When You Believe in God But Not in His Church

This is the final installment of The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel.

Most of us are confused about the Church.

There is a fair amount of research, books, studies, and literature out there says so.

What is the Church? Who is it for? Do we have to go? Is it for Christians, seekers, or what?

Before we get to those answers, Christian Atheists – that is those who call themselves Christians but live otherwise – consider Church a low priority.

They will provide any number of reasons why they don’t like Church:

* Don’t have time

* Don’t want to go

* Sick of hearing the pastor talk about money

* Irrelevant to their lives

* Feel guilty

* Too spiritual

* Not spiritual enough

* The NFL

Whatever the reason, Church for Christian Atheists is a low priority. They’ll go if they have time or if they can fit it in.

But is this what Jesus had in mind for His bride?

Last night, I attended The Verve church in Las Vegas, started by renowned church planter Vince Antonucci, who is graciously meeting with me on Thursday. Everything the Verve is doing is with a single purpose in mind: To attract people who aren’t normally attracted to church, Jesus, or God. It’s awesome.

But I found something interesting in Vince’s message. He said something of the sort: You might make a decision to believe in Jesus tonight, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should follow him. Following him is much more difficult – and in fact this is what Jesus wants more than anything – than simply showing up occasionally or saying you believe in Him.

WOW! Right?

What’s happened over the last two decades is that in order to attract more people, churches have generally reduced the message of Christianity to “hey, it’s easy! Just show up, believe in Jesus, and attend our church. Then, life will be grand!”

In response, people are not given the tools of true discipleship. They are leaving churches in droves over disillusionment. They thought being a Christian was attending church once a month and believing in Jesus only. Turns out, this hasn’t changed their lives because they weren’t given the true message. Further, churches haven’t asked much for membership because we wanted more people. More people = More Christians = More members.

Wrong.

Instead, we forgot that “The church does not exist for us. We are the church, and we exist for the world.” (Erwin McManus). This requires a high commitment. This requires that we be real with people and tell them they need to really wrestle with whether they are ready to follow Jesus or not.

What is church? It looks like this: And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done.” Acts 2:42

“The church must become a catalyst and environment for genuine and sustainable spiritual transformation.” David Kinnaman, UnChristian

“In the same way the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs.” C.S. Lewis

“It’s a revolution of humble, self-sacrificial, loving service. It always looks like Jesus…” Greg Boyd, Myth of a Christian Nation

It is not enough to show up once a month.

It is not enough to do “church” online.

It is not enough to watch Joel Osteen (which you should NEVER do).

It requires sacrifice, humility, discipline, and commitment.

You may believe in Jesus, but are you ready to follow him? Then join a community – a church – of people who are passionately pursuing Jesus Christ.

Groeschel ends the book by asking: Are you a …

Line 1 believer? Someone who believes in God enough to benefit from Him.

Line 2 believer? Someone who believe in God enough to contribute comfortably.

Line 3 believer? Someone who believe in God enough to give their life to Him.

Consider the costs and step across the line.

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