“Do I have to go to church to be a Christian?” The answer may not be what you think.
This well-meaning question can be misconceived. That’s why my answer may surprise you. According to how you were brought up or the thoughts behind these words, answers may vary.
Some factors that influence our words, thoughts and deeds are:
Our Western mentality. I’ve always done it this way.
Our spiritual glasses. This is the religion I grew up with. We believe that the religion or denomination we grew up with is the only truth. But often, we can’t see or are afraid to see because we read through different spiritual glasses.
Our boxes. Most of the time you are going to continue what you “got saved into” for the rest of your life. Lord help us to get out of our religious boxes!
I’m writing this article to help you answer important questions about being a christian, church, faith, religion and obedience. Look at some of these common christian phrases and questions about church.
Where do you go to Church?
“Where do you go to church?” is a common phrase among Christians.
However, when we use these words, connotations about how we think surface.
When we say the phrase “go to church” we are usually thinking of attending a building that possibly has the words “church” displayed on the outside.
If that is what you are thinking when you ask if you need to go to church to be a Christian then the answer to the question is “no.
No, you do not have to go to a “church building” to be a Christian. But you do need to be a part of Christ’s church to be obedient to Christ.
A similar question is “Do I need a church to have faith?”
I was listening to Klove radio and the question was asked Dear Amy: Do I Need a Church to Have Faith?
My answer to that question is, “yes” you do need Christ’s church to be obedient to Him but not to “have faith”.
To answer these questions we need to clarify a few things:
- What is church?
- what do we mean by “have faith”?
- And what do we mean when we say “I”m a Christian”.
What is church?
The better question is not “What is church?” It is “Who is the church?”
This week I taught a perspectives class on the spontaneous multiplication of churches.
Here’s the perspectives answer,
The church is worshipping communities everywhere, under the authority of Christ, becoming kingdom communities, so the glory of God will be revealed to the peoples of this earth.
Every obedient Christ follower should be part of a spiritual community.
Church is not an organization, denominational or building. It’s a called out community that affirms that Jesus is the Christ.
The church is being built by Christ.
Jesus told Peter,
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18
“I have faith”
The thoughts behind the words we use make all the difference.
“Have faith” in what? That when you turn the key on in your car it will start?
In Christ? or in something or someone else?
In our western world we equate having faith to Christianity but that’s not so where there are other predominant religions.
“I’m a Christian”
In many parts of the World this phrase will instantly label you as a cult or negative religion. I prefer to use the word “Christ follower” or even “servant” since both of these terms refer to obeying and following Christ rather than being part of a religion.
For that reason I don’t care for the term “He’s got religion”.
I personally don’t want to be referred to in this way. In our Western society I understand that someone who doesn’t profess to follow Christ is referring to someone who calls himself a Christian or attends a “church service” regularly.
I also prefer to use the word “disciple” instead of Christian because the word “christian” is associated with our traditions or religion.
Disciple means an obedient Christ follower.
Disciples obey GC2. This acronym comes from Great Commandment and the Great Commission squared. Disciples of Christ do 3 things.
- Worship (Love) God
- Serve (Love) People
- Make Disciples
Loving and serving isn’t easy. But pay attention to number 3 because making disciples is the reason I write these letters.
A disciple is a Christ follower who teaches others to follow Christ.
Jesus told Peter, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”.
In addition to the great commission (go and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to obey the things which I have commanded you) the mandate for disciple makers can be found in II Timothy 2:2:
And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Get Out of the Box and Obey Christ
I want to help you get out of the box. Christ calls us to be obedient to Him and His words. However, as you can see in the image below, many times we are good at putting Christ’s Church inside of walls.