Why go to church? Church stinks. People are either rude, looking down their self-righteous nose at you, or they are nice and in a hurry. I hardly ever have a significant conversation at the church service, it is just “Hi,” or “Good to see you,” or “How’s the family?” or something churchy and pithy like that.

Teaching? Yes, the sermon is great. But can’t I just listen to someone on the radio or download the podcast? Really. What is the difference?

Fellowship? Do not neglect the gathering together of believers, I know. But is that talking about a gathering together at a church building? Why can’t I just hang out with some Christian friends, going to dinner and maybe having a Bible Study at the house. What is special and unique about gathering together with them at a church building? It seems so shallow in those walls.

Taking of the Lord’s table? Jesus said “Do this in remembrance of me.” He did not say where we are to do this. Are we limited to a church building? Do elders, pastors, and/or deacons have to distribute the elements? Why? Where do you get that? Why can’t I just do it at my house or at Starbucks?

Giving? Isn’t giving primarily said to support those who labor in teaching and for the poor? I cannot think of any other way it is described in the New Testament. Can’t I just do this on my own, giving to others who are laboring in teaching that I am benefiting from elsewhere?

I am tired of being judged by whether or not I go to church. I heard that the Catholics say that if you miss Mass without a valid excuse you have committed a mortal sin and, if not confessed, no matter how much you love Christ, you are still going to hell. I have been to Protestant churches that seem to believe the same thing (although they would not put it that way). I actually heard someone say that if I don’t go to church I am not a Christian. If that is true, I am not that type of Christian and want nothing to do with it.

I think that the modern idea of going to church is rather legalistic and can cause people to miss the point entirely. I love Christ. I have Christian friends that I love and hang out with. We are the church, but we don’t go to a church. Isn’t this enough? What am I missing?

These statements are not mine, but are typical of many people that I know. In fact, many of my closest friends think this way, they are just scared to admit it.

How would you respond?

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    69 replies to "Why Even Bother Going to Church?"

    • Michael L

      Amen brother ! Amen…
      It’s not about what I like to do. But what HE wants me to do. I can find no better place to worship Him than with another group of sinners, amongst which are undoubtedly a bunch I wouldn’t go to Starbucks with 😉

      Cheryl u
      Sorry to hear that. Truly am. Been there done that. I’ll rewrite my own church experiences coming to the US. Yikes that was a shock ! In addition, I’ll pray the Lord may lead you to a solid Bible oriented Church.
      Have you considered starting perhaps a small home bible study group ? With the 25 years involvement, there must be local people you’re still in touch with, that may think like you, etc. Make it a small group, study, worship, have the Lord’s supper and be HIS church. I know this sounds a whole lot like “emergent” or “house church”. But in your particular case, it may be a solution perhaps ?

      I’ve heard the questions. Asked them myself for a while even.

      I don’t know the answer, or whether there even is an answer. I do know that I’ve seen Christianity (Roman Catholicism) go down the drain because of a lack of worship attendance. Look at Europe today. Churches are empty ! And one can’t help but wonder.. are the churches (in this case buildings) empty because the faith is declining ? Or is the faith declining because people started staying away from church and hence it became less of a part of their daily or weekly lives.

      CS Lewis once wrote:

      Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that “suits” him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.
      Screwtape letters, Letter XVI

      I would strongly suggest to anyone questioning church attendance to read that particular letter. Besides that.. the book’s a funny read 😉

      Finally, since we tend to surround ourselves with people we “like”, the ones we tend to “dislike” sometimes are our best mirrors. By avoiding them, we only avoid looking at ourselves and seeing how flawed we are in becoming an “image of Christ

      In Him

    • John from Down Under

      Mick (digressing a bit) – how do you insert those smiley’s? What HTML code you use? I can’t seem to find it anywhere.

