Many of my sermons and article ideas are sparked by everyday encounters with those in the church and those of the religious world. The other day I ran across such a post on social media, which made this statement, “No, you don’t need to go to church to be a Christian, but because you are a Christian you should want to go to church.” This statement sparked my curiosity. The first part of this statement is the first cousin of another familiar statement, sometimes made in the church, “I want Christ, just not His church.” Is it true that we can have Christ without His church? Let us begin with a couple matters of context. First, the post under consideration was made by a popular religious organization in our community, which in and of itself, promotes false doctrine. They are not the church of the New Testament. While the source does not make the statement inherently false, we must always take that statement under investigation and examine the truth of the statement based upon a careful consideration of the holy scriptures. Second, though this statement was made by a denominational source, it appears to be the prevailing logic regarding the need for the church in our lives, even amongst God’s people. I want to provide you with a brief examination of this statement from the scripture by providing three truths:
The church is a body of people, not a building: Many view the church as a building, but the church is a body of people. The God who made the Heavens and the Earth does not dwell in houses made with hands, (Acts 17:24), but rather dwells in the body, (1 Corinthians 3:16). The church is comprised of individuals who can only glorify God in the church and no other place, (Ephesians 3:21). To separate yourself from God’s people is to isolate and seek your own desires, defying all sound judgement, (Proverbs 18:1).
The church is a need, not a want: Many take the approach toward the church with a mindset akin to the “take it or leave it” attitude. However, the church was never designed to be a want, but always a need. The church is the aggregate of the saved, (Ephesians 5:23), and Christ only promised to save those in His body. In simple terms, if I want to be saved, I must be a member of the body of Christ. One cannot separate Christ from His church, for the church is the body of Christ, (Ephesians 1:22-23). Just as you cannot separate your head from your body, one cannot separate Christ from His body, as He is the head of that body. Just as you need Christ as your Savior, you also need His church.
As children of God, we should want to do the will of God: As Jesus delivered the “model prayer”, he prayed profound words in Matthew 6:10, “…thy will be done in Earth, as it is in Heaven.” Think of the problems we could solve in the church if this command was simply fulfilled in the lives of God-fearing and God-loving people. God desires for all men to be saved, (1 Timothy 2:4). Follow the logic: If God desires me to be saved, and to be saved I must be a member of the aggregate of body of Christ, (Ephesians 5:23), then God’s will for me is to be a member of the church that belongs to Christ, (Romans 16:16). To do the will of God, I must be a member of His body.
In our examination, we can easily assert that the statement, “No, you don’t need to go to church to be a Christian…”, is clearly in contradiction with the holy scriptures. Not only do you need the church, but you should also want to make the church the center of your life. The greatest threat facing the church in the future is not lack of church attendance. I am a firm believer that a downturn in church attendance is a side-effect of a greater problem. This unspoken problem can be summed up as those who desire Christ as their Savior, apart from His church. If we are ever to restore New Testament Christianity, and if I am to have Christ as My Savior, I must have His church as the center of my life, (Matthew 6:33).