Can You do Church on Your Own?

April 25, 2014 | 34 comments


I’ve often heard people unhappy with their church experience make statements like, “I can do church on my own. I don’t need church. Church is outdated. Church is between me and God.” I’ve wondered in the past if they were right.

From a spiritual point of view, church is a metaphysical concept that doesn’t require a human institution for expression. Right? Or maybe not…at least in the short run. Man is also a spiritual idea that doesn’t require a physical body for expression, yet I seem to have one…for now…while I grow into a higher understanding of true identity…

Finally, I found resolution to this quandary when I realized that church on earth is like a team sport. It takes more than one person to have the experience.

Take tennis for instance.

I like to play tennis, but it takes one or more people to enjoy the activity. I can’t play tennis by myself. I can hit the ball against a wall by myself. I can practice serves by myself. But I cannot play tennis by myself. It requires another person!

The same rule applies to church.

You can’t do church by yourself. Church is not a loner activity. It requires more than one person to have a church experience. Without another person to “hit the ball back and forth with,” church is an empty concept for the human mind to muse.

Jesus Christ taught the two Great Commandments: Love God with your whole heart, and love thy neighbor as thyself. Loving God with your whole heart is an individual activity. You can do that at home or sitting on a mountain peak looking out to the vast horizon. But loving your neighbor requires interaction with others. It means sharing truth with others, caring for them, loving them, and healing them.

Church is about loving God with your whole heart and then showing that love to your neighbor in terms that make a positive difference. One cannot “go to church,” without actively loving their neighbor and improving their lives.

Jesus did not tell his students to separate themselves from humanity, isolate themselves in a cave, and study and pray alone with God all the time. Yes, he certainly set the example for needing time alone in quiet with God. But the bulk of his ministry was helping others, and that’s what he encouraged his followers to do.

Church is many working together as one for a common cause. It’s a team effort to combat the evils of the world in one Mind, in one Spirit, in one Force of Good. Church is about accomplishing together what one cannot do alone.

There is a need for practical expressions of church in the world today that emulate the divine model, but humbly acknowledge a far distance to go in understanding before the human institution is no longer needed.

Feeling the love of God alone at home is one thing, and a good thing. But going to a neighbor suffering in pain, sitting by their bedside, praying for them, and watching the pain go away, is an even greater event. It’s an even greater experience than one can have by themselves.

Church is about many working together as one. And you can’t do that in self-induced solitary confinement!

“For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” Christ Jesus, Matthew 18:20, NLT

34 thoughts on “Can You do Church on Your Own?”

  1. I have been struggling with the question of “why go to church when I can study on my own?” for a long time. I cherish what I am learning in Christian Science, but I’ve always considered going to church such a chore. I often justify not going with thoughts like: I can read the lesson at home in my pajamas, the music is so outdated, the service is boring, there are no other young people there, etc. That way of thinking is very self centered and you’ve helped me realize that going to church can be more about giving to to others than getting for myself.

  2. I have a different reply to this blog. I find it rather selfish when a person upon being requested by another for help say, “I can’t help you, I need to be in Church.”
    Here Church becomes selfish, finite, lack of caring.

    Church to my understanding is a classroom for learning to put into practice, ideas that you learn and then go out to demonstrate to bless mankind with. It’s not going into a material building and buddy with you compatriots.

    Jesus himself didn’t do this, he went out to places that needed him, that needed to be taught. In this I disagree with this particular blog.

    1. Hi Tobias,

      I agree with your sense that church is about the life we live, but in the human experience, it also includes time and space to get together with those who are pursuing common values and ideals, learning from them, blessing each other and healing one another. Jesus did congregate with his disciples. He did make special time to be with them, to teach, listen, learn and pray together. He spent the bulk of time out with the public, but he also had special time set aside to worship with his closest followers.

