Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Don’t Be the Church, Go To Church

dont go to churchHow frequently have you heard the saying, “Don’t go to church, be the church!” It’s a common phrase in Christian media and especially in sermons. Google it.

Problem is, like so many things that are popular in modern religion, it’s unbiblical.

First of all, a church is an assembly. Almost 90% of all uses of ecclesia in the New Testament refer to a group of Christians gathered together in assembly. The rest refer to the Universal Church.

So telling each person to be a church is an impossibility. It’s like commanding each person to be a team.

no trespass churchSecond, teaching people “Don’t go to church, be the church” means the teacher must replace the Bible’s own meaning of “church” (i.e., “assembly”) with something he believes better describes what church means than that which is given by God in Scripture. He thus has no business teaching in the church, and should immediately reposition himself to the learner’s seat.

Third, it goes against Scripture. When Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians,

“when you come together as a church…” (1 Cor. 11:18)

his words mean that when the Corinthian Christians woke up Sunday morning, they weren’t the church. They only became the church when they went to church (1 Cor. 11:17-34).

In other words, “Don’t be the church. Go to church.”

8 Comments

  1. 1
    Bart says:

    Thanks Ted for pointing us to this. It sharpens our minds.

    However, could it be that in de 5th paragraph, where is written “the person teaching people ‘Don’t Be the Church, Go To Church’ ”, you actually mean “the person teaching people ‘don’t go to church, be the church!'”?

  2. 2
    Ted says:

    Fixed, Bart. And to think I turned down my proof reader when she offered…. Sigh.

  3. 3
    Bart says:

    Ted, this morning is was reading through Efesians, “…In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ef.2:32) and your post came to my mind. I was thinking what the people who use a statement as mentionend in your article: ‘Don’t go to church, be the church’ actually would mean. Definitely the statement in itself is wrong, that you clearly pointed out in you article. But to respond in a way ‘which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers’ (Ef.4:29) I think it is valuable to propose a small modification of this statement. Use the wrong for the good… The essence of what these people might mean is that a church isn’t the building itself, but the believers who are in this building. Therefore I think the following statement would be profitable when we hear someone using the statement mentioned above: ‘Don’t go to the Church, but be PART of the Church’. I think using this modification would point directly to the core of your rebuke and ‘minister grace to the hearers’ instead of a harsh rebuke in which we would tell them this is a heretic statement.

    Gewoon een kleine kanttekening om in alle nederigheid met je mee te redeneren en in onze woorden en reacties onze Heer te verheerlijken… (some Asian spirit forced me to write in Dutch to you… I can’t tell who it was 🙂 )

    Bart

    1. 3.1
      Ted says:

      “The essence of what these people might mean is that a church isn’t the building itself, but the believers who are in this building. Therefore I think the following statement would be profitable when we hear someone using the statement mentioned above: ‘Don’t go to the Church, but be PART of the Church’. I think using this modification would point directly to the core of your rebuke and ‘minister grace to the hearers’ instead of a harsh rebuke in which we would tell them this is a heretic statement.”

      Bart,

      Or, it’s deeper. I would suggest the statement “don’t go to church, be the church” is more than “the church is not the building.” Would it be fair to say 99.9% of regenerate people know that?

      Rather, the saying and its application connects with people’s because it justifies individualism and anti-institutionalism, all the while not saying anything distinctly biblical. And that is what is ultimately unedifying. If a person, or people, can be the church without going to church, then they don’t need church.

      The phrase is common among those who function in a “stay at home” church, or “having church in nature,” and especially, distrusting “the church.” Further, since the church is an institution (Mat. 18:17) it is impossible for an individual, or a group, to be the church without going to church.

      You wrote ‘be PART of the Church’ with a capital “C.” Did you mean to refer to the universal church? If so, taking your suggestion ‘be PART of the Church’ would then be to tell someone they are unsaved. After all, it is impossible to be truly saved, and yet not ‘be PART of the Church’ – i.e., the universal Church, for this is comprised of all who the redeemed in the present age (Mat. 16:18). But nobody calls people to conversion by saying “be a PART of the Church” unless one is Roman Catholic or Orthodox.

      On the other hand, if you are telling people to “be a part of the local church” (“c”) then that is likewise impossible. One must go to the local church before they can be a part of the local church. Remember, when the Corinthians Christians woke up on Sunday morning, they weren’t yet a part of the “church of God which is existing in Corinth” (1 Cor. 1:2). They first had to go to church to be the church (1 Cor. 11:17-34).

  4. 4
    Bart says:

    Hi Ted, I love your comment! Again refreshing. In ‘my’ statement ‘be part of the Church’ I was more referring to the group of church attendees who sit on the chairs and consume. This is more common in our region where churches have a lot of attendees, but less, very less people who actually engage in the church (or Church, in this context irrelevant). They also have the idea to ‘go to the church’. So I think we’re both viewing the same statement from a different point of view (or problem). You might say, well a regenerated person will have the desire to engage actively in the church, in our ‘Arminian’ region they’ll point you to their free choise in Christ etc.

    I hope I’m a little bit clear… If I’m seeing it all wrong, feel free to rebuke me. However, your comment enriched my discernment.

    Dankjewel! (Thank you)

    1. 4.1
      Bart says:

      Ted, we have a saying in Dutch: ‘Als het in Amerika regent, dan druppelt het in Europa’ (When it rains in America, it trickles in Europe). And indeed, I Googled a little bit and found out even in our region this quote ‘don’t go to church, be the church’ starts to take shape in the form you described. Interesting (and really unbiblical indeed)…

      1. 4.1.1
        Bart says:

        Ted, last post on this topic…promised! 😉 Just to let you know I’ve also written an article on this topic (in Dutch) and used some parts of your blog. I asumed you didn’t need any credit for this… if otherwise let me know.

        http://www.gold4life.org/eigentijds/ga-niet-naar-de-kerk-maar-wees-de-kerk/#

        1. Ted says:

          Excellent post! Well done, Bart.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *