Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Can you be a Christian and not go to church?

Firstly, God has the right to accept or reject whoever he chooses, he is the creator, he is God, He does not have to “justify” his choices, although, due to his moral impeccability, his choices are actually morally perfect and just, and would certainly stand up to scrutiny.

Being a Christian, in my understanding, is not simply being born into a religious culture, like being born as an Australian or a particular nationality. (Being born into a particular culture has deep and strong implications, and being born into a Christian family is definitely a blessing but it does not, alone, make a person a Christian.)

Being a Christian does imply at the least, following the teachings of Jesus, but more deeply than this, actually believing in the physical resurrection of Jesus, and believing that Jesus is God’s Son, that he, Jesus, is God, and loving Him for this.

To simply respect the teachings of Jesus, would not necessarily define a person as a Christian. To love Jesus, but not have any strong adherence to his teachings would also be shaky ground, as Jesus stated “If you love me you will keep my commandments”. (John 14:15)
Apart from anything else we do or don't do, it is accepted practice that Christians meet together regularly, usually on Sundays (as a commemoration of Jesus rising from the dead on a Sunday)  for prayer, listening to the Bible, being taught from the Bible, singing, communion, and fellowship. This is called church. It is “herd behaviour”, like a flock of sheep.
To be a Christian means being part of a herd, part of “the flock”.
Now an individual sheep can spend one-on-one time with Jesus, but it’s hard to visualise a single sheep with the shepherd, and no herd in sight.

The one description of Jesus spending time with a single sheep, is when he goes out to search for the lost sheep, with the specific purpose of finding it, and restoring it to the herd.

So being a Christian is almost always being part of a community, a family of believers, being a part of a body, a flock, and this flock is called the church, and the practical way to be a Christian is to be involved with a church somewhere, somehow.

This is sometimes impossible.
Due to law, health, or other unavoidable reasons, some Christians can’t meet together. God somehow sustains us in those circumstances. There were many new testament Christians that were imprisoned. Visiting prisoners is one of the love-duties given to Christians.

But sadly, many of us who are “stay at home Christians”  have specifically and deliberately separated ourselves from meeting with other Christians. Or at least we have made a habit of staying home on Sundays.

There can be many reasons for this.

Does this mean we are no longer Christian?


But it does mean we are wounded, hurting, hard hearted, angry, stubborn, worn out, disillusioned, or possibly rebellious and proud, or maybe even lost.

Which is not too different from those of us still attending church.

Maybe some have renounced their faith, and do not define themselves as Christian. Im not writing this to them, but I am writing to those who have made a decision to no longer go to church, but still do love Jesus.

I'm not suggesting that you can't hear from Jesus without going to church, I’m just saying that being a Christian means being a brother or sister to others who are also Christians, which means meeting together. More than once the New Testament tells us not to give up meeting together.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV) 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.

Jesus taught crowds.
Yes he also met with individuals, but he taught crowds, and today, God teaches us in crowds, usually in church.

For whatever good reason, God seems to want us together when he has something to say to us. Yes we can hear from him personally in our quiet times, but we can also hear from him clearly when we are sitting in our pews, or chairs, or standing, with other Christians around us.

In my home, when we share a meal, I find it hard to tolerate a member of my family, in my home, not being at the table. I would delay the meal until we are all present, I would take the time to sort out any issue that would prevent the gathering of all of us, including the sorting out of differences, and the reconciliation of wounded parties. Being deliberately absent from the table does sound a loud message.

As church leaders, one of our roles is to help bring reconciliation when church members are in dispute, it’s a hard one, one that often has little reward. But stronger than this is our individual commandment to personally reconcile with those who are in dispute with us.

Sometimes, we are relieved when someone stops attending, but that is simply evil on our part. How dare we exclude a brother or sister, simply because it suits our comfort needs? The older brother of the prodigal son was guilty of this.

As a church family we are asked not simply to tolerate one another, but to love one another.

Jesus new that Judas would betray him from early on , actually from “the beginning”. (John 6:64), did that mean that Jesus treated him differently, without love? No. Even at the point of betrayal, he called him “friend”.

In a way, absence from church is a failure of love, on both sides of the fence.

But there is still time. Love is stronger than our own abilities, or desires, or plans. God’s love never fails.

Let’s not stop meeting together as brothers and sisters, as God’s children, in order to serve him as we ought.

Behold what manner of love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God. And that is who we are!