Just because someone goes to church doesn’t mean they’re a Christian. No, duh. This we’ve heard before, truer still, is just because someone isn’t a church goer, that doesn’t mean they’re not a Christian. Going to church shouldn’t be an indicator of someone’s faith in Jesus. Sure, someone going to church does imply that they are a believer, but it doesn’t have to mean that. This post is about addressing the biblical facts about church, and whether it’s really necessary for a Christian to attend.
So you go to church. Why? When you really think about it, what is that reason? Your instinctive answer might be, well, “I want to grow in my faith”, or some-such great reason.
Reasons for going to church:
(If I’ve missed one, please bring it to my attention in the comments)
- Listening to ‘the Word’/the gospel/learning biblical truths
- Fellowshipping with other Christians
- Because it is simply part of what it means to be a Christian/it’s the right thing to do.
The first three items could be part of that ‘growing in your faith bit’. What’s wrong with these items as a reason why all ‘good Christians’ go to church? Alright. Well. Where to begin? First, these items aren’t mutually exclusive to church and in some cases, church isn’t the ideal local for such aspirations.
1st reason – Listening to ‘the Word’/the gospel/learning biblical truths
My issue with this is that many people tend to put the paster up on a pedestal. Too often than not, the ‘good Christian’ gets most of his or her spiritual and ‘biblical knowledge’ from the pulpit or podium. My issue with this is the Bible is often convoluted. The truth of the matter is, that the sermon is drawn from the scriptures (In most cases but not all) but it’s not the scriptures themselves – It’s the pastor’s interpretation of the scripture. The scary part is that you can make the scriptures say anything by chopping up verses and taking them out of context. If you were really serious about studying the bible, simply going to church doesn’t cut it. I actually like to get lots of different perspectives on different passages so that I can form my own opinion without too much effort. As a reason to go to church though? It doesn’t stand very well.
2nd reason – Fellowshipping with other Christians
To be wholly transparent, this is one of my biggest reasons for going to church. I absolutely love spending time with people of various opinions and life outlooks, but I believe it’s healthy to have some close friends who have the same set of values and Christian outlook. That being said, you can have that Christian fellowship outside of church. In fact, if this is one of your reasons for going to church you absolutely should fellowship with them outside of church. Most churches aren’t exactly ideal for getting to know other Christians on a meaningful level. A real meaningful friendship atmosphere would be small groups or one on one outside of church.
3rd reason – Worshiping/praying
I’ll give this reason some credit, church (depending on the one) usually provides ample time to worship, but still it’s with a bunch of the other people, which might not be the ideal way to worship. Going to church purely to worship doesn’t seem like the best use of time, seeing that you can worship God wherever you are, and it doesn’t always need to be with songs and hymns either. In fact, praying and worshipping in secret may just mean more than praying in a church where everyone else is doing the same. Jesus rebukes the pharisees for the way they pray in front of others, (Luke 18:10-14) He himself prayed aloud, but I believe it was the intent of praying in front of everyone to show that somehow they were a better jew that Jesus was against. To be 100% honest I think that sometimes modern day Christians are like those pharisees Jesus talked so much smack about. Sure, they were following all the Jewish traditions the way they were supposed to, but they were so focused on the appearance of Godliness they were losing track of the why.
4th reason – Because it is simply part of what it means to be a Christian/it’s the right thing to do.
The folks in the old testament didn’t visit the temple very much if you recall. And when Jesus came, the veil (The veil in the temple that hid the holiest place/place closest to God) in the temple was torn, most theologians call that a symbol for Jesus being available to everyone, he’s not bound to a place, and is accessible by anyone, not just ‘high priests’ and ‘pharisees’ (Hebrews 6:19-20)(Hebrews 10:19-22)(Revelation 21:16). The main verse that you could interpret as the Bible telling Christians they ought to go to church is written in the book of Hebrews “…Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Grant it, this was written to one of the early churches, so their ‘assembling together’ was likely nothing like the church establishments we have today.
What inspired me to write this post? Even though I go to church or bible study once or twice a week… I don’t like what it means to be a ‘good Christian’. It seems, as I stated before, that good Christians are very much like the pharisees/righteous people Jesus was rebuking. They thought they were better than everyone else because they followed scriptural tradition, gathered regularly at the temple, said their prayers all the time, gave money to the poor and sinned a little less than the rest of the crowd. Sounds a lot like a Christian to me. Jesus is supposed to be our example, but he spent time with the poorest, with the sinners, and he showed them love and compassion when the righteous were too proud to. Some churches focus on missions and helping the poor, but not like Jesus.
Let’s not forget what it means to be a Christian. I have to keep reminding myself these things because as I spend time in this church and that church, I find a pattern. Churches often condition us to be ‘righteous’ instead of talking about Jesus all the time. Grant it, I like what most churches do, and I don’t think they can truly instill in us what it means to be like Jesus when he didn’t often listen to a sermon. Going to church isn’t usually unhealthy though (I think…). Before you say it, yeah, I can be a total hypocrite on this topic a lot of the time, but I want to admit that, and say that I don’t think church going Christians should be given any more credit than Christians who don’t. After all, we can only see what’s going on the outside, not in their hearts (1 Samuel 16:7).
If I believe nothing else, I believe this: If you know you’ve sinned and know Jesus came to take your sin upon himself to give you everlasting life, and you let him into your heart. You’re a Christian. Period. Whether you go to church or not.