In response to a discussion in 2005 on this topic on “FAITH FM”, our local Christian radio station, I emailed the following letter to the talk show host.)
“Monday morning, about 7:30, I was listening to FM 94.3. George Barna’s recent poll, which indicated that 13 million born again believers in the United States had not been “in church” in the last 6 months, was being discussed. The commentators were bemoaning the fact that so many Christians (not only in America but around the world) were “unchurched” because they did not “attend church services”.
I would like to suggest another perspective on this situation….. I, myself, am a born again Christian, a former ordained minister and church planter who no longer attends church services, who no longer contributes tithes to support clerical church staff nor offerings to help maintain church buildings! But I certainly would not describe myself as “unchurched”! Actually, “unchurched” and “Christian” are two contradictory terms! If you are a Christian you are a member in the only church in which God recognizes membership! Many unsaved people have their names on membership rolls of religious congregations, and “attend services” faithfully, but they are not part of Christ’s church just as wolves are not part of a shepherd’s flock!
I would like to suggest that if George Barna had lived in the first century and asked his questions of the early Christians he would have concluded that 100% of first century Christians were “unchurched”! None of them “went to church”! (They were the church where ever they went!) None of them “attended services” in church buildings! (Rather, they simply gathered in each other’s homes for prayer, teaching, breaking of bread, exhorting one another, encouraging one another, weeping with those who wept and rejoicing with those who rejoiced!) “Church buildings” did not come into common use until the third century when Constantine made Christianity a “state religion” and promoted many practices among Christians which were common in the idolatrous religions around them!
Nor did any first century believers pay tithes to support a small class of leaders called clergy! Rather church leaders in the first century taught the believers that they were all clergy! The apostle Peter, in I Peter 2:10, calls the saints the LAOS (laity) or “people of God.” In the same epistle chapter 5 and verse 3, Peter commands church leaders (elders) not to Lord it over God’s KLEROS (clergy) or “heritage”! So the apostles were well aware of a fact that today’s “clergymen” (among whom I once was numbered!) seem to ignore! Just as every new covenant believer is a priest (I Peter 2:4,5), every believer is also one of the KLEROS, clergy (I Peter 5:3) and every believer is gifted for ministry and responsible to minister to others as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (I Peter 4:10,11) In like manner, every child of God is ordained by God to bear fruit that remains. (John 15:16)
Some of the many reasons why so many Christians are dropping out of “religious congregations” are the following:
-Too many “churches” and “clergymen” muzzle the people of God when they “attend church”! But scripture clearly teaches that the agenda for God’s people when they assemble together is to be “one anothering”, (i.e. provoking or stirring up one another to love and good works and exhorting or encouraging one another) not sitting as passive spectators staring at the backs of their neighbors’ heads!
-Too many “churches” give no opportunity for the exercise of the gifts of each believer which they have received from God!
-Too many churches require the payment of tithes and offerings for the support of an unscriptural clergy class of ministers and for the maintenance of an unscriptural “house of God” made of bricks and mortar and stained glass windows! But God no longer dwells in temples made with hands!
But many believers who are excited about their relationship with the Father, with Christ, with the Holy Spirit and with their brothers and sisters are finding that the best way to experience church, as God designed and intended it, is to gather together in each other’s homes! Millions of believers all over the world and more and more North American Christians are doing just that! A rapidly growing number of so called “unchurched Christians” are becoming actively involved in churches in homes! I would personally encourage all believers to become involved in such scriptural gatherings!
A brother in Christ,
Bruce Woodford, Norwich”
(The commentator on the same talk show the next morning acknowledged receipt of the above letter. While he did not read it on the air, he did acknowledge that, yes, many Christians who have “dropped out of church” or “stopped attending church services” are indeed actively involved in assemblies gathering in homes!)
If you are interested in such a gathering, the following is an ad which will appear tomorrow in our local paper for the assembly of which my wife and I and other believers are a part here in our community…
An assembly of Christians gathering in homes
where all believers are ordained by the Lord Jesus Christ to bear fruit that remains John 15:16 Dec.20TH 10:30 a.m. 185340 Cornell Rd (519-842-9652) Dec.27th 10:30 a.m. 325560 Norwich Rd. (519-863-3871) Individuals, families, children, young and old are welcome as we minister one to another and share a meal together.
There may very well be a similar assembly of Christians in your community! But if not, why not invite other Christians whom you know to gather together in your home? Have questions about such simple gatherings? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call519-863-3871 A DVD, “In Search of The Biblical Church” is available for the asking.