (in a nice way) what they did, or you can just forgive them and move on. Either way, I promise you that you will never find a church with perfect people. It doesn't exist. Luckily, the church is open to hurt, scarred, angry, bitter and confused people. If it wasn't, where could these people go? The church is open to everyone and, with God's love, they can change.
5. "I don't believe in God" Tough one. This one I don't have a direct answer for because it completely and totally depends on where that person is in life. When talking to one pastor about an atheist friend (which, as my theology professor pointed out can't exist...everyone believes in something...just the fact that someone says - I don't believe God exists - means they acknowledged there was a God to begin with and they are choosing not to believe in Him. deep thought, huh?), he said - I enjoy talking to atheists because they have usually pondered the subject and like to talk about it. He said, I have had great discussions with atheists, it's the people that refuse to talk about it or don't want to that are farther from God. You meet that person where they are, talk with them if they are interested, back off if they aren't. Then, pray for them.
Life is easier, if you go to church - not because you will be blessed with only good things - but because you will have a community to hold onto when bad things happen. Your faith will be stronger if you go to church - perhaps from bible studies, perhaps from worship services, perhaps from Sunday school, but definitely from surrounding yourself with a community of people that believe what you do, and try their best to live how God wants them to. We all need this motivation. And we all need church. Just remember, church is not God and God is not church. In church we praise and worship God, we feel God, we hear God and we get the privilege of seeing God in the faces of those around us...but church is not God. God is why we go to church. If you are having a difficult time finding a church to call "home", don't give up. God has a plan for you and, if you continue looking, you will find one! If you need help - just ask!!
Hope this helped someone :)