By Archimandrite Paul Papadopoulos
"I believe in God but I don't go to church."
We often hear the above phrase from acquaintances, friends and relatives, so our discussion will focus a little more on spiritual matters.
The basic argument of people who say that they believe in God yet do not go to church to participate in the Mysteries of our Orthodox Church, is that they are bothered by certain things, such as the luxuriousness of churches, obnoxious priests and chanters, the language is ancient (they don't understand it), the microphones, the lights, the candle offering (where they give money for a candle), the time the Divine Liturgy is celebrated, etc.
The excuses are certainly a lot when someone DOES NOT WANT to live according to how the Church says. Unfortunately these people consider themselves outside the Church since they do not accept the basic components of the life in Christ, which is the participation of a Christian in the Mysteries of the Church. These people are not Christians, at least not Orthodox, because while they (supposedly) believe, they do not follow any word of Christ.
The issue of course is that most baptized Christians do not know who Christ is or what the Church is, and what Christ and the Church offer to people. Thus they do not attend church, because essentially they do not know what they are missing, and they do not know what the sacramental life can offer.
The Church, with all Her Mysteries, transforms us, sanctifies us, and brings us into communion with God. Our participation in the Mysteries of the Church is the key to this personal resurrection of ours.
The Church does not exist merely to take the position of medicine and exhaust all its capabilities, as some wrongly treat it. The Church exists to lead people, the faithful, to the Love, the Light and the Life in Christ through the Mysteries.
To say you believe in God is easy, but to believe in God in an Orthodox manner and to do corresponding works is difficult, though not impossible.
If a person really wants to know Christ, they can do this through the sacramental life offered by the Church. If you want to fool yourself you can claim to achieve this on your own. However, I do not know anyone that has been sanctified outside the Church. (The crazy thing is that some people consider as saints people like Elder Paisios, Elder Porphyrios, etc., yet they do not accept their lives. Twisted people!)
All this happens for just one reason: Egoism. When each person believes themselves to be a better interpreter of the Scriptures, and they believe the God-bearing Fathers of the Church are beneath them, and they believe they are smarter, more worthy and holier than the old "religionists" as they call them, and when they believe they have no need to repent of any of their sins (!), and they could be saved by themselves (whatever that means to them), then this text will probably not trouble them at all, rather it has been a long time since they fell into the abyss of self-love and delusion.
The biggest obstacle that prevents contemporary man from reaching communion with God is precisely this: they are trying to know Him the wrong way, using the wrong means, outside the Church. They dismiss the mystery of love and remain willfully grounded in a sterile faith which in a best case scenario simply means "acknowledging the existence of God" and not trusting and surrendering to Divine Providence.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos