EVERYONE WANTS TO KNOW WHICH CHURCH I ATTEND, and this is almost always the first question I am asked whenever I present myself to anyone as a Christian. The only answers that are expected and looked for are, "I go to the First Street so-and-so", or, "I don't go to church".
But since neither of these answers is the truth about me, I cannot respond with either of these answers. Therefore, as I struggle in your presence to explain myself, I end up looking to you like I'm in the "I don't go to church" category; I look guilty to you and I appear to be ashamed of it. Since most of the people who ask me this question don't really want to take the time to listen to my explanation, I have tried to come up with some trite one-liners that will meet the need. Here are some of them:
"I CAN'T GO TO CHURCH, BECAUSE I NEVER LEAVE!" This was the first one-liner I came up with, and it is still the answer I resort to the most. And even though this statement is completely accurate, it does not answer the question you are really asking me. What you really want to know is 'which crowd' certifies my religion; and you also want to know if my religion is costing me as much of my time and money as yours is costing you. If I assert that I have not "forsaken the assembling of ourselves together" (Hebrews 10:25), and if I claim that I give some of my money to the Gospel, you will not be satisfied. You realize by the apparently evasive nature of this answer that I must not be attending any of the local churches: thus, you will see me as just another church drop-out who like all the rest, probably has some lame excuses.
So, I tried out this answer:
"ANY CHURCH WHERE THEY INVITE ME TO PREACH!" And this, too, is completely accurate: but it sounds arrogant, and it leaves you wondering who ever invites me to preach, and in what church? But (as of 2001) this answer is not completely honest; I have been invited to preach in one church, and have so far refused. The fact that this church house is a 7 hour drive from here at least partially accounts for why I haven't been there yet. It is also true that I have not been invited to preach in any LOCAL church for years! And then, you will likely take this answer to imply that I think I have plenty to teach and nothing to learn! I don't want you to think that about me! But it is true, that as far as the local churches are concerned, I DO believe that they need to hear what I have to say more than I need to hear what they have to say. And then, by this answer, I still haven't told you which crowd certifies my religion and whether or not I'm paying my fair share of the local temple-tax. You are not satisfied, and again, you'll probably label me as just another backslider. What to do?
So, I tried to come up with an answer that was not quite so self-exalting, and I said:
"ANY CHURCH WHERE THEY WILL ALLOW ME FREEDOM OF SPEECH!" And this too, is completely accurate. But this answer may leave you wondering if I'm the type who likes to interrupt the meeting or instigate an uproar. I don't want you to think this about me, either! And, since I haven't been welcome to express my opinions in any local church for at least 10 years, I have given up searching. I already know that I am not welcome and why. ANYWAY.... you are never satisfied with this answer either, because I still haven't told you which crowd certifies my religion, and you are likely to presume that if I'm not "going to church", I must also be keeping all of my money for myself. We both know it's true that anyone who doesn't give God their money by giving their money to OTHER PEOPLE hasn't given God their heart, either.
Here are some other answers that I have used from time to time:
"GOD TOLD ME TO GET OUT AND STAY OUT OF THOSE CHURCHES!" And this, too, is not only completely accurate, but is actually a direct and pointed answer to your question. But then, you want to know just how God "told me" to get out and stay out and why, and I doubt that you'll allow me more than 30 seconds to explain all this! Besides, how do I prove to you that God....TOLD......... "me"........anything!?
"WE HAVE MEETINGS IN OUR HOME!" This answer is also completely accurate, and this answer almost always ALMOST satisfies you. By this answer, you think you've got me figured out. I am either, you think, involved with some weird little cult: or else, you presume that I must be involved with a "little church in the making", and that when it "grows up", it will be just like "The First Street so-and-so": but neither of these things is true, and I certainly don't want to be seen as a cult member! And, nothing could be further from the truth then to leave you with the impression that I will ever be a part of another church that is just like all the other churches that I refuse to attend - even if this "church" is in my living room and I get to be called "the pastor". I dare not leave you with a false impression and so be guilty of telling you a lie........ so this answer doesn't work either.
So, you see my dilemma.
The sad thing is, that most of you who ask me which church I attend would be more happy with me if I said I was a Jehovah's Witness, or a Mormon, or a Catholic, then to hear me claim to be a real Christian while I refuse to attend and support a local church-house that is anything like yours.
SO, you say you want to know which church I attend. And then, when I don't give you the name or address of one of the local synagogues, you presume that I must be a cult-member or a backslider; and if not, you may want to know what kind of excuse I am going to make for myself.
Here are my excuses:
Since I believe that we are now well into the predicted last days apostasy of 2 Thessalonians 2:3, I see the below text as applying GENERALLY to me:
Rev 18:4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
I also believe that the text below this sentence was meant to speak to every Christian in history who ever found themselves forced to choose between supporting what they deemed as heresy OR being isolated and alone. It therefore applies to me, generally.
Heb 13:13-14 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. 14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
AND LASTLY, I believe that the Holy Ghost inspired me to focus on the text below almost two years before I finally gave up on trying to find an ordinary local church-building that I could faithfully attend and fully support. I was driving my car, and suddenly, A VOICE spoke to me, and said just this: "Jeremiah 15:15". I had no idea what Jeremiah 15:15 said, and after I got home and opened my Bible to it, I felt a confident sense of witness that the entire passage to the end of the chapter was INSPIRED by God and from God to me PERSONALLY. I considered it to be a direct message from God to me - AND I STILL DO! BUT it was almost 2 years after this before I finally gave up on trying to "fit in" at one of the local synagogues. (a synagogue is a building used for religious meetings).
Jer 15:15-21 O LORD, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke. 16 Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts. 17 I sat not in the assembly of the mockers (mockers here means "pretenders"), nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation. 18 Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail? 19 Therefore thus saith the LORD, If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them. 20 And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brazen wall: and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the LORD. 21 And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible.
UPDATE 2001: Many have approached me over these years and asked me "What do I do NOW (that I have stopped attending the regular local chuches)?" The answer to that question is between you and God - not with me. All I can say with any confidence to all is THIS: make a "Church" out of your home and family. Live in your house like you were "in church" 24 hours per day. Make your home a place of prayer, worship, Bible reading, Bible discussion and HAPPY TIMES. Be hospitable to all who care to come under your roof. Preach to the audience you have if you feel the need to preach. It is harder to preach to two people than it is to preach to two-hundred people... try it. Trust God to bring the people into your life that you need. I am not the only "preacher" among us, and the men take turns. I went from "a local church of two" (my wife and I) to "a local church of six" that meet in my house, and lately, other people are asking to come over and participate in our Sunday "meetings". In any case, I am "on duty" 24 hours per day as a prayer partner, witness, counsellor, preacher and MOST IMPORTANTLY, as a "Christian friend". ONE THING to keep in mind - I do NOT compromise my convictions or my confession of faith in order to attract or keep anyone. But THIS WORKS, and I am now living the best years of my earthly life. OH... and by the way.... I, and "we" DO give our money to OTHER Christians and OTHER ministries - regularly.