I was inspired to write this I saw an article called 8 ways to leave church without anyone noticing. Initially I thought it was a good simple article, but on second thought I feel that the issues it raises are more the fault of those holding the individual accountable. In fact I feel there is a problem with the title, because if an individual is declining in attendance, showing signs of lack of growth, disobeying Scriptures admonition regarding dating, it shouldn’t be unnoticed as the article implies; and those who are spiritual should restore the weaker brother/sister.
Far more sinister is the fellow who is at church and serving, but is not actually at church. So here are my 8 ways to stop going to church without leaving church.
1. Get really involved in some church ministry
Be part of a really important ministry, maybe Sunday school, Youth or a special prayer team… anything really, so long as you appear to be serving the body of Christ. All the while you will miss the primary means of grace, which is the preaching of God’s Word, and the enjoyable discipline of the sacraments (Communion and Baptism) every week. Your real goal here is to try to feed others with the Word while you remain malnourished.
2. Be Hyper Orthodox
This is a particular temptation for pastors who listen to other pastors preach, but we are all susceptible to this. During the preaching notice all the things the preacher leaves out. “He could be more Christ-focused; he could have gone deeper into that point; he is missing such a great point/reference; I wonder what my study Bible says that shows the preacher wrong”. Be critical instead of striving to see Christ for yourself, and feast on the good points made.
3. Avoid thinking about the Word
Straight after the sermon avoid at all costs talking about what was preached or bringing it up in conversation at a later time. Make sure your brain shifts to sports or music or jokes and swiftly as possible.
4. Give up at the first difficulty
As soon as something doesn’t make sense, or things are not going at the right pace for you, turn off and write-off the rest of the service. But don’t try at all to get over your immediate weakness and tiredness and seek the Lord’s face.
5. Avoid Accountability
Make sure you don’t foster any genuine relationships, and avoid becoming a member at all costs. After a service try to dawdle by yourself in a secluded area, but not in such a way that invites concerned brother/sisters to talk to you.
6. Use Twitter and Facebook
Social media makes for a great distraction during a service when the means of grace are present. Use them both on your phone or tab to zone out the Worship service and check what’s going on in the world.
7. Take Communion while living in unrepentant sin
This is one of the most effective ways, since you really enlist God to remove you from the church militant (Christians that have not gone to heaven). In 1 Corinthians 11, there is a word of judgement given to those who take the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. If you get this right, God may just remove you from the church through sickness or death; mission accomplished.
8. Don’t forgive others or seek peace in your relationships
Peter writes to “live with your wives in an understanding way that your prayers may not be hindered’[i]. And Jesus warns that you should “leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.[ii]” So put on a spiritual face, sing your heart out, and pray till you cry, but avoid seeking Christ-centred relationships with those who are made in God’s image.
[i] 1 Peter 3:7
[ii] Matthew 5:24.