IS GOING TO CHURCH OKAY? - God's View
". . .it was first in Antioch that the disciples were by divine providence called Christians." -Acts 11:26-
As it pertains to the scripture in Acts 11:26 above, all people's the world over who follow Jesus whole-heartedly, are by "divine providence" called "Christians," regardless of what Christian faith they may be affiliated with. Whichever denominational name/title they may name themselves, we are all part of the "body of Christ," even despite some differences in beliefs. In the end, all Christian faiths are tied together with one common thread - Jesus!
As mentioned a number of times through this website, leaving the organization for some can be an extraordinarily difficult thing to do. After all, we are conditioned to believe that the Kingdom Hall is the only place on earth for "pure worship." Even the thought of attending a church, after leaving the organization, for many is unthinkable. Many decide to never attend church again, not to imply that they no longer believe in Jehovah, or his Son. But as a Witness - all churches are taught by the leadership (the Governing Body) to be all part of "Christendom," and "Babylon the Great." Is it any wonder that there is deep apprehension about attending a church post-organization? For myself . . . it took me almost TWO years to finally attend a church.
Other than being taught that all these Christian churches are aligned with Satan's world, there are other aspects of community and denominational churches that disturb most Witnesses, again, out of indoctrination by the leadership and their false reasoning of the scriptures on the matter. And some of these things, and likely most importantly include the bearing of the cross on the outside of the church, and often times - inside the church as well. These are described as objects of veneration by the organization, also "icons." And the cross is also identified as "pagan (WT '89 5/1 pp. 23-28). There are clearly pagan origins associated with the cross, as explained by a number of reputable scholars.
But when considering the Governing Body's view on these things, we must be willing to consider these other vital points: The brothers of the organization often quote those of reputable scholars who have the same ideologies as themselves, presenting a biased opinion. Are the opinions stated by the scholars they quote from fact? This is the real problem . . . one very important factor MUST be considered in all of this - and that is . . . NONE OF US WERE THERE! And that includes the scholars.
A while ago (I wish I had written down at the time the reference), I recall reading about one scholar who noted that the Romans also practiced putting an upright pole in the ground, where perhaps it remained for some days before erecting a transom over the top of the pole. At the time the pole sat in the ground, it would have been properly defined as a "stauros," until which time the transom, or cross-member was erected, or perhaps carried by the alleged criminal for execution.
But other points to remember are these: What would be so unusual about Jesus being nailed to a cross? It was practiced by the Romans. And surely, everything about the Romans was pagan . . . so crucifying our Lord on an object of pagan origin certainly would not have been surprising. Also, it is interesting to note that the biblical account of impaling our Lord Jesus hands to the object was done with "nails." If it were done with hand over hand (as depicted in many of the illustrations of the WT), why does the account describe "nails" (plural) in the hands? Would it likely not have been one nail if it were hand over hand. Notice this account as described in the New World Translation (for argument sake): John 20: 25 "So the other disciples were telling him: “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them: “Unless I see in his hands the print* of the nails and stick my finger into the print of the nails and stick my hand into his side,+ I will never believe it.” Counter: Some recent discoveries have revealed that the feet of many that were impaled by Roman soldiers, straddled the pole as the nails were driven through the heels. If such were the case, it would not be surprising that the hands were also stretched above head and straddled on either side and nailed through the hands to the pole, or "stauros." Administrator: The object is not to present a case of one sort or another on this subject, but to consider "all things" as it relates scripturally. My personal thoughts are, based on all the evidence, even by modern scientists as it relates to the time it took for Jesus to die (without legs needing to be broken) suggests to me the probability that Jesus likely died on an upright pole, but still, that does not mean he did. So the discussion here is to simply identify if going to church is wrong - if it bears the cross inside and/or outside of the place of worship.
Is it any wonder that we are admonished in Pilippians 1:10, "For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ's return." Yes, as Christians, we need to be focused on the things that "really matter." Is not the fact our Lord Jesus died for us, the thing that "really matters?" Instead of being overly concerned with the exact manner of the way he died, we should be focused on the fact that HE DIED . . . FOR US! Therefore, though a cross may be of pagan origin, it certainly does not mean that the members belonging to a church that bears the cross inside, or outside are pagan, nor is it wrong! It is simply a symbol to make known to the public that it is a place of worship. Consider this: It is fact that a large number of automobile marquis and emblems are linked to astrology and paganism from the past. It is highly likely that you may drive one of these automobiles. Does this make you a pagan for owning one? The answer is a clear and definitive "NO!" The exact same principle applies to churches of today. AS LONG AS THE MEMBER(S) ARE NOT BOWING BEFORE THE CROSS, OR EMBRACING IT AS AN OBJECT OF VENERATION . . . IT IS NOT PAGANISM, OR IDOLATRY! Similarly, if you are an owner of an automobile that bears such a symbol of paganism or astrology, if you do not bow before it in an act of worship - you are not idolatrous.