    • minnow

      Eric #4 The problem with your statement: “It teaches us how to love one another” is that the fellowships CMP described are offering no opportunity to practice love unless it’s unconditional love toward leadership that is errant but demanding “support”. With regard to you feeback/conversation point–Where does such take place in a tyypical Sunday AM setting? No offense to those who are being the Church sent out but the average “Church” goer (in my experience) doesn’t think much about being God’s ambassador or witnessing between meeting days.
      #22 I can Amen most of what you said! especially: “Jesus spent a lot of time and said a lot of words that had the effect of decentralizing spiritual life. Now we fight like crazy to keep our centralized control of all things spiritual.”
      #24 Yes, D. L. Kane, you are missing something. But, maybe that’s a good thing if you’ve found a fellowship unlike any I’ve experienced that makes worship and God rather than man’s best songs and man’s canned sermons central. Or perhaps you are able to function in the fellowship you’ve found unaware of those around you and how the fellowship conducts it’s “business”.
      CMP #16 “Can church be done, not gone to?” Seems to me those in Acts managed to do Church wherever they went.

    • Seth R.

      “How would you respond?”

      If you leave, there will be less people like you, and more people like them left in the congregation.

    • Peter

      “ahh…but the rub is that just because an “authoritative Church” says it doesn’t make it necessarily right either. Must we go into all the instances where each “Church” has been wrong in the past?”

      This is probably not the time to argue about who was wrong about what and when, but I’d like to point out that going to church was the practice of the universal church, where you can define that term as widely or narrowly as you wish.

    • Michael L.

      John from down under

      Use a semicolon followed by a minus sign followed by a closing parenthesis

      Something like ; – )

      I put some spaces between them to show the different characters. Without the spaces you get this 😉
      There’s others as well. WordPress has a good article on it at


      In Him

    • ScottL

      Michael –

      You could pull the good ol’ evangelical card and ask where the Bible teaches we must GO to church.

      There are some particular passages on assembling together (i.e. Heb 10:24-25), but I am not sure the typical American idea of church is synonymous with these passages.

      I know you know ekklesia is not, in its essence, about a building. It’s about the people of God gathered together. A building can sit empty, so it seems in its most simple form to be about the people gathered together (2 or 3 in my name). There is a special sense about our main gatherings, as in the usual Sunday gathering. But I am glad church is not relegated to Sunday mornings.

      Let’s celebrate on Sundays, but by no means cast a rule that doesn’t even line up with the Scriptures teaching about the ekklesia.

      I find myself tempted every so often to cancel our Sunday gatherings for a couple of months. I wonder how people would respond. If they know what ekklesia is about, then they will get on being the ekklesia in their homes, in the parks, over a beer or coffee, etc.

      That’s beautiful!!

    • Nick P

      “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” – Mark Twain

      My view of the usefulness and quality of public education couldn’t get much lower. My view of the usefulness and quality of church is lower than that. What makes church even worse is that the teachers are more arrogant and give out more false and damaging information.

      Last week I heard a sermon where the pastor said, “Self introspection is from the devil.” And this is the person I’m supposed to respect and learn from? I can get a more valuable sermon from the graffiti in public bathroom stalls.

      Church has less that no value to me.

    • Mary

      My heart goes out to you. I am somewhat in a similar situation as far as “church” attendance. I perceive the Lord is desiring to do a magnificent work in your life through this trial. Likewise, the enemy of your soul desires to sift you as wheat. He wants to isolate you and that is why you must be single-focused on trusting the Lord and being obedient to the Biblically expressed pattern of not forsaking the assembly TOGETHER with other believers, realizing the fallibility of man but the complete INFALLIBILTY of the Father. The grace of God wants to show you how to humble yourself and become obedient to the cross as Jesus modeled for us.
      This sounds like a burden God has given you and as you seek Him and His glory is revealed, you will glorify Him in deed. I infer from your posts you are a gifted lady and those gifts are from God for the building up of others. However, oftentimes, others don’t want to be built up, they want to be propped up. We don’t meet their expectations and they don’t meet ours!

      I came to know Jesus in a Pentecostal church that modeled the freedom I already had been expressing as an unregenerate sinner. God chose this pathway for me to see the difference between the flesh and the Spirit, intellectual hearing and listening to His voice as the Scriptures tell us that we can do ALL things through Christ who loved us. We did not (and still do not) make it easy…but His patience and longsuffering are examples for us who wait on the Lord. We do this to please Him and not others. We also wait on others to please Him and not to be people-pleasers. I am serving in a church now that does not love the Word, yet thinks they are “holy”. I daresay, most Christians would fall into that category because they lean more toward the modern looseness of psychologized theology which is completely MAN CENTERED.
      No matter what has happened in your past history with the “organized” church, you simply cannot take a chance on isolation being the answer. This is a very vulnerable time in your spiritual walk and obedience to the law of love is vital…Love the Lord God with ALL your heart, mind, and strength….AND love your neighbor…regard him/her more highly than yourself. My dear, it is now your “serve”.

