A lady I have been getting to know took me very much by surprise today. We were talking about changes in our perceptions regarding church and faith, and at one point, she stopped and said that she was just a Sunday Christian, not all through the week, and indicated that in that way she thought she was different (I believe she thought she meant in attitude alone) than I am...yet I think that comment betrays more than attitude. It took me aback so much that I didn't pursue that comment, and I intend to at my next opportunity. That type of comment would normally cause me to suspect that the woman was not even a Christian at all, but only fancied herself one because she attends church on Sunday.
We had a speaker come to our church a few Sundays ago, visiting from our church denomination's regional office. He pointed out that the building we're in on Sunday mornings is not the church. The church consists of all the believers who come on Sunday and disperse through the week--it even consists of all believers who aren't currently attending. It doesn't consist, on the other hand, of those who attend and don't believe. Because Jesus said that He would never leave us nor forsake us, that He would be with us wherever we go, our faith will impact how we live, think, talk, and walk all through the week. Our church is hardly summarized in our church building, or if it burned down, we would suddenly be faithless--and of course that's a ridiculous picture! We believe at home, we believe at church, and we believe everywhere else we go. Church doesn't stop existing six days per week because we are apart from one another. If that were the case, Christianity would never survive--and I suppose in some cultures, including ours, it may seem to be failing, but throughout the world, there are many vital congregations showing that Christianity is nowhere near extinction.
When I first knew Gary, whose father was a pastor but was not yet a believer, and Gary and I weren't believers yet either, I told him that it was strange that his dad was basically using Reader's Digest rather than the Bible when we went to his church one Sunday. Gary responded that it didn't matter much, because church was just a social club. I knew in my heart that that couldn't be true; even before I was a believer, I knew that Christianity had to be much more than a social club if it had persisted all these 2,000 years. It probably wouldn't have lasted much more than a year if it were only a Sunday hobby! Christianity has been under attack the world over, persecuted and prosecuted, burned and ravaged, suppressed, discouraged, misguided, counterfeited--yet God's Word and His church have lasted in spite of all odds, because the Holy Spirit has kept passion for truth burning in the hearts of His people.
My friend's comment took me by surprise, but it shouldn't have--I remember two instances where women that I had assumed were well-established in their faith suddenly had a new love for Christ, a salvation status that had not existed before. They both admitted that they had been in church, pretending all those years before, serving, being the nice person, fooling others but not themselves and not God, and without the sweet victory of knowing Jesus personally. I would never have suspected that they had pretended beforehand, but I could not mistake their excitement afterward! We should never assume that a person has a true relationship with Christ without good evidence. We should pray that those who might be pretending in our churches would let themselves be known, so that they might know the one true Christ, the one relationship that makes everything real and worthwhile.
Jesus lived, died and rose again on our behalf, and though we can never repay all that He has done, is doing, and yet will do for us, the least we can do is live out our passion for Him, alive and active every possible moment. I can't imagine going through a week dropping out of my faith-walk, only to pick it up again for one day and repeat that time after time. I hope that my friend meant something a little different than the sound of what she said. If she didn't, I'm still glad she said it. It might open the door to the most meaningful conversation two people can have.