It is wise to remember that although most Christian churches believe in the trinity , or another false belief of some sort. . . your belief in the opposite does not mean you may offend God by your attendance. Once we have scriptural knowledge of the truth of a certain teaching, we hold those teachings close to our minds and hearts, regardless of what others may believe falsely, albeit at school, our place of employment, church or anywhere else. In fact, there may be opportunity, over time, to speak about the truth of the knowledge you may have with another congregant when the occasion is right. And is that not what the first century Christians did? Did they not preach in the synagogue where there were false belief's? And just perhaps, there will be a few teachings that we have learned over the years that we may have corrected. Thus, "iron sharpens iron" in a holy way, all in the process to understand the knowledge of God more thoroughly - and for the glorification of his name.
Note: If considering a church to attend, as informed Christians as to what God approves and disapproves of, it is vital that we examine the leadership's view on homosexuality amongst its leadership. Is such a thing permitted, despite God's view on the matter? We would yet want to be cautious to align oursleves with a church that is permissive toward homosexuals involved in leadership of the church we may be considering attending.
I recently attended three different churches in our area of Olympia Washington. Now remember, I spent 45 years as a Jehovah's Witness. I was as much involved in the organization as any other person on the earth! In fact, there are, and always will remain with me deep feelings of love, joy and a great many other emotions associated with decades as a loyal member I will always have - so you can imagine how difficult it was for me to step into a church for the first time! But I had already accepted and come to the biblical conclusion that Christ' sheep may be found in almost every single Christian religion earth wide. I have researched this topic in depth, and can find no support whatsoever for this not being true. Now . . . as taught by the leadership of the organization, it is argued that many of these churches of Christendom teach many different things, and since they do, they must all be part of Babylon the Great. For our God is a God of "order," and holds to only "ONE" truth. Of course, this doesn't imply that the Governing Body hasn't had its share of untruth's, false dates, false parallel's, and outright false doctrine!
This is an unjust argument, and it bears little truth in itself. Why is this? Because . . . the vast majority of these Christian churches and Christian congregations around the globe very much teach the same thing! True, almost all of them teach the trinity, which we know to be false, and a bogus teaching. But that doesn't mean they have been rejected by our Lord Jesus (see topic "More . . . Faith or Religion"). They almost all preach that "GRACE" is the primary factor associated with our salvation, not "WORKS" as taught by the Jehovah's Witnesses! And this is a teaching that is TRUE. In fact, most Witnesses can tell you very little to nothing about what the grace of God is, and how it applies to us as Christians - this a sad and monumental rejection of God's love and mercy by the leadership of the JW's. But again, grace is what is primarily taught, as scripturally accurate, at the majority of all Christian churches around the world.
Next, the majority of these churches and congregations understand what the "body of Christ" means for all of us. And as such, they partake of the bread and wine as our Lord instructed us! When our Lord instructed us to do that, it came with no caveats, or numbers of any sort! Everyone did after that. But not the Jehovah's Witnesses.
There are many other things that the churches around the world properly teach according to God's Word, and though are of different denominations, teach and hold these same teachings as Christians - things that go largely ignored by the brothers and sisters of the organization. So while all these churches may have some doctrine wrong - they are still clinging to bible truth's as closely as they can, just as the Witnesses are . . . or believe they are. And again, the JW's have false teachings.
WHAT WENT ON IN THE CHURCHES?
Earlier I mentioned that I recently attended three different churches in our area of Olympia Washington. What went on? What can you expect if you decide to attend one?
