Recently, I was talking to a relative of mine about how one of my sisters, who had always been disinterested in the things of God, had begun asking my advice about seeking the Lord. When I began to relate how God had already begun working wonders on her behalf, my relative exclaimed, "But she doesn't even go to church!!" I had expected him to rejoice in my sister's decision to turn to the Lord, and in the fact that God was already pouring out His blessings upon her, but instead, he became indignant.
Would it shock you if I said that I believe that Christians who don't go to church can still get to Heaven? I'm not the only one who thinks this way. So do many of the most well-respected ministers of the Gospel. I'm not bringing this up to discourage people from going to church. I believe that it's God's will for Christians to attend church regularly, and we are most likely out of His will when we don't. But I must confess that I am troubled by believers who think that the lost can only be saved by going to church. I often hear from believers who ask me to pray that someone they've been trying to minister to would go to church with them, and I'm always happy to do so. There's no question that many lost people have been saved through churches throughout the ages. But what about the people who may never see the inside of a church? I once heard a godly man say, "You may be the only Bible that someone ever reads." Some Christians don't want to hear this, because it puts too much responsibility on them. They would much rather talk an unbeliever into attending church with them, than to live their lives as "living epistles read of all men," so that lives might be changed through their Christlike behavior. (2 Corinthians 3:2-3) But where does that leave the folks who will never be persuaded to go to church?
I have another relative who hasn't attended church since he was very young. He was brought up in the church, but drifted away as he got older and struck out on his own. Now that he is approaching middle age, he realizes how empty he feels inside, and how much something is missing in his life. When he visited me recently, he confessed that he had been reading my devotionals online for more than a year, and he had developed a growing hunger to have a personal relationship with the Lord. But he was hesitant to tell anyone about it, because he was afraid that they would only try to drag him to church. He had tried that route more than once, and each time, he was completely turned off to the things of God, even though he attended churches that had entirely different styles of worship. He asked me many questions about the Lord and my relationship with Him, and I gave him one of my study Bibles. He was deeply touched, and promised to read it, and to let me know how he was doing. I told him that I would be praying for him, and that he could contact me anytime, if he needed prayer or had anymore questions. He has kept in touch with me, and he is reading God's Word and praying like never before. He says he feels like he has "a new beginning."
I don't know if my sister will ever attend a church service. But I'm not worried about it, because I have witnessed how she is seeking God with all her heart, and how the Lord is already rewarding her, and revealing Himself to her. And who am I to judge her? Instead, I will continue to pray for her, and to do my best to encourage her to live her life for God. And I will resist becoming indignant when the Lord blesses her abundantly--even if she doesn't go to church.
Prayer: Lord, use me to draw others to You, and to Your life-changing truth. Help me to see each person as an individual, with very unique and personal needs. Teach me to seek You for wisdom in how to minister effectively to each individual. And remind me that Jesus said, "Stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment." (John 7:24 NIV) I pray that when I see the lost turning to You--and You blessing them as a result--I will not judge them, or presume that I know their hearts. Thank You that as I strive to be more like Jesus each day, You will touch and change lives through me!
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