  3. Thank you, Evan! I’ve been a follower of Spritview for some time now. First reply! This and the earlier entry on Church really struck me with a fresh presentation on a familiar approach. I’m very involved in Church, but not always ‘alert’ to Church. It can become another piece of time we have in our schedule. Your thoughts remind me to cherish the opportunity to love Christian Science for what it enables us to do and to give and to receive! Church meetings are exciting, not for how they are presented, but for what they bring out in each and all of us. I look forward to being re-energized, and excited again! Thanks again!

  4. Thank you, Evan, for further clarity- and Bob for his insight! I love going to church and participating and now have a better insight on how to handle the animal magnetism that tries to entice us away.

  5. Than you Evan for this blog! Church helps build spiritual connections, and helps share spirituality with our neighbors, and the world. It is not always easy, especially when it seems members of the church are stuck in “tradition” and/or there are personality conflicts – but that’s the way mortal mind works against us, isn’t it? Divide and conquer!

    When I started studying CS again after a long absence, I went to a church with my Mom where I didn’t know many people (the one I grew up in closed long ago). Almost no one even talked to me. They all knew I was Mom’s daughter because I was with her, but they didn’t make an effort to reach out or even introduce themselves, with a few exceptions. The members were mostly people who’d known each other for years, and no one seemed interested in learning anything about me. And they were all so busy after church, they took care of their church business and got out – no other chit-chat. But it seemed important to keep going, especially for the testimonies Wednesday evenings. Plus that was a way I could contribute. Part of the reason I stopped going to church was, I got out of Sunday School, and I’d loved the discussions, but it seemed unnecessary to sit through the same lesson I’d been reading all week. Wednesdays give a taste of that. And now I see that the interpersonal connections help keep all of us strong.

    I’m happy to say things are improving at church, people are connecting more. And one of my church friends is the one who told me about your blog! Thanks D!

  6. I attend church by telephone. I also serve my church by telephone and on the computer. After church services we have phone fellowship, where we have wonderful and enlightening conversations. It’s not the church or committee business kind of interactions. Some times it is social, inquiring about our pets or activities. Often, someone has a questions about the lesson we have just heard, or wondering about the meaning of a word, phrase, or sentence. There are many “a ha” moments during these fellowship times.

    WE have lots of music, none of it the old, traditional music heard in so many CS churches. Each Sunday we have at least 3 keyboard or vocal solos. There may be multiple voices and instruments. The music is not listening to a hard rock concert, each selection is closely related to the lesson, and brings marvelous inspiration.

    Meetings, lectures, special talks, and concerts are provided for those on the telephone, as well as for those who attend by computer. All of these are interactive, so long distance participants can contribute to discussions and services. Many of our Wednesday night readers are reading the lesson from a long distance.

    There are a number of churches that provide online services. Some are interactive, some are not.

    I feel more loved and valued as a member of this church than I ever have as a member of a brick and mortar church.

    Thanks, Evan, for another good and pertinent blog.


  7. I really love church. Over the many years I have made personal connections with others. It is often impersonal but I feel if I really want to relate to others I can. We have a new set readers and one of them is my practitioner. She has brought a freshness to the service in her welcoming remarks and personal warmth to the congregation. I am not a member of this church but I love attending. Since we have a local reading room I have made friends there as well. I found a new reason for church which was the silent prayer time, I pray for the church and my family. The reader says “thank you for your prayers thereafter. Our soloist sings beautiful songs. She send me an email each week of the entire music presented during the service and lyrics from her solo. I love church and really am disappointed if I cant attend. The floral arrangements are beautiful. I am very grateful for church!

  8. I am struggling with this one too. I LOVED going to the Annual Meeting in Boston. I was very sad when they discontinued the loving, physical presence and company of others in favor of online substitute. I really don’t think we can say there can be no alternative to a physical branch church and that we must embrace one if available, and then say oops, having the Annual Meeting is too hard. I have since cancelled my membership in the branch church in town for many reasons, and am keeping my membership in the Mother Church, in order that I may physically support its activities. I even love the old timey music!
    Sending Love to you Evan,

    ps. Bravo, Evan, for taking on this topic.