The first church I attended was something along the lines of what some refer to as a "maga-church." We have seen these come up more and more throughout the United States. The term "mega-church" has somewhat of a negative flare to it for many, for many people associate church with a small school-house looking church. And it is these kinds of churches that some think are more appropriate for becoming more acquainted with the different members, and has a more "family-like" atmosphere. But the mega-church I attended was a Baptist church called "Westwood Baptist Church," of West Olympia. It was very large. But it wasn't until I entered I understood why. The buildings are divided up in a number of different smaller communities for different circumstances. For instance, there was a couple of classroom-like buildings set up for elderly ones, teenagers, and a pre-school type place for little children. Each place was attended by an official of the church to oversee certain scriptural subjects being discussed from the bible, and watching the children. I found this extremely refreshing. And this doesn't mean that you had to attend one of these based on your age, it was simply set up that way to appeal to the various ages/generation of people that wanted to associate with others of their generation and age, as well as attend a certain subject that interested them, again, based upon the bible.
There was also the main auditorium (or Sanctuary) where the majority of everyone listened to the pastor give an absolutely wonderful discourse on a chapter of Daniel and King Nebuchadnezzar. We started with a song (presented on a large screen) and a live band playing the music. I was surprised how good they played. Everyone sang, including me. The song was simply about praising God, and Jesus. It was modern, soft toned and delightful. The lyrics were holy, but not ceremonious. People sang and took it very serious. Then the pastor opened with a prayer. It wasn't long, but appropriate - asking for God's blessing upon the morning. After this began the discourse with a slide presentation outlining his discourse he gave on the book of Daniel. The discourse was highlighting amazing features I never knew, and was truly educational. And it was a verse by verse consideration of the chapter, along with the appropriate renderings of art (via slide presentation) explaining Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom, and what it most likely looked like. There was a slide which showed a large ancient carving, discovered by archaeologists, of Nebuchadnezzar and his feet morphing into tree branches expanding through the earth below him. When this particular slide came up, I was unfamiliar with its meaning. He elaborated on how Nebuchadnezzar, and those of his people viewed him as God! And as God, the feet into branches represented how they all felt he gave life to the earth, and the people in it! Is it any wonder Jehovah (or Yahweh) was so angry with him! It was an incredible program.
The church had free espresso, and snacks for any and all. I found the people to be very kind, the church members (well over few hundred) were very engaging, kind, respectful. It was NOT what I was expecting. It was not ceremonious. It was inviting, both atmosphere and biblically! They passed a plate for donations during the discourse. No one looked or observed "who" put in "what" whatsoever. I didn't feel "compelled" in any manner. Many did not give, as I observed. Neither did I on my first experience. It wasn't a big deal as I thought. And later had thought it about at home. It simply pays for all these wonderful things the church provides. And make no mistake, that espresso, the snacks, the building, the bathrooms, the lighting ALL COSTS. I was not bothered in the least.
The second church I attended was a Presbyterian (Presbyter meaning "elder," or church lead by elders) church a few blocks from our house. It was not a mega-church, but still had espresso and snacks, along with a few classrooms for children, and teenagers. My visit there was very much enjoyable. A couple of sisters stood at the entrance and greeted me with a hand-shake! They were very kind, and quite smiley (I was pleased that they were allowed to do such a thing!). As I entered the main auditorium there was another very friendly sister who handed me a copy of the program for the day. The people were some of the most friendliest I had ever met. Extremely kind and welcoming! The pastor walked around and hugged and greeted people. He wore nice pants and shirt, not a tie. He didn't put on heirs. If I hadn't been told by the guy next to me that he was the pastor, I wouldn't have known. He was just another one of his fellow brothers, was my take on it. He saw me and greeted me. I told him I had been a Witness for 45 years, and after deep study, I decided to part. His response was very serious, but kind: "That must have been an extremely difficult thing for you to do," he stated. He welcomed me and introduced me to a couple of others.
As in the first experience with the Baptist church, they started with a couple songs that gave praise to Jesus. Then followed these words in the lyrics as everyone sang loudly: "Praise Jehovah, Praise Jehovah, Praise Jehovah," with other lyrics following. I was stunned. After about ten mins of singing we were invited to sit. Through a slide presentation, the pastor showed pictures of a recent trip he and his wife took of the ruins of Mount Megiddo. He gave an outstanding discourse on Mount Megiddo, what it was for, and how it relates to Armageddon of Revelation. I am very familiar with these teachings, and can attest to the fact - he had it spot on! It was very pleasing to learn this, for I was carefully scrutinizing accuracy with biblical details. The entire experience made be return again. I partook of the bread and wine (grape juice I think it was - a product of the vine). Later at home I remembered how the organization teaches that churches of Christendom partake all the time, and that that lessons the seriousness of the occasion. First, there is no mention scripturally of how often one should or shouldn't partake, that is personal!
