You Aren’t a Christian if…

coronationaltarcommunion…you despise preaching and the Sacrament. In other words, Christians go to church. Those who leave the fellowship of the Church are not Christians (1 John 1:29). Sometimes physical disabilities prevent people from making it to church. In those cases, it’s the pastor’s job to bring church (Word & Sacrament) to them. Those people are Christians even though they can’t get to church. Those who despise preaching and the Sacrament aren’t Christians.

Christians believe in “the communion of saints.” Communion (or fellowship) with other Christians is at the heart of the Christian faith, and this communion fellowship lives by preaching and the Sacrament. God called us into His family in Holy Baptism, which means Christians aren’t only children. Satan is out for blood, and we’re much easier prey when we’re alone. As Solomon says, “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him–a threefold cord is not quickly broken,” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

So that Satan might not prevail against us, Jesus has called us into His body (1 Corinthians 12), His flock (John 10), His family (Matthew 12:46–50). Just as a body, flock, or family isn’t made up of one member, neither is the Christian life lived in isolation. This is why, when a new Christian is baptized, we welcome them into the Church with these words:

“In Holy Baptism God the Father has made you a member of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and an heir with us of all the treasures of heaven in the one holy Christian and apostolic Church. We receive you in Jesus name as our brother/sister in Christ, that together we might hear His Word, receive His gifts, and proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

Listen also to how St. John emphasizes the togetherness of the Christian faith:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us–  that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete,” (1 John 1:1–4).

Fellowship—being together in the Divine Service, receiving the gifts of God—is such an essential part of the Christian faith that St. John says the whole point of proclaiming the Gospel is “so that you too may have fellowship with us.” To reject this fellowship is, at best, to reject those means by which Christ grants forgiveness. At worst, it is to deny your need for forgiveness altogether. To reject the Bride (Ephesians 5:25-27) is to reject the Bridegroom Himself (Matthew 25:40; 1 John 2:19; Ephesians 2:19-22, 5:29-30; 1 Corinthians 12:21-27).

It’s wonderful to read the Bible and pray at home. After all, Satan, the world, and our own sinful flesh don’t limit their temptation activity to one hour, once per week. However, reading the bible and praying is actually the work of Satan when it becomes an excuse to avoid the fellowship of the Church. To depart from the Church is, as St. John says, to walk in the darkness (1 John 1:5–7).

While nobody can keep God’s Commandments perfectly, Christians are those who strive to walk by the light of His Word, which includes keeping the 3rd Commandment. To fear and love God is to love preaching and His Word, to hold it sacred, and to gladly hear and learn it. In short, to love God is to go to Church.


You Aren’t a Christian if… — 23 Comments

  1. Great article! But you apparently haven’t had enough coffee yet: …”proclaim the PRAISES…” “…togetherness OF the Christian faith.”
    Although it’s obvious when someone stays away from corporate worship, claiming he doesn’t need it, he has self-excommunicated, how do we think of the ones who are merely lazy, having fallen out of the habit of worship, even as they acknowledge the benefits?

  2. Much of what you say is correct, however, there are professing and practicing Christians in our land who do all the seemingly right things you’ve brought up, but they remain unmoved by the word of God. These are the professing Christians who set aside their faith and convictions to vote for pro-abortion political candidates and scoundrels, ignore God’s word and support homosexual marriage, and give nary a dime to worthwhile charities helping the poor, addicted, and others in need. That is why we must say that despite the points you raised….God looks at the heart of man. Real faith always is accompanied by good fruit ( works) as some evidence is there….not just words.

  3. @John J Flanagan #2

    “Real faith always is accompanied by good fruit”

    a true saying. i would modify it to say real faith produces real fruit. what is real fruit? fruit is always free for the taking. all the work is done. no processing is necessary. it is designed to be eaten up with nothing given in return. there are no strings attached. it tastes sweet. it gives benefit after the eating is done. it never does harm. that is real fruit.

    gentlemen, has your faith produced that today?

  4. “Reading the Bible and praying is actually the work of Satan when it becomes an excuse to avoid the fellowship of the Church.” Brother, where did you get that thought? I must admonish and reprimand you for making the most careless and thoughtless comment I have ever heard from a Lutheran Pastor. Reading God’s word and prayer are never the work of Satan. You must think about the words you utter before you speak.

  5. @John J Flanagan #4

    Maybe I’m missing the point, but I believe the author is referring to the “me and my Jesus” crowd, who would say they don’t have to go to church because they study the Bible with “me, myself, and I”.

    On the surface, this attitude seems pious, but it misses out on Word and Sacrament. It misses out on the communion of saints where the mutual encouragement of the saints takes place.

    I agree that this is the work of Satan, for it draws people away from Christ and His Church.

  6. I wonder if the “me and my Jesus” crowd aren’t more likely to be turning on Joel Osteen, (or equivalent) to provide background noise while they read the Sunday paper, than to be seriously studying their Bibles?

