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We must get rid of this notion that the church is a national institution or any other form of human institution. She is not a club or a society where people meet together and do certain things. I never like to hear people referring to a building as a church. “I’m going down to the church,” they say. But the church does not consist of a building; it consists of people, living souls with the Lord in their midst. We must get rid of this external notion, this idea of just paying a kind of formal visit upon God and then forgetting all about Him. That is religion, the very antithesis of the Christian faith.
Any notion that Christianity is mainly the result of something that we do is always completely, fatally wrong. We must cast off any idea that the Christian church is the result of our action and that we are perpetuating some tradition. If that is our view of Christianity, it is false. That was the curse of the Jews who finally crucified the Lord Jesus Christ. They were traditional religionists, and such have always been—and are today—the greatest enemies of the true church and of the true Christian faith and message. But how much of so-called Christianity is just this!
Let me ask you a serious question: Why do you attend a place of worship? Have you thought enough about it even to ask that question? Are you going simply because it is a tradition? People, you say, have always gone to church on Sundays. But church attendance is something you do. You are simply perpetuating a tradition. Large numbers of people have gone to church out of a sense of duty, hoping each week that the service will not be too long. Each week they have felt nothing at all; the service has been absolutely lifeless, the singing miserable, the intoning of the Scriptures boring. There has been no power, no vigor. And because they have thought that is Christianity, they have turned their backs upon it. And they are perfectly right to do so. That is the logical step. God knows, I myself did that many years ago. And I would not be in a Christian pulpit now but for the fact that I saw through that false view. You cannot fit that into the book of Acts. That is traditional, formal religion, whatever form it may happen to take and in whatever denomination it may appear.
Let me be still more specific. There are some people who seem to have seen through the formality and who compensate for it by producing an exciting kind of worship and have stunts and entertainment to make services lively and bright. But that does not make the slightest difference because it is still men and women who are organizing it. True Christianity is always the activity of God. “Suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind”—God. So, bright services and an entertaining and varied program is not Christianity either. It is livelier, but the life is not the life of the Spirit. Anything controlled by us, whether lifeless or lively, is not Christianity. Christianity is that which controls us, which masters us, which happens to us
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Authentic Christianity, 1st U.S. ed., vol. 1, Studies in the Book of Acts (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2000), 22.