Do I really need to go to church every week? This question is becoming more and more common in today’s culture. I grew up in church my whole life, and as a believer, attending church simply came with the territory. I never questioned going because I believed that it was something Christians were fundamentally called to do… much like prayer and reading the Bible.
It wasn’t until I started attending a public high school (and left the comfort of my Christian private school) that I started meeting people who claimed Christianity but didn’t see the need to attend a weekly church service. This threw me for a loop. Honestly, I knew that going to church didn’t make you a Christian. I just didn’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to go to church.
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It wasn’t until I was hurt by the church that I began to understand why some people avoided church altogether. In a church community, we are called to love one another, but we certainly don’t always follow this command.
During one of the most difficult times of my life, I learned just how harsh the church can be. I stopped going for a while because I was so hurt, and I quickly became one of those “Christians” who claimed Christianity but didn’t attend on a regular basis. I noticed something, however. The more I separated myself from the church and the people in it, the more I felt separated from God as well.
As hard as I tried, I had a difficult time keeping myself accountable to prayer and Bible reading until I finally gave it up altogether. The process was slow… so slow that I barely noticed it was happening. It wasn’t until I looked back at my life one day that I realized just how far away I was from who I used to be.
I would like to point out what may seem to be an obvious fact. Human beings are in no way perfect. We’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to say things we don’t mean and do things that we regret. Pastors, teachers, and church congregations are made up of imperfect people who are simply trying to follow God the best they know how. We’re all in this together. God calls us to “meet together” in order that we may learn and grow in Him as well as be encouraged by one another. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Fellowship with others is extremely important. God knows how easily we are influenced by others, which is why He calls us to be a body of believers. We need each other in order to function properly as a church. (1 Corinthians 12:18-27)
The body of Christ is designed to function as a unit. We are called to rely on one another. Yes, I can be a Christian and not go to church because attending is not a prerequisite for salvation. Fellowship with other believers, however, is a necessary part of a functioning walk with God.
Christianity was never meant to be lived out on our own. Even though there are times when those in the church may hurt us, that doesn’t mean that we should avoid church altogether. People are going to hurt us in life (and we will hurt others), but we learn from these mistakes and should be using them as opportunities to grow closer to God. We are, after all, brothers and sisters in Christ, and we will spend eternity together as one family.
We are called to be peacemakers and to live harmoniously with one another. Instead of viewing meeting together as an obligation, we ought to view it as an opportunity to fellowship and encourage one another as we walk with Christ. We should want to spend time with one another and learn from the teachers that God has placed in our lives.
The point of church is to have other believers in our lives. It should also provide sound biblical teaching so that we can continue to learn more about God and His Word. Meeting together should equip us to go out into the world to reach the lost, and it should also encourage us to stay strong in our faith. Some Christians will find these things in a larger church, while others may choose to meet weekly in more of a small group setting. The point is to grow in God together.
This brings me to my final point… going to church isn’t enough. Whether or not you should attend church isn’t the issue. If you’re going to church every week, listening to a sermon, and then simply driving home… you aren’t fellowshipping with other believers the way God intended. In fact, you are missing one of the most crucial reasons we go to church in the first place.
So to answer the question: Do I need to go to church to be a Christian? The answer is no. It is not a requirement for salvation. Jesus is the ONLY way to salvation.
We then have to ask one more question: Is it beneficial (and possibly crucial) to my Christian walk to have fellowship with other believers? The answer is simple… yes.
It’s not about whether or not you go to church. We are called to BE the church – to worship God with other believers, to hear His Word, and to encourage one another in the faith.
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.