The church without God

As at least one group of atheists attempts to form a “church,” one planning on planting international franchises in the coming months, it is interesting to read how the group and its supporters think about what a church is:

I did not need to be sold on the idea (explained nicely here by philosopher Alain de Botton). Like the Sunday Assembly’s founders, stand-up comics Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones, I don’t think religion should have a monopoly on community. I like the idea of a secular temple, where atheists can enjoy the benefits of an idealized, traditional church—a sense of community, a thought-provoking sermon, a scheduled period of respite, easy access to community service opportunities, group singing, an ethos of self-improvement, free food—without the stinging imposition of God Almighty.

A sense of community, a thought-provoking sermon, a regular break from hectic lives, access to service opportunities, group singing, an encouragement to better oneself, and free food. These are what make a church a church, in their mind.

And, I dare say, in the minds of many Christians. Indeed, aren’t these the things we often sell when trying to get people to come to church? Aren’t many of our church marketing plans built around just these elements?

John Wesley called this having the form of religion without the power.

36 thoughts on “The church without God

  1. I’d be interested in their credo. What actually binds them together? What do they preach on? Will they do good works together?
    But if after analyzing the church, this is what they’ve come up with, it makes me very sad. At the same time, I pray for the Holy Spirit to be at work among them.

    1. Jarrod……just because I have a genuine interest in hearing what others have to say…..if you were to analyze the church today….maybe not your own personal church that you attend….but church as a whole……what would you see any differently than what they saw? I believe what binds them is the community they have. Oddly enough……they may very well be more like-minded than most churches today.

      I want to argue that they are without the power of God. I want to argue that they lack the love of Christ. I want to argue that they will never be the body of Christ….the visible manifestation of our Savior, Jesus to the world. I want to argue that they are merely a social gathering that provides a venue to meet people, to do a little singing, to hear a positive message, and to find out different programs available to help out others. But, I would fear that I would be merely presenting their argument to the church.

  2. I think there is confusion on the issue and few if any CC have done a very good job teaching it.

    The Early Christians formation of regulation and hierarchy can be seen forming in the Book of Acts.
    Denominations and division did begin to form.
    They were not called denominations back then. They were distinguished by who they followed.
    Some called themselves The Apostles of Paul. Some The Apostles of Peter. That is where distinguishing the teachings of one over the other as superior began and it is how the denominations were birthed. St. Paul warns against doing so in 1 Corinthians 1:11-13
    We do the same today when we hold high our Methodism, Lutheranism or other as superior bodies to other denominations.

    Interest exchange on this thread.

  3. This thread is a little threadbare at this point. I wonder why we consider the refining of the church to be our delegated role, anyhow. There have been many historical moves to refine the church, and many of them ended, sadly, in violence and fire. God is the refiner, and this is not past tense.

    1. I am sorry to hear that Gary. I’m not sure there is any attempt in this thread to “refine” the church. And I am quite certain no one has any desire to usurp anything God might do or not do within the church. I do believe that God would approve entirely of this conversation between believers. Considering the state of the church today I would like to go as far as to say that this conversation is even divine in its timing. I believe God will raise up men and women in these days who will….according to His will…..reveal the Bride….His Church. Your indifference to this conversation saddens me. Iron sharpens iron. It is just to easy to go along with the status quo……accept everything we see even if our hearts question what we see. In my humble opinion and observance….this conversation has only just begun.

      I believe something good and of God is being fleshed out in this conversation. I believe the Church is worth it……I believe it is not only our privilege to be a part of Body of Christ…..a blessing He has given to us, but also I believe that is a responsibility. God works through people…..He always has……and I have no evidence that He has changed the way He works. I love our Savior Jesus Christ with all my being……and I love the Church. Something is amiss in the church….my heart feels it constantly. My prayer is that the men and women who have contributed to this conversation do realize that it has been an answer to my prayers and wonders…. and that my thankfulness has been spoken to our God for each who have contributed. For me… has been a glimpse of a participatory community of believers…..sharing Christ…..sharing thoughts…..sharing insights…..offering edification and encouragement. Not all things are agreed on by all…..but all would have to agree…..God has been present. There is more… the deepest portion of my heart I hear….there is more. I want the answers Gary….and I believe it will come collectively….from His own….from His Church.

      peace brother.

