Our culture has taken a turn over the past few years towards a focus on self-esteem. You don't have to search very far to see parents who puff up their children in order to make them feel good about themselves or people who boost up themselves (sometimes at the expense of others) to create a facade in which they want others to view them. With social media displaying the best version of the lives of the people around us, we struggle more and more with our cold, harsh realities when we examine our own, less-than-average lives. The self-esteem theory seems to be that those who can develop a high self-esteem will be successful, whereas those who lack self-confidence are left as prey. Right? Not exactly.
The main drawback of the self-esteem movement is the pre-occupation with "self". Whether someone has low self-esteem or high self-esteem, the problem is that their esteem is rooted in "self". Many people struggle with the Biblical doctrine of total depravity (that we all have a corrupted nature) because to accept it means to accept that YOU are CORRUPTED, SINFUL, and NOT GOOD ENOUGH! This is hard to accept in a culture where being better than average seems to be the goal. This is dangerous territory, however, because when people fail to see the depths of their own sin, they miss out on experiencing the wonderful grace of God.
How then, should a Christian view themselves? Should we see ourselves as sinful, as not good enough? By no means! 2 Corinthians 3:4-5 says, "Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God." (ESV) As Christians, we should understand our corruption apart from God's grace. We should boast about nothing of ourselves, because all of our goodness and value comes from God. High or low self-confidence is irrelevant in Christianity. ALL of our confidence and boasting should be in God and because of God. The rest of our boasting is a vulnerable means for destruction.
"Don't be so naive and self-confident. You're not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it's useless. Cultivate God-confidence." (1 Corinthians 10:12, MSG)
For Christians, going to church is NOT an option; however, that does not make it an obligation but an opportunity. A "Christian" who says they don't need the community of church is like a human claiming that they are still able to live without oxygen: it just doesn't work that way.
EVERY SINGLE professed Christ follower in the early church gathered with a body of other believers on a regular basis. In the New Testament, we don't see Christians saying, "I am a Christian. Okay, I'm going back to my farm now so don't bother me." No, every single person who experiences true grace cannot resist sharing it and talking about it with others, worshiping with others.
The #1 reason people leave a church or neglect going is because someone in the church offended them. That can be supported by multiple sets of research. "I felt judged at the church." "They were telling me everything that's wrong with me." Those are things we often hear people say when they talk about why they don't attend church. Sorry I'm not sorry that this might hurt your feelings: If people in the church seem OFFENSIVE, then you are most likely being DEFENSIVE. If you are approved outside the church and seem judged inside the church, maybe it's time to take a hard look at your life and reverse your behavior. Maybe it's time to shut your mouth and open your ears. Maybe that's what Solomon, the wisest man to ever walk the earth (besides Jesus), meant when he wrote, "Whoever hates correction is stupid." (Proverbs 12:1)
Outside the church there are less consequences. If those in the church really love you, they will correct you. They might not be telling you what you want to hear, but I guess this is why Solomon also said, "Woe to you, when all people speak well of you." (Luke 6:26) Many people who abandon church like to say, "The people in the church don't act nice anyway. They are mean to me and constantly look to judge others." Or something along those lines. Let me explain to you, the (C)hurch is referred to as a body multiple times in the Bible. If I judged every person in this world by looking at their big toe, I wouldn't like a lot of people. In the same way, when you judge the body of Christ off of one person or one set of people, you are judging the church off it's toe--not a very accurate picture of what it actually is. If you don't go to church, then you are judging the body of Christ. And if you judge the body of Christ, then Christ has no place in his heart for you. To get an accurate perception of the (C)hurch, you must look at the whole picture of the (C)hurch : the body of Jesus Christ, which hung on a cross for YOUR sins. So every Sunday morning when you neglect to go to church because of the ugly toes that go there, you are neglecting Jesus' love for you, his body that hung on a cross for your past, present, and future decisions to neglect him.
Hunter Kallay, author of "Plug in Your Life." He is a Christian leader and speaker.