  7. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #9
    I did not get the context wrong. I quoted directly from the words in the post. It is true that we are to fellowship and worship with other believers, and most Bible believing Christians do….because God commands it, but reading the Bible and prayer, even as an excuse to avoid fellowship, is not the work of Satan. In fact, not everything we do wrong or in disobedience to God is of Satan. Much of it is our own sinful doing, our sinful and rebel nature, and we cannot say all willful acts are attributed to Satan’s work. The “old Adam” is alive and well in each of us, and we struggle with our sin nature as well as Satan’s temptations. God’s grace pulls us out of the fire, even as we often find ourselves too close to the flame. The Bible records the many sins of disobedience in the lives of the prophets, in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Paul, and the Apostles….and we cannot say their sins of omission can all be attributed to Satan. To do so is a denial of our own culpability in giving in to the flesh or lust or even entertaining evil thoughts. Of course, people can be “evil while searching the scriptures,” as Pastor Scheer states, but we cannot judge the inner hearts, nor dare we unknowingly suggest Satan is working.

  8. @T-rav #5

    @T-rav #5

    There are some people who are devout Christians who read and draw comfort from God’s word daily, and I believe many of them truly love the Lord and walk with Him. However, some have issues with relating to people, are self conscious, possibly suffering from depression, maybe struggle with fears and personal demons, perhaps just uncomfortable in groups of fellowship. My father was a believer, but he was a loner, had PTSD from his war experiences, and rarely went to church. Yes, you could say he was not doing his Christian duty on the Sabbath….but who but God could judge him for his neglect of church attendance? I think some of you are legalists and would likely be offended by the poor attendance of the publican who stood at the back of the Temple and humbly asked for God’s forgiveness and mercy. I believe some of you might strive to consider the heart of God rather than just stick with legalistic positions which judge between Christians whose regular attendance places them higher than those who might have reasons they avoid fellowship.

  9. @John J Flanagan #12

    Going to church is not a “duty,” as you put it. Although the Third Commandment is a command, Jesus fulfilled the Law for us – we are not required to go to church to be saved.

    Those that choose not to attend church – however they rationalize it – often misunderstand the purpose. The primary purpose of church is for Christ to serve us. He promises to be there with us (Mt. 18:20) and feed us (see any of the four Gospels’ accounts on The Last Supper, where Jesus says “…as often you drink this…”). This is to say nothing of confession and absolution, the reading of the Word, the sermon… These are promises that you cannot obtain on your own.

    Church is a gift for all Christians, and all Christians who get that will go to church. (Obviously, there are some exceptions. You know what sort of people I’m talking about, I’m sure).

  10. @John J Flanagan #11

    As Pr. Scheer stated, the article is qualified with “excuse” language. I wasn’t referring to those with legitimate excuses. As you probably know given what you stated, those who really can’t go to church often lament that fact and their pastor most certainly needs to bring the Word and Sacrament to them.

    Pr. Andersen also addressed your concern in his article:

    “Sometimes physical disabilities prevent people from making it to church. In those cases, it’s the pastor’s job to bring church (Word & Sacrament) to them. Those people are Christians even though they can’t get to church. Those who despise preaching and the Sacrament aren’t Christians.”

  11. Are Christians would despise the Sacrament by denying the Real Presence still Christian?

  12. I have to wonder, given the decline of at the Divine Service, many pastors of churches quitting and even more churches closing their doors, is the “separation” text from Matthew 25 coming true “in time”?

  13. Correction at my post #16: it should read, “given the decline of attendance…”

  14. @John J Flanagan #12

    You raise important points. The article acknowledges the legitimacy of physical barriers to church attendance, but does not recognize emotional and social barriers. Yet true Christians do sometimes absent themselves because of difficulties in their lives that may make it hard for them to believe or feel worthy or demonstrate confidence among other people — not necessarily because they “despise preaching and the sacrament.” That judgment sounds harsh and simplistic, inflated and inflammatory.

    And even a Christian can be angry at God and at others in the congregation, unable without assistance, it seems, to find perspective and grace sufficient to restore broken fellowship.

    When sheep stray, do they belong to the shepherd any less? When you observe that someone has been absent from church for a while, what do you do? How can a pastor, as shepherd, best respond? How can the congregation best respond, to the glory of God? An article addressing these questions might be worthwhile.

  15. Excellent post!

    And I’d like to second the following
    @Carl H #20

    When you observe that someone has been absent from church for a while, what do you do? How can a pastor, as shepherd, best respond? How can the congregation best respond, to the glory of God? An article addressing these questions might be worthwhile.

    After reading this article and its commenters I’m curious what a Pastor is to do after being wrongfully removed from his calling and is abandoned to the ranks of CRM, assuming there is no confessing Lutheran church outside of the congregation that removed him within 100 miles?

  16. @Mac McCabe #22

    If a Pastor is wrongfully deprived of respect and remuneration by his congregation, he is still a Pastor… of that parish, (as I understand Luther, Bolland and some others who have commented to me). He is not removed from the LCMS roster and, if he lives in an area populated by LCMS Lutherans, he may actually find himself preaching most Sundays in others’ churches. If not, he is still a Pastor, if only to his own family.

    Is there a field anywhere in that “100 miles” to sow, i.e., start a mission? It has been done elsewhere by the rejected.

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