      1. I’m not trying to trade tit-for-tat by replying, but only to suggest that UNCTUOUSNESS is often mistaken for holiness. But holiness is really only a claim that can made by God. Let’s not confuse human works for it. I’m very sympathetic with your concern for the church; we mourn for it together. But our sanctification is humble participation in the Spirit’s work. That seems to elude Methodists because of genealogical and programmatic pride…

        1. ummmmm…….I’m not Methodist. In fact, I have never even attended a Methodist church gathering. But thanks for sharing your thoughts just the same. We each need to follow our own convictions. I do not have a concern for the church…..I have a genuine love for the Church, and, no…..we do not mourn together Gary. Pride is often revealed in a person who is presumptuous, and often presents oneself as having all the answers. Complacency quite often replaces integrity and causes a person to replace effort with false humbleness. Thanks for your revelation though.


    2. I have prayed since your post…..and I believe refining the church we see today is our responsibility…..our delegated role. We have been equipped for such a role by the giving of the gift of discernment from our All Mighty God. If in our hearts we can hear, “well done my good and faithful friend”….then we have made Christ visible to the world. But, if we are not making Christ visible to the world through the church…..there is a reason. And I have absolutely no doubt that when God reveals to His own what that reason or reasons are…..hatred and persecution possibly even to death will be experienced by all who are of His Church.

    1. Again, Gary…..thank you for your input. No matter where my questions lead me to…..and who I meet along the way…..I am fairly certain you will not be there.

      Have a great day, Gary.

  4. Getting back to the original topic…
    The emphasis on community has usurped the emphasis on God that was once the sole reason for the formation of the CC in and outside of “church“.

    Atheist Community/Godless Church.
    Greg Epstein Humanist Chaplin at Harvard University explains;

    “We decided recently that we want to use the word congregation more and more often because that is a word that strongly evokes a certain kind of community – a really close knit, strong community that can make strong change happen in the world,” he said.
    “It doesn’t require and it doesn’t even imply a specific set of beliefs about anything.”

     Jerry DeWitt, former pastor turned atheist, is building an atheist church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
    “This Sunday, DeWitt’s congregation will hold its first meeting as a “Community Mission Chapel.”

    They use terminology normally reserved and /or associated with the Christian Church which can be very confusing.
    The “Good New” of the gospel is out and the “good works” are in.
    They accept part of the message but reject the herald and architect of the “Good News”.

    The bad news is godless churches are forming and the latest statistics for the ELCA & PCUSA are in the news and the numbers do not look good.
    The good news for the Christian Community is new breakaway Christian Church starts are on the rise and New denominations are being formed and are growing. The RCC is also seeing an increase in numbers under the leadership of Pope Francis.
    Where will the UMC end up?

    1. I find this very interesting. For me it basically reinforces the need to come to terms with what the church has become at the hands of man. The atheist movement seems to have an understanding of the definition of the church that is presented to the world. When I think about it for a moment, the terminology they use was formed by man. The early Christians never went to a chapel for a service, or a church for a service, they were not a congregation. In my humble opinion they are not claiming ownership to those terms….they were theirs to begin with. Truth be told…..they will likely imitate very well today’s church, and they will likely surpass in many ways what today’s church is in the world we find ourselves today.

      They will be able to give to each other the same measure of love and encouragement a lot of churches offer today. They will be able to give the same amount of opportunities to be good community citizens and helpers. Bottom line….they will likely grow in numbers. They will not be burdened with hypocrisy. They will not be burdened by denominational competition or preservationism. They will not be burdened by doctrinal snares or heresy. They will not have to deal with false prophets or teachings.

      The “Atheist Community/Godless Church” is the next natural progression in the course the church has chartered since the first century. There are many “christian” denominations and churches that are but one step behind.

      Consider this….what if God, in His infinite Mercy and Grace and Love is revealing a truth to the Christian Community?

      If when the scales fell from Paul’s eyes in order that he might see……..

      he chose to keep his eyes shut………

      1. 10 And Jesus said, “Make the men sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
        John 6:10

        As was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue service,…
         Acts 17:2
        Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.Acts 2:41
        They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper Acts 2:46

        I don’t think that many people would fit in anyones home. First century homes in Rome where predominantly apartment (insula’s) because of the demand for land.
        Homes in Jeruselem 1st century were also small.

        Lydia who is thought to be fairly wealthy would have provided a larger than normal home. A courtyard in her honor is seen in the link provided.

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