The Danger Of Saying, “I Used To Go To Church”

According to Bing 18,700,000 people searched for the phrase “I used to go to church” just last week. That is an incredible amount of people around the globe. Perhaps some of those who searched were concerned pastors or church leaders or Christians seeking to learn why a friend or loved one had dropped out of church.  My heart hurts for those who are genuinely searching for some way to get over the hurt that no doubt they have experienced as a result of their church experience.  My mind wonders if perhaps some are looking for justification for their absenteeism at the “house of God”.

Here are some things to consider if you are one of those who “used to go to church.”  I am assuming that you went to church because you have been “born again” or accepted Christ as your Savior. This article is written to those who acknowledge Christ or at least once did.   Are you open enough to actually hear what the Bible has to say to your situation?  If you are a believer in Jesus, then the New Testament is your handbook for life.  Can you take the truth? Will you read this with an open mind and heart?

The New Testament says a lot about the phrase “I used to go to church”.   I want to show you that the modern phenomenon of people leaving the church is a sign of the end times.  I want you to carefully consider the words of Jesus. I am not minimizing your pain, frustration or doubt.  There has to be answers!  I will be frank.  The church desires your return.  I will even be as bold to say, God wants you to return. There is a pastor somewhere hoping you will come in the door of his church.

First of all, the Bible exhorts us to meet together.  A failure to meet together with other believers is a violation of a New Testament command.   Hebrews 10:24-25 says this, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  It is interesting that this scripture is linked to “the Day approaching”.  That day is the soon return of Christ.  The author to the Hebrews knew that as we approached the Rapture and the Tribulation period, believers should “meet together” more, not less!  If you don’t assemble for prayer and bible study, how will you be encouraged, spurred on toward love and good deeds? We need each other.

Did you know that although the phrase “I used to go to church” is not in the Bible, God gives real Bible explanations explaining the modern day phenomenon.   I am going to give you four biblical predictions that explains this phenomenon. Two have to do with end time events, the others with the words of Jesus.

  1. A Falling Away is already occurring.

Paul said a falling away would come before the rapture and the antichrist is revealed.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-4  “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ[a] had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin[b] is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God[c] in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”

The very fact that 18,700,000 people searched for “I used to go to church” in one week shows that a falling away is already occurring.  The dictionary defines fall away as to become smaller in number, quantity, or size, to slope downward, to withdraw friendship, devotion, or support. Many churches and denominations have experienced this.   While church attendance does not necessarily mean a person is converted or lack of church attendance means they do not know Christ.  It certainly does point to a spiritual issue in one’s life.

Across two millennia people who are believers have gathered together.  Jesus founded the church on the Day of Pentecost by outpouring His Spirit.  Jesus promised to build his church.  He loved the church and paid a huge price for the church.  It is through the church that the gospel is preached, the poor are fed, and disciples are made.

If you say, I used to go to church. Please consider these questions. Are you a part of the last days “falling away”?  Imagine standing in front of Jesus and telling him that you had better things to do than go to church?   At church we worship God, at church, we encourage each other, at church, we hear the Word preached, at church, we hear testimonies to what God is doing.

Imagine telling someone this statement. I really like you but I don’t like your wife, so I won’t be coming to your house.  The church is the bride of Christ, when a person says, I don’t like church people they are literally saying, I don’t like your bride Jesus.

While I have had some distasteful experience in the body of Christ, I can honestly say, I love my brothers and sisters in Christ.

2.  Increase in wickedness, will cause many to grow cold

Jesus predictions are coming true.    Matthew 24:12 says,  “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,”  This too is an end time phenomenon.  Think of the proliferation of internet porn, the violence and sensuality seen in movies and on Television.  The societal programming that alternative lifestyles are morally acceptable. Consider for a minute the fact that many leave their young children with mom and dad or sitters to go “clubbing” on Saturday nights.   Consider how many of this generation think marijuana and getting drunk are a way to relax or blow off steam.  I know this type of article may sound old fashioned, but I am greatly concerned for this generation who say “I used to go to church.”  Are they so deceived as to think that grace is just a license to sin?  I fear that many just plain love the world more than they love Jesus.  The increase in wickedness has caused their love for Christ to grow so cold, they no longer have a desire to go to his house.

Let me ask you, has an increase in sinfulness in your world and life caused the love you once had for Christ to grow cold?  Maybe this article is a wake-up call.  The scripture is still true that says, “without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

3.  Tribulation and persecution because of the word causes many to stumble

While we in America know very little of persecution for the cause of Christ.  We may sometimes have to suffer ridicule or scorn for being a “goody two shoes” or a “Jesus freak”.  At times we may be invited to participate in social settings that aren’t good for us and we have to say, no.  I know of individuals who have lost jobs because of their faith.

What would happen if all out persecution would take place? Or if we would have to really suffer for the cause of Christ?   Jeremiah asked his generation this question: Jeremiah 12:5 “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?”

If you have stopped going to church because things are a little hard in the world,  and because people at work laughed when you mentioned Christ, what will happen as we draw near to the end?

Jesus said these words as he predicted those who would say, “I used to go to church.”  Matthew 13:20-21  this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;  yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.”

It is time to put down some spiritual roots and grow in the Lord.  My commitment to Christ and his church has nothing to do with how well the church treats me. It has to do with the grace I have experienced because of the sacrifice of Christ.