      Lifting you up in prayer,

    • Minnow

      Mary–I’m sorry but going to worship/fellowship with other beievers should NOT be a “cross one needs to bare”. And who are we to say that God hasn’t put Cheryl in the place she is in precisely because He wants her all to Himself–isolated from the deceit of Man. I am really tired of how willing we are to be someone else’s Holy Spirit. The woman is sharing her frustration and pain and we go around slapping her wrists like she was about to steal a piece of candy or worse.
      Nick P–I am sorry you have not had a better experience of Church. There are connections out there, just maybe not in the usual places.

    • Kara Kittle

      If we go to church as a Calvinist it’s because God made us want to, therefore going to church is not considered work on our part. If you are Pentecostal and go to church it’s because you want to, but there may be days when you don’t feel like it. If you go to church because you are a Methodist it’s because it’s tradition. And other reasons for other people.

      But can’t we just go to church out the simple joy of getting the opportunity to praise and worship the Lord? No one should be forced to go to church, it is something you should do willingly and gladly. And as much as one says that you can do it in coffee shops and home, you were already supposed to be doing that anyway. There is a specialness to going to church. I like going to church but miss sometimes because of health problems and then I do miss it. I want to feel the fellowship of the other believers, and with God and I want to be filled from that well so during the week I can draw on it.

    • cheryl u


      First of all, I want to thank all of those here that have offered me encouragement.

      Secondly, to all of you that insist I absolutely have to go to church no matter what, can you tell me what you do with this particular Scripture? “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.” Romans 16:17

    • Chad Winters

      Mary: did you read the article?

    • Mary

      I do believe God allows us to encounter life situations, people and circumstances to show us what we are made of. He knows it, but He wants us to know it as well.
      Yes, Chad, I read the article and I understand the variety of reasons AND excuses we come up with to avoid showing the love of and for Christ. I believe in the concept of coming together and being built up for the purpose of witnessing to the lost, those who have never trusted Jesus as Savior. The difficulty with church today is the tares that have grown up with the wheat, thus the disconnect for those looking for Jesus. Church today needs individuals, elect and chosen of God, who are willing to PERSEVERE and wait upon the Almighty to do what He says to do. Unfortunately, we can become self-absorbed and the discomfort and PAIN is often unbearable.
      Church CAN be a place of bearing a cross (so to speak) when we go for the wrong reasons. But it can be within the will of God to stay and be used of Him to minister to those who He is calling to Himself . And, of course, we must be ready to be used for His glory at any time.

      Cheryl, once again, I encourage you to seek the Lord and not man in this situation. I find it ironic, you quote from this chapter and Paul is giving instruction to people of God in THE CHURCH. In fact much of Scripture deals with the manner people should conduct themselves in the church. The problem is, these instructions are not heeded, or are they evidently considered worthy of our attention since we seem bent on leaving because of the power other men/women seem to have over us. The majority of people will consider the general consensus to be accurate…this is called the broad road. The Scripture you referenced is clear, be careful what you listen to.

      Listen, I struggle with this as well. I have seen the days when I was almost suicidal in this struggle. I battle with the disappointments and discouragements too. BUT, we do not battle with flesh and blood and our weapons are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, those thought patterns that cause division and turn our vision from the prize of the high calling of the Lord Jesus.

      I will ask a question…if we aren’t going to church, are we joining the ranks of the world? If we lose the physical or even mental ability to intentionally come together for the purpose of worshipping Jesus Christ, who, by the way, went to the temple regularly, what do we do? Whatever we think is right in our own mind? Is it left up to us to decide? Of course it is! But in order to make a good decision, as godly people, we need good information. Where does that information come from? You don’t need to follow my instruction, but you do need to seek the will of God and then obey Him.

    • cheryl u


      You said, “I find it ironic, you quote from this chapter and Paul is giving instruction to people of God in THE CHURCH.”

