Tag Archives: church

Is it true that you don’t need to go to church if you believe?

You may have heard someone say that believing in Jesus is “enough,” and that there is no need to attend church. You may, in fact, feel that way yourself. But, the question, however, is whether or not the statement is true. And, it is my contention that the statement is false. So, let me explain.

Now, to be fair, I must confess that belief (the concept of putting trust into something or someone) in Jesus is sufficient for salvation. But, there is more to the equation than most people probably think. You see, many people approach faith in Jesus Christ like an End User License Agreement (EULA). They know they need to check the box in order to enjoy the product, so they do so without reading or understanding anything of what they have signed. Similarly, there are numerous people who have heard that faith in Jesus the Son is necessary for eternal life with God the Father, and check the faith box without having any idea what they have just signed up for.

So, the question now becomes: Does this person have “faith” or “belief in” Jesus Christ for salvation? I believe they do not. Jesus tells His followers to count the cost of being a disciple (Luke 14:28-35). But there can be no counting of the cost for someone who simply checks the block. So, whatever kind of faith a block checker has, it does not seem to line up with what Jesus expects of His followers.  I should also lay my cards on the table and confess that I am on the Arminian side of the house theologically.  So, I do believe that a person can lose their salvation.  And, something tells me a block checker would lose faith, if they ever truly had it, far faster than someone who counted the cost.

But, let’s approach the question of whether or not a Christian should attend church or not more directly. To begin, throughout Scripture faith is seen as both private, something that defines you when alone, as well as public, something that is done in a group setting. In the Old Testament, we see true faith being expressed in the central place of worship, whether the tabernacle or the temple. We see idolatry being practiced away from these central places of worship. In the intertestamental the the development of synagogues takes place worship takes place there. Once we reach the New Testament, we see the Christian community meeting in groups for instruction, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer (Acts 2:42).

Continuing on, Hebrews 10:24-25 states, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (NIV). The point here is that the church, the faithful body of believers, is to continue meeting together, and not be like those that have given up the practice of gathering with fellow Christians. Part of the benefit of such meetings is the mutual support and encouragement found within the faith community.

So, it is clear from Scripture that we should meet together in community with fellow believers. Now, let me wrap this post up with a few closing points. Attending church provides the following, at the very least:

Conservation of Orthodoxy: Trained clergy and the accountability provided by a congregation of fellow believers helps to protect right belief. Though there are many examples of churches, and even denominations, that have gone astray, these are generally recognized as heterodox by the larger church.

Support for Missions: Groups of believers can typically do more to support local and global missions than individuals. Thus, being part of a church body can help us fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20).

Support and Encouragement: Church provides a place for believers to find mutual support and encouragement to help navigate the struggles and hardships of life, as well as a place to share joys and blessings with others.

Sacraments: The sacraments are done in community, and there seems to be no way around this. Despite what may have been seen on television, or in a movie, there is no indication in Scripture that a person can baptize his or herself. Nor can you serve the Lord’s Supper to yourself. It just doesn’t work that way.

I could continue to go on, but I will stop this post here – I am not writing a paper, after all. One page on the Word Processor is enough for a blog post.

On claiming and being

Anybody can claim to be anything. Examples of this can readily be found on the internet. For instance, on occasion, men dressed as decorated war heroes are revealed to have never served in the military. While such behavior is problematic, I would say, that the trouble is even more pronounced in the realm of Christianity.

Jesus tells us in the Bible that the wheat and chaff will grow together and will not be separated until the harvest (Matt. 13:24-30. The chaff is recognizable to those who work the land, but it is easier to harvest everything together and then sift out what is undesirable. However, to someone who is less knowledgeable about farming, the wheat and chaff will appear rather similar. In the same way, there are scores of people claiming to be Christians who, quite simply, are not.

Now, before you go into spasms, contort your face, and call me judgmental, think carefully about my claim. Polls will tell you that more than 70% of Americans are Christians. But, seriously, as you look around to your left and right and across the spectrum of our society, do you sense that 7 out of 10 people are followers of Jesus Christ? Do 7 out of the 10 people you run into act and speak as if they have a relationship with Jesus Christ that informs the way they live. I am not talking about perfection, not at all. Indeed, followers of Christ stumble and fall all the time. Still, I do believe that a true follower of Christ, even in the midst of stumbling, has Christ as his or her goal and will continue to move in a Christ-oriented direction.

Remember, chaff and wheat are similar in appearance. However, only one is acceptable to the farmer. In the same way, a follower of Jesus Christ and someone who simply claims the title of Christian for the purpose of a survey will appear similar in many ways. But, I would say that there are differences that may be noticeable. After all, we should bear fruit according to what we believe.

Now, let me make certain one thing is clear: the laborers can notice that something is amiss, but it is only at the harvest that judgment takes place. In other words, I may have a hunch that a lot of people who claim to be Christian for cultural reasons are not, in fact, followers of Jesus Christ. But, Jesus says to let the wheat and chaff grow together until the time of harvest. There will indeed be a time of sifting at the judgment, but that is not for me.

So, why do I write this? Is this all just a rant? Possibly. I am certainly not above that. A nice rant feels good from time to time. But, I do not feel that this is a rant. Instead, this is a warning to all those in the body of Christ that take comfort in the idea that 70% or more of Americans are Christian. I believe that number has far more to do with people being “cultural Christians” than being any kind of a true indicator of the beliefs of our fellow Americans. As the “nones” and other religious or irreligious demographics grow, I feel that the 70% figure will begin to dramatically decrease. Simply put, nonreligious people that presently claim to be Christian will feel more comfortable identifying as such. Historically, when Constantine came to power over the Roman Empire, approximately 10% of the population was Christian (and I am quite convinced they were true believers). After Constantine made Christianity legal and identified himself with the faith, the number of Christians in the empire exploded. Suddenly, Christianity was culturally valuable. But, what happens when the tide turns? I believe that people will bail out and much of the chaff will voluntarily remove itself.

The consequence of this is that Christians should not sit around on their hands, but instead should actively engage the world around us. Invite folks to church, have a home Bible study and ask neighbors or friends if they would like to attend, get engaged in the religious upbringing of your children or grandchildren, the options are manifold. In short, as followers of Christ, we should be actively engaged in carrying out the great commission to preach the gospel to the world.