And I mean this honestly and sincerely: I observed all the congregants around me as we held the bread in the hand (they handed them out on silver trays while we sat). Everyone I saw thought very carefully about it. They just didn't pop it in their mouths. I could see deep concentration, thinking, and some appeared to be praying - truly grateful for the representation of Christ' body. Likewise with the wine (or juice). We all held it, and then drank it together. There wasn't fanfare, talking, or looking around. EVERYONE . . . including the teenagers in attendance took deep thought in it. IT WAS NOT AT ALL AS IT WAS DESCRIBED BY THE GOVERNING BODY. I found unbelievable delight in the experience. I realized, these people love our King Jesus! They are forever grateful for this wonderful gift of his sacrifice, and the entire worship experience. I walked away knowing I would return! By the way - the bread and wine is done at this church on the first Sunday of each month only. There was a plate passed, as I think is common in all churches, and this time I gave. I was thrilled to give to help pay for the expenses. Again, no one was watching others. It wasn't a big deal at all. Some gave, some didn't. No biggie. But there are clearly expenses involved in running a facility. I no longer view this as unacceptable.
SPECIAL NOTE: Part of the service included reciting (from the large screen) something called the "Apostle's Creed." I was unfamiliar with this. I found out later that many protestant churches (churches who broke away from the Catholic church) recite this. I gently and cautiously recited it with them, though reading carefully the words in advance. So far so good - until came the words, "We acknowledge the Holy catholic church." I didn't say these words. BUT!!!!!! I went home and looked up the words and the history. I easily could have said, "I am never returning here!" I am glad I didn't! Why? Come to find out, the word "catholic" means "universal." What they were saying was they believe in the universal church (or congregation) of Christ. The small "c" in catholic separates it as a word from the large "C" in Catholic (meaning Roman Catholic Church). My research revealed that there are some churches who have changed the words to "universal church" instead of "catholic church," just to make the members feel better. And evidently there are more and more follower's of churches that want the word "catholic" changed to "universal" because they DO NOT SUPPORT in any manner the Catholic church - as we know it. They completely reject it! So . . . I was glad I did the research. When I returned, I recited the Apostle's Creed and exchanged the word "catholic" with "universal" just to make myself feel better - but again, "catholic" with the small "c" represents "universal" only . . . not the Catholic church! So by saying "catholic" with the small "c" - you are not accepting the Catholic church!
My third experience was at a non-denominational like Church of Christ. Almost everything I described in the last paragraph at the Presbyterian church was very similar to this church. The singing at the beginning lasted about fifteen minutes, maybe twenty. After a while it was a little difficult to take, but the songs were also performed by a live band (as in the other two churches as well). There was a singer who took the lead, and what great job she did! The lyrics were scripturally appropriate and wonderful. The sermon was outrageously good. It was based on Ephesians, and how we as Christians should be living with morally sound lives. He really drew the point home, and all in attendance were very attentive to the discourse. There was also coffee and refreshments, as in the other churches. There were events and other classroom settings set for children and older ones to visit if they leave the main auditorium. There was a child care center, as there was in the other two churches.
A very important factor in all three experiences was this. ALL OF THEM had weekly, monthly events set up to care for the needs of the congregation AND the outside community - such as picnic outings for the congregation, clothing for the homeless and needy in the community, feeding the homeless etc. All three churches invite any and all members to sign up to work with them on the days they help others. I felt a very warm sensation when discovering them. I was reminded of Jesus' words to care for widows and orphans, as well as sending someone off without something to eat while wishing them well. These churches were following his instruction to care for the disadvantaged. And they do so regularly!
I do not know what kind of experience you will have in the area you live in. But you are likely to be surprised at just how sincerely kind people are, and will quickly discern through the worship portion of your visit, how sincere many are about their relationship with Jesus. And my advice is this: if you attend a church or two and do not have a good experience, find one that you like! Believe me, they are out there. Was I just fortunate to find three in a row that were terrific? I think likely not. I think we simply have been so indoctrinated to believe the badness in people around us, that we stereotype these places of worship as all being linked to Satan. Now that I see differently, by experience, I realize how much we have been "brain-washed."
MAY YOU FIND PLEASANTNESS OF GOD UPON YOU WHEREVER YOU DECIDE TO WORSHIP. AND MAY YOU BE MOVED ALWAYS, TO GIVE YOUR ATTENTION TO THE PLACE OF OUR DEAR LORD - WHENEVER AND WHEREVER YOU MAY BE!