Back to Church?

National Back to Church Sunday (motto: We love exclamation points!) is coming September 15th this year(!). (Just teasing y’all)

I have not attended a church regularly in 4 years, though I have visited a number of different ones in my area. Last year was the first I had ever heard of “Back to Church Sunday”-and it made me mad.

This year I’ve investigated it a little further, and while I appreciate it more and understand better the motives behind it, it still makes me mad. Here’s why:

The assumption that anyone and everyone who does not attend church regularly MUST be a non-Christian.

I run into this A LOT. I understand why, and I have learned to expect such attitudes, but they are extremely frustrating. I don’t do bandwagons, and I try to avoid stereotypes. I take a little pride in defying labels because I am a multifaceted person. All people are, actually. While people share life experiences, their reasons for doing what they do are rarely simple or easy, so don’t assume; ask. Too many churches assume.

This assumption also tends to leave out two main people groups: the sick and the elderly (and please to remember that not all sick are elderly, and vice-versa). These are people who cannot care for themselves; people who cannot always communicate well; people who cannot give anything back. Heaven forbid they are overlooked because they are too time-consuming and usually poor.

I don’t want to “invest” in an organization or an institution. I want to be surrounded by people who sincerely want to be friends; by people who truly care to grow with me during this brief period called “life”. In short, I’m looking for a family, not a building with programs to get “plugged into”.

The implication that you MUST attend a church regularly to grow in God (and not be in rebellion against Him).

In light of all the busy-work many churches expect of their members, this implication is somewhat, sadly, laughable. Does passing out programs, lighting candles, singing in a choir, working the sound booth, etc. really help you grow in God (I have personally done all these things on a long-term basis. Except lighting candles. They won’t let me around fire…)? Or is it just a phrase automatically thrown about because someone has to do it, and whoever is in charge wants them to feel good about it? I don’t have an answer to that, and I’m not trying to be nasty or trash churches. I just want people to stop and really think about what they do and why.

There are only three ways I know of (Biblically speaking) to grow in God: Study your Bible, pray regularly, and hang out often with other Christians. A person can attend church all their life and be an active member, and still not be a Christian.

Just another business-tactic approach.

I get so tired of these. Although their website states that Back to Church Sunday is simply about encouraging members to ask their neighbors, coworkers, friends, etc. to church, is not beneath “helping” churches acheive this goal by selling them all sorts of “outreach” materials: door hangers, postcards, invitations, fliers, and kits (“outreach” priced at $59.95–their term, not mine)

Not only that, the website features “Success Stories” showcasing churches whose attendance numbers skyrocketed after their Back to Church Sunday campaign, as well as endorsements from both pastors of large churches/Christian organizations and Christian celebrities. This looks, sounds, and smells like a sales job. Is it wrong? Is it ethical? Is it necessary? Do I really need to explain why high attendance does not a successful church make?

The Pastor Rap

Although this video (note: for preview only. You must purchase it for $20 to show in your church) is highly entertaining and amusing as it seeks to break down stereotypes, I do find it upsetting. Why do churches feel the need to try to sell themselves? A church is not a business, not an institution, not even a non-profit organization. A church is supposed to be a group of people investigating and learning about God together throughout life, meanwhile supporting, encouraging, and sharing with one another. In most churches I’ve attended, the people barely know one another, and everyone is so busy “doing” something, they never have time to actually build relationships. My current “church” consists of Christian family and friends whom we hang out with and help out.

In another video (priced at $20) called “Welcome to Church” on Back to Church Sunday’s site, “regular” people from all ethnic backgrounds proclaim the revolutionary history of “the church” (interestingly, there was no mention of denominations, even though “The Pastor Rap” and the BTCS site invites people to search for their particular denomination of choice). During the video, “sales points” highlighting the church’s actions throughout history as to anti-slavery, pro-education, and helping the poor and sick are discussed, and you, dear viewer, are invited to join this “revolution of love and freedom” called “Church”.

In other videos ($20 each) designed for non-Christian viewers, a lot of pretty things are said. Promises of forgiveness, love, hope, and support are extended from the church with one major factor missing: Jesus Christ. Should He not be the central message, rather than attending church? If you only get one opportunity to talk to a stranger on a bench, make it about the Gospel, not coming to church.

1 Peter 3:14-15, “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

Did the disciples preach about church attendance or the Gospel of Jesus? Churches: Please stop trying to make sales, and just let God do His thing.

Will I be attending Back to Church Sunday? Not this year.

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