6 Deadly Lies We Believe About Church

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These misconceptions might be common, but don't fall for these lies about the church.

One hundred religious persons knit into a unity by careful organization do not constitute a church any more than eleven dead men make a football team. The first requisite is life, always.” – A. W. Tozer

1. Church is optional.

Ah, the lone believer, hell-bent on staying out of a church community for one reason or another.

They were burned, chastised or mistreated.

And I get it. I, too, was a solo “Christian” trying to call a five-minute quiet time and a snippet of Scripture “church.” I know what it is to be community-less and long for (but never actually believe it could happen) a spiritual family, where brethren would lay down their life for one another—reminiscent of the book of Acts.

Oh yeah, but then, through a series of painful life-altering events (another post for another time), I came to see church was not optional because, I was, in fact, the church.

When scripture refers to the church as “the house of God,” “the Body of Christ,” “Christ’s bride,” it is referencing a people. The ekklesia, in Greek. It is not a place or a building, which leads me to …

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2. We go to church.

Those in the church have long believed we go to church.

But, as stated above, if we are the church, then this can’t actually be true. We don’t actually go to church on Sunday.

What we do instead is assemble where other members of the church happen to be, and we usually sit in a pew and listen to someone preach from the pulpit. This is not church.

You are the church.

Nicole Cottrell Nicole Cottrell is trained in the fine art of button-pushing. She uses her skills daily on Modern Reject where she writes about the intersection of faith and culture as well as the unpopular stuff no one else likes to talk about. Nicole is a speaker, writer, discipler, and coffee fanatic. She and her husband planted the Foundation, a network of house churches in Arizona. Nicole lives in Scottsdale with her husband and two little munchkins, three of the coolest and funniest people she knows.

More from Nicole Cottrell or visit Nicole at http://modernreject.com

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  • Owens Daniel

    The true church is not a building it is the called out ones those that are Born -AGAIN and that go out preaching the gospel to the world and are not ashamed of Jesus Christ there is one Pastor one Leader one Teacher Jesus Christ listen to his voice not to man you don’t need school to minister to others true wisdom comes from God most church building or organizations give a sugar coated message they don’t tell the whole truth if they did they wouldn’t make money they wouldn’t have people in the building so to find the truth you have to be Holy Ghost filled strive to enter through the narrow door love you and may Jesus Bless you.

    • Disciple

      And May Jesus bless you much brother. As you well know, The Truth shall set us free, and you speak Truth.
      God speed

  • Emilio De La Cruz

    The gathering within the walls of a building on Sunday morning is no less “the church” than anything else. Whenever and wherever koinonia equipping of the saints and the operation of the gifts of the Spirit take place we see the church functioning as designed.

  • Disciple

    And May Jesus bless you much brother. As you well know, the Truth shall set us free, and you speak Truth. God speed.

    • Darwin E. Stanton

      Brother the author was a female? What are you talking about?

      • Disciple

        Commented at the wrong spot, sorry for the confusion. I thought it was obvious with the same comment at the proper spot just below. Sorry

        • Darwin E. Stanton

          Thought so, happens to me some as well.

  • Darwin E. Stanton

    It is amazing to me how little science and reason is left out of theological beliefs and thoughts. This is not the case with this article. I enjoyed reading a well thought out article for once.

  • http://www.dispatchesfromexile.com/ dr.keithcox

    I mostly agree but I’d like to suggest you reconsider #3. You are right when you write “The church exists for the believer—to equip, edify and empower the saints.” But equip, edify, and empower for what? The apostle Paul tells is that the saints are equipped “for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:12-13 ESV). We are being equipped to build up the body of Christ into the fullness of Christ. When we ask ourselves what does the fullness of Christ look like, we cannot ignore that the one commandment Jesus left his followers (us) with was to make disciples (Mt. 28:19). We must consider that commission in the light of his new commandment to accomplish this by loving as he loves (Jn. 13:34-35). Jesus demonstrates his love by total outpouring of himself for others. Which others? Luke 19:10 tells us that he he came “to seek and to save the lost.” And when we look at Jesus’ ministry we don’t see him catering to insiders, we see him reaching out to to the likes of drunks, prostitutes, the sick, the lame, the homeless, the hungry, outsiders, outcasts: misfits. So while I agree that we can become distracted by thinking that our primary purpose is to use the church as a vehicle for fixing the world according to human standards, we cannot deny that the body of Christ exists to carry out the mission and ministry of Christ; that *as the church* we are privileged to be coworkers with Christ in accomplishing his work of redeeming the world. And that means that reaching out to the lost is integral to the work of the church.

    • jesse100

      I agree with number three but you certainly bring up some good points. One of the reasons that discipleship has gone lacking is that we spend so much corporate worship time trying to accommodate sinners so we can “reach them.”

  • Joseph

    Yes your quote on the church is for believers I think is very important today. It seems church these days think that it’s main purpose is for unbelievers more then for believers and as you said that’s just not what the scripture says. The scriptures states in no uncertain terms that no one seeks after God not one and if they come it’s because God calls them period. It seems somewere along the lines we have been led to believe that believers are seeking God and that we should set church up in a way that would promote there attendance but that’s a waste of time and a disservice to believers because church is primarily for believers as you said so amen to that. I guess we tend to get caught up in the numbers game.. Are main purpose in the church should always be to build the church our brothers and sisters in Christ and the others will come as a result.