  9. Dear Evan,

    What a mind-jogging article about church. I learn so much when an old concept has new words to give new meaning. I appreciate the comments from Bob, Ellen, Bev, and anonymous, and your reply to Tobias was helpful. I also agree thaat an annual meeting does the very uniting etc. that you have bought up here as a reason for going to church.
    Thanks, Evan, for this work you do.

  10. The argument is not against church, Evan, or against the absolute need to show proof of the utility of our faith by helping/healing/comforting others. The problem lies in the way church is being implemented too many places. Jesus talked about “go ye into all the world…” He didn’t say, “Sit ye (in a hyper-personalized, tucked away building that ignores the community) , and wait for all the world to come to you.” There are wonderful ways to selflessly share our church structure, but it won’t happen until the inward-turning culture that’s grown up around branch churches stops being confused with our “books'” core teachings and Manual directives.

    1. Hi Paul,

      You are right! You make many good points. Thank you for sharing.

      You have touched on a subject which could generate another whole blog or two! People are often searching for the right manifestation of church and thus shy away from gatherings that don’t feel inclusive and outward reaching to them. But, we have to start somewhere, and I figure it starts with me!

  11. I too struggled with the idea of Church — especially after so many discussions and disagreements on what direction it’s going. What eventually came to me was that church is the visable expression of Christ healing in the community. It is our opportunity to make practical the healing Christ collectively and be a force for good. The institution is necessary at this point as a counter weight to institutions that would bind mankind to materiality. Our services nourish us to go forward in Christ in our daily lives and to learn from one another how to be the salt of the earth. Mrs. Eddy says that we should pray for the congregation when we are in church… to me this is because the Church activity is about supporting each other in letting our light shine so we can go out and let thought help rouse the dormant understanding for ourselves and others. Christianity is about learning Love and learning to love, so we MUST include each other and our world in the activity or our movement will be wilt on the vine.

    1. Yes, and when church services are not living up to the spirit of Christ including all, they need to be redeemed from that error so they can fulfill their spiritual purpose. Much work to be done…

  12. As an active member of a branch church, I’ve more than once felt “put upon” and was ready to quit, thinking “why do I need this – I can study on my own.” But, I realized I was going to grow more by handling the personal sense that was tempted to have hurt feelings or feel over burdened, etc. I started realizing that those who serve church in any capacity – Readers, ushers, musicians, members of the congregation who are supporting the church services – grow because of their efforts to serve with love. On Sundays, I am constantly amazed at the “aha” moments when something I’ve been reading all week comes across with new clarity. In fact, there have been times when it’s like the lesson feels “brand new.” As to the hymns, my family and I have had innumerable healings just by reading the hymns or holding to a snippet from one of them. I can never think of them as “old fashioned.” The truth is still the truth and is always there for us to cherish. Hymns chosen for each service help support the message in that week’s lesson if we pay attention to the words. On Wednesdays, there is so much sharing of ideas that support all of us in our spiritual journey. That sharing has brought about many more “aha” moments and led to healings later on – for myself or others I was able to help. Attending Sunday and Wednesday services takes two hours a week out of 168 (I realize that doesn’t include travel time, committee work, etc.). What I get out of it is up to me and how receptive I am (the drive itself can be uplifting). When I take a healing thought into church, I also think about that healing thought embracing the other church members, my community, and the world. That thought altitude, mingled with that of the other attendees, is doing much for the world. Thank you, Evan, for your thought provoking approach to this topic!

  13. “People unhappy with their church experiences”, you write. Why is that? Church should be the happiest, holiest, most loving experience on earth. Why isn’t it? I love going to my husband’s church because it is so joyous and the utmost theme is praising God. I leave feeling full of God’s grace. I have wondered why I don’t feel that way leaving my own church. Is it because I am burdened with human responsibility, personal sense, criticism as how things are not the way I think they should be. Maybe. I admit to thinking more than once it’s more peaceful to stay at home and just be a solo church. Oops. Church is more than one or it’s not church! I love Evan’s comment that Jesus was about in the crowds healing. Operative word being healing. That’s church! Supporting, edifying teamwork…this blog is a game changer for me, Evan. Thank you.

