Tuesday, March 25, 2008


In my previous post, I mentioned that despite feeling good about my decision not to attend Sunday morning church services, there are still a few concerns I have that I think are worth mentioning.

I was raised with a strong sense of social responsibility. That is to say that as a general principle, anything I'm engaged in that involves community should cause me to endeavor to put more into it than I get back from it. You can apply this principle to personal relationships, small groups of friends, clubs or organizations, and continue upward into local and state government, national government, and finally all of mankind. I think that most reasonable people could agree that if everyone truly abided by this principle, the world would be a better place.

I like to think that by and large, I have done a pretty decent job of abiding by this principle. It is with this in mind that I admit the first concern I have about not attending the big church: Am I benefiting from the work and sacrifice of others, who are part of the institutional church, while putting nothing back into it myself?

My wife is currently attending an intensive two-year through-the-Bible study that has been amazing and life-changing for her. I'm not sure who wrote and distributed the materials, but it is sponsored by and held at the big church, at a fairly minimal cost to us.

I've mentioned before that even the small group that we attend, and consider our "church", is affiliated with the big church. I very much appreciate the fact that the big church does not micromanage this in any way, or mandate any aspect of the small group. Ours is attended by people who attend other churches, or no church at all, and the big church is perfectly fine with this. They offer general help and guidance upon request, but seem willing to trust the leaders of the small groups to use their own judgment about what the members need.

Most of the community outreach projects that we take part in are either started by, or supported by, the big church. They are great about using things like e-mail chains to make people aware of service opportunities or special needs that arise. If there were no centrally located church organization, I'm not sure exactly how much of this stuff we would find out about, and how much of it would get done at all.

So are we being leeches by benefiting from the work of others in some way, while putting nothing back in? Comments are welcome, and don't worry about hurting my feelings. As I've already mentioned, I'm sincere about the questions I'm asking. I'm just trying to find my way to the heart of Jesus the best I can. If I've gotten way off track, I'm open to correction. At this point, this "not going to church" thing is not a hill I'm willing to die on.


  1. This is an interesting question, but I'm not sure that your attendance on Sunday morning would actually make that big of a difference. The only thing I can really see here is the financial issue. Do you not give anything at all to the big church? Because I think you are still involved via service projects, right?

  2. Amy - Hmmm. Good point about the attendance not making a difference. I guess I'm thinking that if we are well-fed spiritually and don't really benefit from the music or preaching, we could be working with the children or in the nursery or something. They are always asking for volunteers. I wonder how many young parents only get a break from the busyness of life on Sunday mornings and would be blessed by this. But then again, we offer this type of help to several different families we know, and have been able to bless various folks by sharing our time and energy when they have needs. So it is a trading off of one service opportunity for another, because we have more free time and energy by not having to worry about our routines being wrapped around organization-related commitments.

    Regarding the finances, we really haven't been giving anything to the big church since we stopped attending. We support parachurch organizations like Compassion and others, we have missionary friends that we directly support, and we meet needs among friends and neighbors in our community. The net result is that we have been giving a larger and larger percentage of our income away, and have been willing to stretch way beyond what we thought we could, because we are directly aware of and involved in meeting specific needs. I don't know exactly why, but giving a generic amount to a generic organization out of perceived obligation just doesn't elicit the same response for us. We believe that if the church is doing what they should be with the money we give, it will end up in the same place we're giving it anyway. But we don't have the professional staff and building funds and stuff to worry about.