I recently read a Gallup poll that shocked me; I think it will shock you, too.
When people were asked how they handle everyday ethical decisions—like calling in sick when you’re not or cheating on income taxes—most church-goers responded exactly the same as their neighbors who don’t attend church. In other words, belonging to a church made no difference in their ethical behavior.
How can this be?
If attending church makes so little difference, then there must be some problem with our conception of the church.
Many Americans’ names are on church rolls for the wrong reasons. They see the church as a social gathering. Or as just another volunteer organization. Or they attend church because it makes them feel good: Sunday services are sort of a cheery, therapeutic warm-up before brunch at the country club.
But, as I write in my new book, The Body, the church is not a club. It is the bride of Christ, bought with His own blood staining the rough wood of the cross. It is His institution, designed to bring glory to His name and to be His light in a dark world.
Christ gave the church a commission: the Great Commission. It was a call to make disciples—to baptize men and women and teach them to observe all that Christ commanded. Equipping the saints, as Paul’s letter to the Ephesians says, to serve our brothers and sisters and to stand against evil.
That’s a tough commission. No wonder the Bible compares the Christian life to a battle. The process of being equipped is like military training.
I can’t help but remember my own experience in the Marines. Intense physical training. Death-defying obstacle courses. Nerve-racking field exercises.
It was no game. The Korean War was at its bloodiest back then; many young men were coming home in pine boxes. We practiced our maneuvers until we could do them perfectly. We were serious not only about surviving combat, but winning it.
Shouldn’t it be the same for the soldiers of the Cross? Yet rather than being well-trained, well-disciplined troops for Christ, many believers act more like reserve units: weekend warriors who are occupied with other things during the week and who just turn out for occasional drills or to hang out in officers’ clubs on Sunday.
No wonder Gallup found that many Christians’ lifestyles are no different from their secular neighbors’.
So if you’re looking for a church, don’t look first for fellowship or convenience. Find a church that doesn’t see itself as a social club but realizes that it is the basic school of discipline and training for Christians. Pick a church where you will be best equipped for the spiritual battle raging around us.
This isn’t a battle for flesh and blood—like the Korean War was. It’s a battle for eternal souls.
And no Christian can afford to be just a weekend warrior.