  14. Thanks for this Evan!

    The Matthew 18:20 verse had always bothered me, so I did some research on it recently and found it is important to consider this verse in the context in which it is used. The following blog explains this in detail…especially the most important point to me which is that Christ is also present when we are praying alone.

  15. I had experienced some reservations about attending church on a regular basis as we have so much Christian Science alternatives to the media in both, publications which I dwell in with interest, on line connections with the Mother Church and wonderful seminars by the traveling lectures which I embrace to go out of my way to travel 2-3 hour distances to hear the wonderful lectures given.

    I resigned from my local church. I do not think we sometimes do enough to have a social hour with cookies and juice to share with each other and new persons that enter the services, and when we have speakers. I see so much love in external gatherings that share some form of refreshments which in many churches have a wonderful attendance and seem to establish more attendees in projects. I enjoy so much with my computer in receiving and gathering information from the Mother Church. Contributions are often reflected in my having the time to gather-in all the good things without evaluating personalities.

    I will need to add the exciting yearly class association meetings which are a stable for me keeping on tract.

    Thanks Evan and others for their comments which are sincere in expressing their love for you blog, which is just another wonderful exposure to align our thinking.

  16. It is often repeated that the music in church is old, not upbeat.
    I have found that reading the hymnal notes, I learn and gain a new kinship with the composers and authors of the hymns both in music and lyrics. Some have dated way back to 1500’s.
    The spist of either composer or author is often noteworthy and timeless.
    In reading about the author of “O little town of Bethlehem”, a person can relate with the young man who triumphed over a sense of failure of acommplishment in an endeavor he thought was Hus calling.
    John Newton, who wrote ” Amazing Grace” has 3 hymns in our hymnal. This man expressed such repentance, humility and love. His words only trace the actions he did in his reformation of character. The spirit he imbibe, we should have fellowship with.
    These hymns link us to the ancient protests, prayers, and praises of Biblical environment, to the protest, prayers, and praises of today. There are some hymns I am not familiar with still because not commonly played, or too hard.
    It is true that we do not sing many of the hymns that our brothers and sisters in mainstream releion do. They are free flowing and repetitive, and jive with many a beat of these times.
    But I do not think we should downplay what our service includes, even if it is separate from what is more accepted on a broader basis.

  17. Hi Evan, loved this article. Thank you for writing it! Also, just a quick spelling correction… is the 3rd-to-last sentence supposed to say “can’t” instead of “can”?

    1. I don’t think so. But I’m not a grammar expert! If this is the sentence you mean…

      “It’s an even greater experience than one can have by themselves.”

      1. Ah, forgive me, you’ve got it right — I misread it. (I had read “that” instead of “than” for some reason.) So it’s good as it is. Thanks again!

  18. Thank you for this wonderful article! I would love to see this published in both the Sentinel and Journal because so many Christian Scientists who used to attend church are staying home on Sunday and Wednesday. I have always loved church work which blesses our churches and the world.

  19. When our First Reader read benedictions and scriptural selections from Bible translations other than the KJV, and the Second Reader read the correlative scripture from 1st John 3, in a translation other than KJV, the congregation voted to ban all other Bible translations other than the KJV. The First and Second Reader, at a meeting with the Board, argued that the adopted rule is in violation to the Church Manual, which describes the “Enforcement of By-Laws. Sect. 7”, as the First Reader’s duty to “enforce the discipline and By-Laws of the church in which he is a Reader.” Neither the congregation nor Board should usurp his duty and thus make this By-Law null and void. Section 8 of this Manual By-Law, strengthens the By-Law by stating that the “Reader…shall maintain the Tenets, Rules, and discipline of the Church.” The meeting was governed by misrepresentations of Mrs. Eddy’s position on translations as well as the Board of Directors, taking advantage of the congregations’ ignorance on this issue.

    We hope we will be able to move forward and use the light of modern Bible translations to help our church gain insight and understanding that will bless them.

