A recent poll in Reuters showed that Evangelicals who go to church don't like Trump. This statement seems strange to me for two reasons. It seems strange that any Evangelicals support the billionaire turned presidential candidate hopeful, although it's somewhat of a relief that Evangelicals who actually go to church do not generally like him. While his conviction and clarity may seem Messianic, his power-hungry, playground-bully tactics and blustering ego are more more akin to Herod than Jesus. As Christians, we cannot look to any political leader as our Messiah, but if we are going to vote for someone, surely they should possess something of the essence of our Messiah?
Anyway, what's even more strange to me than Evangelicals supporting Trump is that Reuters actually have a category for Evangelicals who go to church.
As if there were any other category of Evangelical?
But of course, we know there must be another category and it would be made up of those who identify as Evangelicals who do not go to church. This is indeed strange, but we know it to be true.
We know that there are many Evangelicals who do not go to church. I'm not talking about nominal or sporadic church going. I'm not even talking about less formal expressions of church. I'm talking about a convicted refusal to gather with the people of God to worship Jesus, hear the preaching of the Scriptures, pray and celebrate the sacraments in any organized way, shape or form. Being Evangelical and refusing to go to church is more strange to me than being Evangelical and liking Trump.
An Evangelical, at its most basic, is a Christian who views the Bible as God's final of authority for all life and doctrine. Just flip through the pages of the New Testament and you will see that a Christ follower who doesn't go to church is simply not a thing. To deny the authority of the Bible on the subject of the Church generally, one must cut out half of the New Testament which was written to and about the church. Perhaps at this stage, with bible-snipping scissors in hand, one should also snip off one's Evangelical label?
I grew up in a moralistic Christian culture. People thought that if they did the right things like going to church then they were Christians. They would check the boxes. "Helped a poor person. check. Read my bible. check. Said my prayers. check. Went to church. check. I'm a Christian." To counter this moralism we would say, "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than living in a garage makes you a car." We were trying to help people see that we are saved by God's grace not by our religious activity. Today we no longer live in a moralistic Christian culture. It's individualistic. The car/garage metaphor has been turned on its head. It's like people are saying, "Just because I'm a car doesn't mean I have to park it in a garage." Evangelicals may view going to church today as optional, but not vital. It's no longer simply what we are designed to do. It's now a matter of preference. To continue the car/garage metaphor I'd respond, "Of course you could be a car and not park in a garage. But then don't be surprised if you find your car getting dirty, faded or even stolen."
Don't be surprised if you find yourself voting for Herod instead of Jesus.
One of the arguments against going to church is, "We don't go to church. We are the Church."
This is quite true. Since the day that we were adopted as sons and daughters into God's worldwide family, we were made members of that family and remain members every moment of our days.
But if I was a member of a family who refused to gather regularly with that family you would say that I was a very unhealthy family member. Of course, there is plenty of dysfunction in God's family. It's far from perfect. But it's the Father's profound gift to us as His children and as we engage with a healthy church family we discover new depths of the Father's love that were simply unfathomable when we lived in splendid isolation.
No doubt, we don't just go to church. We are the Church.
But if we are the Church, we also go to church.