Failing Pastor’s Opinion on “Christianity is a Relationship not a Religion”

“Christianity is not a religion it’s a relationship”

–said by many who can’t keep church unity nor marriage vows.


Let me begin by saying that I do believe a believer can have a relationship with God through Christ by the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

That being said, the idea that Christianity is a relationship and not a religion is a false dichotomy. Why can’t it be both? It, in fact, is.

“Religion” is a word that gets lots of heat. I’m really not sure why. Religion merely means stuff you do religiously, as in regularly, habitually, as a pattern. People religiously do their mornings the same. We do the same stuff at work. We do the same stuff when we come home from work. We are “creatures of habit.” Habit and religion are pretty much the same.

My wife and I have a great relationship. We love each other and have fun together. We also religiously do the same things. We eat the same types of supper, go to the same restaurants, go to bed at the same time. In fact, as any married person knows, if you veer from your typical behavior, your spouse will very quickly ask, “Why are you doing that? You never do that.”

I began eating cereal at night. I told my wife one week to get me a box of Froot Loops from the store. You would have thought the world was coming to an end. The Spanish Inquisition broke out, which I was not expecting (no one expects the Spanish Inquisition). “Look, I just want a bowl of Froot Loops, that’s all. It’s no big deal.”

Relationships are religious, that’s kind of what makes them relationships.

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A Pastor’s Advice for Church Skippers

America, we are told, was founded as a Christian nation. I have my doubts, but even if I grant the point, I guarantee modern Christians would hate living in Colonial America.

One reason why is because church attendance was not optional. You went to church or you faced fines, stockades, and sometimes imprisonment. I can’t imagine any modern Christians being cool with that.

I know this because the church attendance of the average believer is pathetic. I’m not one who thinks people should be at church every single time the doors are open. But I do think you should be there regularly.

If a church has 52 Sunday services a year, I think attending 40 is not unreasonable. If a church has a midweek service then the number is up to 104. I think a person could make 80 without much trouble (that’s three months of missing church!).

Consider anything else you’re interested in, how often do you make it to those things? What about work? Most places of employment expect you to be there with two or three weeks of vacation plus some sick days. I gave you three months!

Life happens, I get it. But seriously: get to church people.

I know people could make it to church more because modern technology tells me so. Facebook lets pastors know exactly what people did while skipping church. You aint sick. You aint workin. You aint even doing anything productive. You’re just dorking around.

I actually dropped off Facebook because I couldn’t take it anymore.

To see people you pray for, you plead for them in prayer, sometimes with tears, skipping sermons that could benefit them for water skiing, or duck hunting, or sporting events, it just breaks a pastor’s heart. I try not to take it personally and I try not to get my heart broken, but it gets broken all the time.

Even worse, many of these people who skip church for every conceivable reason tend to have lives that fall apart. I always know when people start skipping church regularly that a certain thing is about to hit a fan.

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A Pastor’s Take on Why Kids Leave the Faith

THEM: We let our kids decide whether they come to church or not.

ME: Really? Wow. I’m shocked they aren’t here.



I‘m amazed at the choices parents make with their kids.

For my entire pastoral career I have had kids at home. My eldest was a baby when I began pastoring. Her birth was, in fact, one of the reasons I took the job: I needed money!

Parenting is hard. I know, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” is a promise in the Bible. Proverbs are extreme statements that are not always true. There are proverbs in the Bible that contradict other proverbs in the Bible.

Parenting is hard. Pride goes before destruction. I’ve heard many a parent of young children brag about their parenting skills, even some who wrote books on parenting while their kids were still at home. I’ve seen many a proud parent become a weeping parent.

Since I’ve observed this trend, I have tried to avoid it in my own life. I try not to brag about my kids and certainly don’t go public in comparisons, nor assume that the way I raise my kids is how everyone should raise theirs. I once heard it said, “If God wanted you to raise my kids, He would have given them to you.” Amen.

I only give parenting advice if someone asks me. Very few have asked me. Even fewer have done what I said. I have taken this as further proof that no one really cares about my parenting theories.

My kids are older now. One is in college and the other two are very close to college age. I’m about done with the full-time parenting stuff. My kids were in subjection for the years they lived in my house. What they do now in their lives and with their faith is up to them. I and their mother did our best. We weren’t perfect, but we took stands and our kids know we love them and they know we love the Lord.

I think the evidence says I might know some things about parenting.

My kids fit into our schedule more than we fit into theirs. This one rule has guided many of our decisions.

I’m amazed at the number of parents who let their kids and their kids’ schedules dictate their church attendance. They skip for every excuse in the book: sports, homework, sleep, work, chilling, and various other things. They let their kids decide not only if the kids will go to church, but if the whole family will go!

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Being Offended at Church Skippers

Sometimes, when people tell me they won’t be at church cuz they’re going camping,

I pray for rain.



I have a very small church. When people are gone you can definitely tell. I try not to guilt people into coming to church. I’ve fought very hard to avoid this. I want people to come because they want to be there.

Unfortunately, I know that the only people who are there are the only ones who want to be there.

I understand having to be out of town and going on vacation. I do, I really do. I don’t begrudge people missing a Sunday here and there.

But there’s still this thing in me, this part that is stabbed in the back whenever people miss church. I admit that I take it personally.

I try not to. I can’t tell you how hard I try not to take it personally. I would strongly encourage any pastor out there to not take it personally when people miss.

But in all honesty, I have no idea how not to do that.

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Being Friends With Busy Sheep

When people skip church to prepare for the thing they invited you, the pastor, to.


Quick story:

Several months ago I was invited by some guys in church to go golfing on a Sunday afternoon. It seemed like fun and we’d done it before. “Sure, let’s do it,” I gladly replied.

Sunday morning came and the guy who invited me did not show up to church.

“I wasn’t at church today because my wife needs her car tomorrow, so I had to fix some things on it, and she was busy planting flowers. You know, this nice weather isn’t going to hold up.”

We then went golfing and out to eat for the next FIVE HOURS.

That’s right, he skipped church because he didn’t have time to fix the car and plant flowers. He did, however, have time to go golfing and out to eat for FIVE HOURS.

This sort of thing makes me regret ever doing anything with anyone, especially on Sundays.

This is not the only example of such a thing. I’ve been invited to supper, picnics, graduation parties, and reunions by people who will skip church to get ready for the thing I said I’d attend.

Seeing people’s priorities in action is devastating to a pastor’s self-esteem. Luckily for me, I have little self-esteem left.



And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’  And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.  For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”
–Luke 14:22-24