  20. I find the alternatives to physically being church very rewarding.
    In the past my church seemed to have click and identified your monthly contributions to be given. I understand the need somewhat because of the small membership 12-18.

    Alternatives to using the Reading Room, monthly is quiet expensive and recommendations for using the church as a reading room is not close to foot traffic. We are in a University town and some members feel the need is there but the numbers of one or two a week in my idea justify the expense? To serve one Soul may be the thinking.

    The idea as mentioned by others of having cookies and soft drinks at meetings and guest speakers seems appropriate in establishing a friendly atmosphere. Other CS Churches in our neighboring states seem to do this and establishes a good membership and feelings.

    I do church on the internet from the Mother Church along with Wednesday testimonies.

    I guess I need to look deeper but I do not see a change to meet my needs?

  21. I’d like to weigh in, and share observations from my own church experience.

    I know many who prefer to stay home and enjoy their personal study, rather than attend church services, and I am sure they get much from their study. I certainly relish my week-long study, all I gain from our books, the periodicals, the wonderful resources on the internet and personal prayer. Those tools, of course, are products of our Mother Church organization! But what of the local churches? I have found that engaging faithfully and prayerfully with my local church spurs my individual spiritual growth and continues to provide sweet opportunities to be a support to others.

    I’ve been a member of large and small churches, and know that church membership is not for the faint of heart. It requires “tough love.” When the purpose is so very good, it is worth it. Think of how Jesus loved his disciples, selflessly with mind-boggling patience.

    A young Christian Scientist of another culture observed that Americans as a culture tend to be self-sufficient and self-centered. Whole-hearted engagement in church can help nurture a God-centered life and unselfish love for even those who may appear at the moment to be enemies to our happiness or to cherished church goals.

    I wonder if those dear students of Christian Science in my own region, who go it alone, are aware how much joy their regular or occasional attendance at our branch services would bring to our members? And what if our church services seem cold or uninspired? We each have the privilege to see a need and supply it in humble ways. If others do not reach out to strangers, this may be our special calling. If those with an open, loving heart bring their warmth to church, the church will be warmer and the stranger who visits will feel it.

    Thinking of you, Tobias, my own outreach carries the love of our branch church purpose to those who cannot or choose not to attend, but who enjoy communication with a fellow student. And others in our churches may, in secret, being doing great individual good.

    Another benefit of humble service in branch church work: it gives us ample opportunity to perceive and to soften our own rough edges as we work with others, and, over time, to discern much to respect in even those whom we criticize or who criticize us. Mrs. Eddy’s poem, Love, so eloquently guides us in all the joys and challenges of working together. The opening line is a wonderful prayer for unity in family, community or church: “Brood o’er us with thy sheltering wing, ‘neath which our spirits blend like brother birds who soar and sing, and on the same branch bend.”

    Love to you all, in church or at home, as you need, or are called to be.

    Evan, I am always struck by the way you share and what you share. It is a gift.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Nancy. Your comment just oozes with love! I bet you are a real blessing to both your church and your community.

      1. And thank you, Brian, for taking the time to let me know my comments struck a chord with you. It is so sweet to feel connected to our church family.

  22. I love the way this blog on church is still going. I feel I can still comment. I just found it.
    I’m enjoying having the daily messages to inspire me every morning. The Society in my small town disbanded over a year ago and I depend on the online Mother Church services and Jsh is a blessing. I attend services when I can in a city down the mountain but its an effort. When I do I feel the love. I am grateful for both opportunities.

  23. I’m so glad I saw this great blog from two years ago under “popular posts.” I needed it now. After retiring and moving to WA I thoroughly enjoyed seventeen years of service to Church on four committees. Two years ago I dropped those committees in favor of serving in our Reading Room two days a week. However, a discussion at a church business meeting caused me to wonder if this was the branch church I really wanted. For the last 3 months I have not gone out to church – I mailed in my monthly donation. Feelings about members involved have now been met and after reading this blog again, I will be going out to church once again – once snow and ice are out of the picture. Thank you Evan.

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