I’m often told that one doesn’t need to attend church to be a Christian. While I agree that you don’t need to go to church to be a Christian, there is some clarification necessary. Let’s define what it means to be a Christian by looking at a person who Jesus said was a Christian, namely the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43). Jesus promises this man that he will be with Jesus in paradise. The thief never got to go to church, yet he is a Christian because he trusts in Jesus. So, in that sense it is true to say that you don’t have to attend church to be a Christian. In fact, as soon as you say you “have to do something” to be a Christian you are in danger of perverting the gospel message.
However, the Bible has no concept of individual spirituality – that is Christianity is not something personal that has nothing to do with anyone else. That is a very modern way of thinking. We can see it in the above passage, the way the man expresses his trust in Jesus, shifts his allegiance to Jesus’ kingdom. He sees that Jesus is the true king and joins his kingdom, he joins a group of people – those ruled by Jesus the king.
If you are a Christian, then you are a member of God’s church. The church is now your family, and they are God’s gift to us in living Christian lives. We see this in Romans 8:28-30. Those who are saved are saved so that Jesus would be the big brother of many brothers. God is in the business of making a family (have a read of Romans 8). This can also be seen in the fact that most of the instructions for Christians are done in the plural; there are very few (if any) instructions to individuals. (The Greek of the NT distinguishes between singular and plural ‘you’. English doesn’t do that anymore).
The Christian life was never meant to be lived solo. God has gifted each member of His church to serve one another. Living a Christian life alone runs counter to everything God has done for us. Where we have a choice, we should become a part of God’s church.
“Take heed, then, often to come together to give thanks to God, and show forth His praise. For when you assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith.” Ignatius of Antioch.
Ed Jones pastors Fellowship at the Ranch Church at Robson Ranch. This nondenominational church meets at the Robson Clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. Visit Fellowship’s website, www.fellowshipattheranchchurch.com for information.