The above image is a billboard put up by the American Atheists group. I’m sure it drives some Christians bananas (and make some cry, “War On Christmas! Grrr!”), but they of course have every right to put it up… And I see an important truth in it.
David Silverman, president of American Atheists, said this of the billboard:
“We want people to know that going to church has absolutely nothing to do with being a good person. The things that are most important during the holiday season — spending time with loved ones, charity, and being merry — have nothing to do with religion.”
With that statement, David shows a better understanding of Christian theology than some Christians.
Unfortunately, we Christians may have given the world (and perhaps even ourselves) a false view of church. We have confined it to a place, an event, an obligation, a little box to be checked.
Don’t get me wrong, I love church. I work at a church! Church – when done the way Jesus intended it to be done – is a beautiful thing. I have experienced its beauty firsthand, and that is why I am saddened when people have a shallow view of what church is – or, at the very least, what it should and could be.
You probably don’t need a billboard to give you permission to skip church. On the other hand, maybe you do. (In the words of Ed Sheeran, I’m just thinking out loud). Maybe you have been guilted into church attendance. Maybe you don’t really believe in God, but if there is a God maybe going to church on Christmas will keep him off your back. Maybe a family member shames you for not going. Maybe you’ve been taught that going to church somehow makes you a “good person”. If that’s the case, I’m genuinely sorry. I hope that billboard does offer you relief and takes some pressure off you. That’s not the picture we get of the first-century church.
The other day a friend told me of a pastor who cancelled church on Christmas. He told his congregation that instead of attending church that day, they were to be the church. They were to go out and serve people. Not to earn God’s love, but precisely because they were already loved by God. They were to now go love others with that same love. You might say they were to simply be good for goodness’ sake…
Christians, what would happen if we truly acted like the hands and feet of Jesus? Even people who skipped church would experience church when we came into contact with them. And it would be a good experience.
The believers studied what the apostles taught. They shared their lives together. They ate and prayed together. Everyone was amazed at what God was doing. They were amazed when the apostles performed many wonders and signs. All the believers were together. They shared everything they had. They sold property and other things they owned. They gave to anyone who needed something. Every day they met together in the temple courtyard. They ate meals together in their homes. Their hearts were glad and sincere. They praised God. They were respected by all the people. Every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved. – Acts 2:42-47