  • barry

    i think what a lot of people are missing, is that we as believers in Christ Jesus are the church, the church building is where we as the body are to assemble to celebrate the goodness of God, share what the Lord has done in and through us, and to adhere to teaching of the word, and the sharing of a meal. Jesus only gave “one” command under the new covenant. found in John 13:34, which He say to Love one another as i have loved you! it is when we are loving the brother in the lord and the lost see this authentic love, that is what makes them want what we have, and yes we need discipleship that is how we learn to be Christ like the disciples walked in training for three year before they too were released into ministry so what make us think we have to do any less. Christianity and maturity comes only through time, people need to see Jesus Clearly.

    • http://www.dispatchesfromexile.com/ dr.keithcox

      Barry you are absolutely correct, the body of Christ *is* exactly that, the body of Christ. Christ living in the world. But would you not consider Mt. 28:19 to be a “command”? What about “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”(John 15:12 ESV) and “go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” (John 15:16-17 ESV) That looks like two things at least (love one another and go and bear fruit), which is why he says “these things I command you” (ταῦτα ἐντέλλομαι ὑμῖν). When Jesus tells the lawyer to “go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37) as the Samaritan did (show mercy), do you not think that was a lesson for us? The Sermon on the Mount is filled with commandments about anger, lust, divorce, oaths, retaliation, and love for enemies, giving, prayer, fasting, anxiety. Because we ignore them does not make them any less commandments. Let us not forget that Jesus himself said that he *fulfilled* the law but did not end it. The OT law is still in force in Christ, who fulfills it with love as it was intended (that is exactly what the Sermon on the Mount is about, how to fulfill the intent of the law). He told the rich young ruler to obey the commandments. And when Jesus says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 ESV) does that not at least imply a command to active evangelizing? I think what we get wrong is what we believe evangelizing to be. Evangelizing is not *talking* about Jesus, it is *being* Jesus, active in the world as Jesus was incarnate. And that means, as you say, to love as Jesus loves. We do not need to water down the clear meaning of scripture to make the gospel attractive to scoffers, we need to *live* the gospel corporately as Jesus did, so that Jesus himself will attract the lost. Jesus said “I will build my church.” (Mt. 16:18). It is interesting and telling I think that the only people Jesus consistently antagonized were those who were comfortably exclusive in their religion.

  • Randy Liewicki

    Thanks for one of the most honest articles this blog/ website has produced. It’s time to hear from more like you.

  • John DeGraffenreid Jr.

    3. The church exists to reach the lost and unsaved.- is a lie?

    You know I’m glad you clarified that point because Jesus Christ explicitly and without any obfuscation telling us to go into all the world and spread the Gospel as being THE command of His Disciples, and thus the Church, was so unclear you know. I’m glad that someone was able to clarify that us edifying each other was way more important that Christ’s explicit command to reach the lost and that HIS command was, in fact, a lie apparently.

    Oh wait….

  • Brad

    You make some fine points, but if the Church is Christ’s body, saying the church exists to edify believers is saying that our mission is to edify ourselves, which would also mean Christ cares most about pampering his own body… But let me ask, what did Christ do with his body? He gave it for the world. No matter what stray verses seem to mean, none can alter this simple fact.

    • JimnJan

      Your post jumped from “edifying” to “pampering” as if they are synonymous. Not even close. Edification, from a Christian perspective, will stretch us and challenge us. We are edified, in part, to become better equipped to share Christ. But at the root of the Great Commission is not a call to win converts, but to make disciples. Evangelism is a vital but small part of this. Sadly, many churches make evangelism their primary goal.

  • JimnJan

    Excellent article. Number three highlights a critical truth that too many refuse to contemplate. I work in the area of Christian Education. Many in this field are concerned about the biblical illiteracy increasingly present in the church, which in turn is producing an array of other problems. People are accepting Christ, then left to fend for themselves while the church moves on to the next evangelistic focus. This is not what Jesus meant when He gave us the Great Commission.

  • Lori Sweetland

    Fantastic article!! I look forward to sharing it with my peers

  • Mar Komus

    The early churches met in each other’s homes. They were what we call “small groups” and “twentysomethings” Bible studies. That WAS how one “went” to church. More importantly, they “be-ed” the church. Jesus had diversity in mind, yes, but the fleshing out of that, from inception, had more to do with meeting in each other’s homes–especially since every time the church grew, she kept getting kicked out of the temple or synagogue where they were meeting.

    Church is NEVER a building. Or an organization. The Church is a people, as you stated.

    The mission of the church is two-fold: 1) reach the lost 2) mature the found. It’s a “both/and.”

  • Phil

    Not sure if I agree with number 3 entirely. Whilst it is true that the church exists for the believer, primarily it exits for worship of Jesus. The church is Jesus worshipful bride. As we learn to love and worship Jesus we get equipped and mobilized to mission as a natural result.


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