You can be a Christian and not go to church! That is true. But if you are a Christian and do not go to church then you are something of a strange Christian. The assumption of scripture is that Christians are baptised. It is a further assumption that baptised Christians are members of churches. They are associated with a church and therefore do go to a church.
A part of the Christian calling is to love other Christians. John says this, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them”. (1 John 2:9- 11). So love for other Christians is a confirmation that you are in the light; that you yourself are a true Christian. One of the ways this love is shown is in a desire to be with other believers. And these believers gather in churches. Churches are where they are found. Accordingly if you refuse to join with them then that seems to be an indication that you are not wanting to love other believers and therefore are walking in darkness.
Christianity is a community religion. We are called to be in fellowship with others who share the same beliefs. In 1 John1:3-4, John writes “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.” It is in local churches that this sharing takes place. The principle was established by our Lord Jesus that, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matt. 18:20). It is in a gathered group of people that we can know the presence of the Lord. That formal gathering takes the form of the local church.
The true believer desires to be among God’s people. The psalmist says, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’” (Psalm 122:1). Today the house of God is the local church; more specifically it is the people who make up the local church. The true believer knows something of the desire to meet with those of God. Moreover the true believer demonstrates a desire for the best for the house of the Lord. One of the reasons given for the psalmist wanting the best for Jerusalem is because God’s temple is there: “For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity.” (Psalm 122:9). Are we relentlessly seeking the best for our church.
The church is the place which is the focus for the key activities in our Christian lives. As Joe Thorn says, ‘It is in the church where we discover and exercise our spiritual gifts; where we bear one another’s burdens, exhort, encourage, and rebuke one another; where we share in one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Father’. In a word it is the focus for our discipleship.
This does not mean that it is always easy to be in a church. After all a church is made up of sinners. They are sinners saved by grace, but sinners all the same. Sometimes we are not all that we should be and there can be clashes. Many Christians say that they will not associate with a church because of the hurt that they have experienced. These things are real and due sympathy must be extended.
However, we still need to remember that the church is God’s special place. Paul says that, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Eph. 5:25b). When we think about giving up on the church let us ponder upon how much our Lord gave up to bring the church into existence. Each church is a place where he is to be specially honoured.
The normal thing then is for a Christian to commit themselves to a local church. This gives a clear indication of their love for God. There must be something wrong when people profess to know Christ, but will not associate with his people. Accordingly, the non-church going Christian has a lot of work to do to convince others that they are a Christian.
Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of October 2013.