“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful,” Colossians 3:15.


     Many times I’ve been asked, “Do I have to go to church to be a Christian?” The answer isn’t really as simple as “yes” or “no.” Now of course God’s irresistible grace is not limited to where one hears it or even who delivers it audibly. God has saved men in every venue imaginable. Becoming a Christian is the impartation of life into a person that causes him or her to properly esteem, adore and respond in faith to the message of the death, burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. A true and willing appropriation of the cross in the heart is the natural result of regeneration. Such a work needs only the sinner and the grace of God that comes in with the gospel, and nothing more. Choose your Biblical metaphor— it’s the creation from nothing modeled in the creation of the cosmos (2 Corinthians 4:6) the revival of a corpse (Ephesians 2:4-5) or the birth of spiritual life in the being of a person (John 3:3); none are geographically limited. So no, no one, “Has to go to church to be a Christian.” Not at all. In the strictest theological sense being born again is alone enough to truly and eternally call someone a “Christian.” Being a Christian, however, is more than just being saved…unless you’re a thief on a cross. As Christians we truly can say we believe in life both before and after death.

     The first verse cited above, along with many others, reminds us that the Christian life is part of a community calling. We’re all called, “…in one body” to our faith. Some may be called in a solitary environment for sure, but all things being equal we’re certain that Christ came to build a church, and that this, by His grace, is the norm. The Christian becomes a small part of a larger body of believers immediately when saved from sin. Romans 12:5 says plainly, “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” When a person is truly saved this is true no matter what. Members are parts. Members of a body are not useful alone. It’s easy to see, but only when your eye’s still in its socket. Hands are only good with arms, and feet with thighs. In this sense then there is the community fit of the Christian life that we’re obviously called to. Christians almost instinctively know this. I mean, if you want gas you go to the gas station. If you want to know auto mechanics you go to a shop. If you want education you go to a school. If you want to know about God you go to a church. In this sense then, yes, you do have to go to church to be a Christian. What’s meant by church here is any gathering of the saints for common edification. This is what the Apostles did, Acts 2:42. This is what the early church did. This is what Scripture deems wisdom, Hebrews 10:25. This is what we do, Titus 1:3; 2 Timothy 4:2. 

     Leaving aside the fact that it’s love specifically for the brethren that can identify us as Christians (1 John 3:14) church is not merely about, “What you get” out of it. Because most that go are not saved at all such a truth is lost on them. Church is about receiving from others, but it’s also very much so about serving others in any and every work your hands find to do. If you’re alive in Christ then you’re a member of a larger invisible worldwide body. This worldwide body expresses itself locally. It’s in a church body you’re often tested, Philippians 1:27. It’s there you can forgive and receive forgiveness, Colossians 3:13. It’s there where you can serve most like your Master, John 13:14. It’s there that men and women of better study lead you more into the image of Christ, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13. It’s there that you get to hear the loftiest truths, Ephesians 3:10, 15-18, 21. It’s there that you get to taste a bit of heaven, Psalm 133:1. It’s there where oftentimes the finest of friendships are made. All of this is possible anywhere, but a good church is literally about these things. 

   No, you don’t “have” to go to church to be a Christian, but you do have to go to church (if it’s at all possible) to live like one. No tree bears fruit for itself. 

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