4.  The cares of the world, and deceitfulness of riches choke the Word

The current culture and society here in the end time have an agenda for you and your family.  It is called the cares of this world.  Well I work hard all week and Sunday is my only day off, so I used to go to church but now I rest.  Well I really wanted to be able to have more fun in life so I took a second job, I used to go to church but now I work a second job.  I used to go to church but my son had to play baseball tournaments and now we don’t.

The prediction of Jesus in the parable of the soil say it all.  Matthew 13:22  “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.”

I am going to give you five common scenarios of what caused people to say, “I used to go to church” from my perspective.  Along with each issue, let me give you words from the scripture.  Many of the reasons people give for leaving the church have to do with a misunderstanding of the church and its real purpose in your life.  Your participation in church should make you a better disciple of Christ, unfortunately that means learning how to grow in your relationships with all types of people, including not fully grown up brothers and sisters in Christ.  The church is not an art gallery where people show off their perfections, but rather a hospital where broken people are on a lifetime journey to wholeness and spiritual health.  Just as sometimes it is a struggle for natural born families to “get along” the same is true for church families.

Having been a pastor and in ministry for over 35 years, these are the most common reasons given:

  • I am offended. Is that a good reason to leave the church altogether and never return? Okay, someone said something that hurt your feelings or offended what you believe.  Is the Jesus that you serve not able to heal the brokenhearted? If so, and we know he can, then why does there have to be distancing and cut off?  There are a couple of verses you should consider.  Was the truth spoken in love? (Ephesians 4:15) If you are offended by the truth of God’s word aptly applied to your life, then be honest enough to say that your issue is with God and not with the church. It is the churches job to speak the truth in love.  If the truth was not spoken in love, then it is your responsibility to gently confront those who aren’t speaking in love.   If you are offended because someone sinned against you such as gossiping about you, or said something negative in your presence. Consider Matthew 18:15-17 as Gods instruction to you during this time.

Please remember this, no matter where you are at offenses are going to come. On your job, in  your family, at Wal-Mart, even in the church.  Jesus spoke to this in Luke 17:1-2 “Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.” You will be offended.  Did you know that you can just let it go? Did you know that in prayer you can forgive them trusting in God to deal with the offenders?

I am not saying to you that offenses don’t hurt. I have cried real tears from time to time over things people have said or done.  But I am determined that in my life I will forgive, and I will trust God to make it all right in due time.  But how can I stop serving God, just because an immature or insensitive person hurt my feelings.   I need to process them and move on.  Many get stuck in their spiritual growth right here, they give up, stop attending, and slowly drift away. Some will drift into sin and may even miss heaven.

  • I feel rejected. So did Jesus! He came unto His own and His own did not receive Him. I can assure you that almost everyone feels rejected.  If you were overlooked or forgotten, or had words said to you that made you feel rejected.  Take the opportunity to grow. Talk to those involved. Love those who hurt you. Activate Matthew 5:44 that says,  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,”

 I am not saying you can’t draw proper boundaries between you and abusers.  But you can’t let it destroy your spiritual life on the inside.  What if all of that was designed to cause you to grow?

  • I don’t get anything out of it. Let me ask you.  Were you a spectator or a participant? Answer that honestly? Did you come to church praying and wondering who you could encourage that day? Did you dedicate your heart to service? Or did you simply come to observe the show.  I have pastored both types of people.  Rarely do those who really give themselves to ministry and servant hood feel bored.  Fulfillment doesn’t come by listening to sermons, or even through worship.  Fulfillment comes when we “make disciples.” Fulfillment comes through service.

The next question you need to consider is are you applying what you hear in church, or did it just go in one ear and out the other. If you are really trying to live for Christ every day, applying what was taught each week, then the message becomes much more life giving.  Fulfillment comes through actually living for Christ on a day to day basis.  Don’t go to church! Be the church!

A lot of people come to church and sit on chairs and that is as deep as their Christianity goes.  Of course, they are going to be bored.  If you were sitting in on a technical teaching of how to do brain surgery, but never intended to actually do brain surgery, you would be bored. But if next week, someone’s life depended on you learning this information. It would become extremely interesting.

  • I saw conflict in the church and that bothered me. This is bound to happen. It happened in the New Testament. Paul and Barnabas had a big dispute. It happened in 1 Corinthians were people broke up into factions. There is nothing worse than church conflict.  But God can even use that for our own growth and maturity.  Do we know how to love others who disagree?  Are we critical? Do we even recognize that Satan is fighting and bringing division?

I know. It hurts, right?  These were supposed to be your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Go to God and get healed.  Make amends if possible.  I have done this many times. You will be surprised, restoration and healing is possible in Christ.

  • I saw hypocrisy among the leaders. Yes. That is right. Sometimes leaders make mistakes and even sin. God also chastens, disciplines, and corrects.  But remember this, God uses broken people. Moses was a murderer and had a temper too because he struck the rock instead of speaking to it.   David was an adulterer.  We could make a huge list of the flaws of both old and new Testament believers.

I am not making excuses for sin. Sin needs to be dealt with! Sometimes people need to be removed or step down.  These are heartbreaking situations.  There is an old saying, Don’t let a hypocrite stand between you and God, otherwise they are closer to God than you are.

I am not making excuses for anyone. I am just saying that we need to understand that humanity is prone to sin.  Once again, forgive, and move on.  Trust God to deal with the issues.

Don’t you miss the presence of God? Don’t you miss your brother in Christ praying for you?  Don’t you miss an encouraging word from a pastor?  Don’t you even miss being close to God?

Please come home. Your family misses you.

If you have said, I used to go to church, please consider this article written in a spirit of love.  I have no harsh tones only the admonishment of the Word of God.