Here is my opening quote from Bean today. “If you let the group substitute for your own prayer journey, all you need to do is attend. Church for several centuries now has largely been a matter of attendance at a service, not an observably different lifestyle.”
Now can this happen in a person’s life. The answer is yes. Are there individuals who allow themselves to just attend a worship service faithfully and yet not grow at all spiritually? Once again, the answer is yes. We all know that there are attenders in our churches who are there out of a sense of obligation, coercion or habit alone. I believe it was Billy Graham who once said that the pew on Sunday was one of the most needed mission fields. If we get lost in the crowd on Sunday, then it is true that we may be doing ourselves great harm spiritually. We can create a false sense of commitment to God and look towards outward cues to gauge our spiritual health and we could lead ourselves further away from God with each weekly attendance. This then becomes the point where reflection must take place. To simply sit in the pew is not worship and it is not communion with fellow Christians. It is self serving and will over time lead to perhaps a disillusionment with the church when in reality the disillusionment should be with oneself.
It could also lead to a false sense of security. I have heard people so often make statements about how their relationship with Christ is based on a belief in God alone and that He is not as interested in their actions. They seem to think there is no connection between faith and works. I believe they need to do a better study of Scripture concerning faith and works. Though works do not save us, they do show that we are saved. There is no conflict in Paul and James’ theology. Paul addresses the positional aspect of salvation and James speaks to the continued process of salvation that shows itself in our works done in faith as an evidence of that faith. If there are those sitting in the pews who are not experiencing any level of transformation, then they need some alone time with God to contemplate their relationship.
When personal relationships are not what they need to be with God, it will affect our relationships as a whole. A healthy vertical relationship with God leads way to a healthy horizontal relationship with others and with fellow believers in the church family.
If you know of friends who have walked away from the church due to what they call disillusionment with the church or its leadership/direction, perhaps an area that needs to be addressed is whether this individual’s own personal spiritual life needs some work and reconciliation. Bitterness, resentment and hurt feelings can quickly transform into a negative transference on the church as a whole. Surrender those feelings to God is the best advice I can think of. I believe you may be missing out on a wonderful experience with the church family if personal, unconfessed sins and relational issues and disappointments aren’t handled correctly.