Recently, a conversation with my wife struck a chord in me that had me questioning her (as if she could honestly answer the question) about how there can be worship service attendees that are not actual believers of the Christian faith. In the same conversation, we debated how people could still think of themselves as Christian and not be faithful to a body of believers.
Now, I don't mean that it is the body of believers that deserve their and need their devotion, which would make them "more Christian." I mean that (in the Christian faith) a body of believers, better known as the Church, is called to join and to do God's work together. Faithfulness to the Church is not primarily or completely about the people, it is about this amazing relationship with God first, then a rather loving connection with fellow believers. (See: Hebrews 10:24-25) So, if we (those of us who call ourselves: followers of Jesus the Christ) are going by the Bible, then we come to know that attending worship services is nowhere near all that being a part of the Church is about.
Therefore, the devout Christian practices his/her piety because of this deep love in the deity that they believe in as opposed to just going through the motions and letting the worship service become a meaningless routine like getting up in the morning and going to work. If our hearts have become captivated with the One we believe to be God, then going to the "church grounds" and the sanctuary will be deeply fulfilling; otherwise, it easily falls to just something to mark off the list for the week. It falls to being something like any other event.
Again, I look at the "non-Christian church-goer" (if that term may be used without offending) as unique when it comes to the ritual that they are participating in. Of course, it would be incredibly hard to ask a person this question even if they are family member or a close family friend. But I think it is deeply important for those who have close relationships with these church-goers to see if they can be helped to cross the space between their lack of faith and nonchalant feeling towards faith and giving into full-on belief.
It actually reminds me of a quick anecdote that I will share to bring out my point. A few months ago, I invited a coworker to come worship with me and my church family and he was grateful for the invitation, but still showed some hesitancy with the idea of actually darkening the doors of a church. This gentleman ended up telling me that he grew up in a church as a kid and although he does not attend anywhere now he still tries to be a good person. Another coworker (who worked closely with the coworker I invited) heard my invitation, heard our coworker's response, which he knew all too well, and said rather bluntly: "I have already told him that there will be a lot of good people in hell!" I must admit that I was taken aback by this statement because although I knew these fellows to be friends or friendly, I never considered that one of them would be so frank with his answer.
For some of you, this may seem harsh, but if you know anything about the Christian faith, then you will understand the brother's straightforward response. The thoughtful and devout Christian will tell you that no one gets into Heaven by works or being "good"; Christianity is built off of the belief that salvation is only obtained through accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. The truth is the truth even when it is stated bluntly.
Now, I did not even ask my coworker if he was a Christian. I actually did not even think to do so after the quick conversation that we had. However, I have crossed paths with many who will declare that they are Christian, even though; there are no visual fruits to the declaration. I still wonder why this is the case. People will know many of the tenets of Christianity: they will either actively be involved in meetings and gatherings or they will have learned the tenets growing up, and yet, there is still no conviction to give all of themselves to God. I continue to think about if it is something that they are missing or not completely understanding that prevents them from giving all of themselves into belief. This is not really about conversion; this is about a full and complete acceptance of what you are already claiming or participating in. This piece is not to condemn anyone, but it is to encourage anyone and everyone to think about what it is you actually believe.
What is it that you believe? Why is it that you believe in it? Is it even important to think about such things? Let this be some food for thought, and it can apply to more than just religion.
For more thoughts and opinions from Mr. Danner, check out Thinking It Through with Jerome Danner at https://jeromedanner.net/category/thinking-it-through-with-jerome-danner-podcast/