      EXACTLY, and what was he telling those people?? MARK and AVOID those that are causing devisions and offences contrary to the doctrine you have been taught. If the ones causing those problems are the ones in the church, particularly in the leadership, how in the world are we to avoid them by sitting in the pews under their leadership and being subject to them as the Bible teaches? I think you maybe missed my point 100%.

      And since this is a verse in the Bible I am listening to, what makes you think I am listening to other men or women? Indeed most men and women are trying to make me feel like I have committed a very drastic sin by not going to church at this time.

      And if you have read all of my comments, you know that I said I realize this is not an ideal situation. However, I haven’t found any practical solutions at this time either.

    • cheryl u


      I also want to ask you a question here. Have you read what Paul said is the purpose of the church recently? (I Corinthians 14) He said all things are to be done for edification–building up, and so that all may learn and be encouraged.

      That doesn’t at all sound like going to church is meant to be a burden we are given to bear! And you say you have been almost suicidal in your struggle with all of this at times?!? It sounds like your church is doing an absolutely horrific job of fulfilling the job description given it by the Apostle Paul. So what are you doing in that particular place anyway?

      I think that we as a church in this country have somehow gotten the idea that the only reasons God calls us together is to worship Him or to be a servant. These aspects that Paul talks so strongly about in I Corinthians are totally ignored. And in fact we are often told that if we expect a church to meet those needs we are just being “selfish” or “self absorbed.” I think the Apostle would likely be absolutely appalled by the condition of a very large share of the church in this country today.

    • Mary

      Dear Cheryl,
      One day , and I believe very soon, we will have crossed the threshold, from the church to THE CHURCH and all will be perfected. However, until then, we live in a world dominated by corruption due to the influence and corruption of sin. As a result, we are in constant struggle and, unfortunately, as painful as it is, this struggle is within us. This battle is in our minds and the intensity of the fight lies within our heart. The Bible tells us our hearts are desperately wicked, the natural tendencies are not to submit to the struggle, but rather to resist it. Struggle expends precious energy, oftentimes resulting in great fear, anger, and ,of course, pain. In our self-sufficient society, we are taught to react to this struggle with forcefulness in an effort to preserve what we think we have rights to. We also have the tendency to leave God out of the equation, as if He has turned His back on us and left us in this battle alone. Maybe He is appalled that I am struggling with this, or, He is appalled at how everyone else is making things so difficult for me. I agree with you that the Apostle Paul would be appalled and if you go on over into 2Corinthians, notice, he is all but threatening them with sharp discipline, for good reason. So you see, the church became a mess almost right away. People have to be taught the ways of God. It does not happen through osmosis. Unfortunately, in many cases, groups of people calling themselves Christians, have come together to worship their own personal Jesus; someone to fulfill their hopes and dreams and make them happy. In this pursuit of personal happiness, the Son of the Living God gets pushed to the side and personal agendas take the forefront. God forgive us and help us return to our first love…the One who loved us BEFORE we loved Him. This is a greater matter than to goto church or not. I don;t hear anyone asking if what they do is glorifying God before a world that is perishing! I will pray for the Lord’s prompting as you seek Him.
      “But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
      will enter your house,
      I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you.
      Lead me, o Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies;
      make your way straight before me.” Psalm 5:7-8

    • mbaker

      This has been a very interesting discussion, with many points of view.

      I have to agree with what Cheryl and Michael have said. Many of the churches in our culture have abandoned the biblical roles they were meant to fulfill.

      The shepherds in many cases rule over the sheep like monarchs, as if their flock were meant to serve them, instead of walking among them and tenderly caring for them like real shepherds, like the Lord Jesus does.

      Then. there is the very real problem of pop theology, which doesn’t follow the Bible, but the trends of our culture.

      I can understand the frustration of Cheryl and others here who have known what a real biblical church was like, and refuse to settle for less. Why should they have to?

      Even in a big city, it took us almost two years to find a church whose pastor preached out of the Word. We were shocked to find he is the exception these days rather than the rule!

    • Mike

      I spent the better part of a year mostly unable to attend church while desperately wanting to do so. It’s absolutely wonderful that the Internet provided some sense of being able to get a little bit of what I could not have gotten otherwise. At the same time, it’s no substitute for the real thing.

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