Church is needed now more than ever
In September 2014, 35 towns worldwide opened Sunday Assemblies, a.k.a. Atheist Churches. What? That’s contradictory isn’t it? Maybe not. The Huffington Post reports that atheists, agnostics, skeptics and those alike decided to create a space for community; a place to bond without having to deal with God and religion.
Not everyone who attends assembly is a strict atheist. Some are just seekers and “wonderers.” These atheist church goers sing and talk and preach and converse. One atheist assembly organizer even called her Christian pastor and friend to absorb ideas on starting up a gathering. Going to church means going to a messy, religious place for a lot of people, so these congregations intentionally leave God out and keep what they believe to be the best of religion: community.
Not all atheists agree with adding religious practices to atheism, but one cannot deny that community is essential to what it means to be human. In 2011 the Barna Group conducted a study where they discovered 6 main reasons why young Christians leave the church. The six reasons are ordered by popularity of choice:
- Churches seem overprotective.
- Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.
- Churches come across as antagonistic to science.
- Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic or judgmental.
- They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.
- The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.
Community is capable of doing harm, but from these findings, community is not an obstacle for young people, but most likely the most positive pinnacle of their church experience.
My guess is that a large majority of people go to church to find God. That’s nice and all, but that’s not the picture the Bible paints. God cannot be contained by the walls of a church and He cannot be kept to silence in shrines. On the contrary: God is everywhere and we can find Him anywhere. Even the Psalmist affirmed, “If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol the deepest pit of hell, You are there.” The Old and New Testament writers knew that God was awesome and huge and in the highest heights and the lowest lows.
So why go to church? I don’t go to church to find God because I find God during the week in my classes, at the coffee shop, and as I drive. I go to church because there are people there who believe what I believe and are open to discussing how we found God during the week.
One Union student told me that he doesn’t like church because it preaches to the choir. But in some ways the point of church is to preach the choir! The problem lies when the choir isn’t singing throughout the week.
Acts 2 reveals that the church prayed and fellowshipped and ate and sang and praised and witnessed miracles together. Church at the end of the week isn’t so much about finding God. Church is about finding each other. And that should mean finding God throughout the week and bringing those experiences to the table to share with one another.
May you realize that community is vital to who you are as a human being and may you come to see the importance of church community to your daily communion with God.
Abner is a sophomore studying theology.