Can I attend a church service if I’m not a Christian?

Last updated on January 12, 2023

The short answer to this question is: yes, definitely!
For the longer version of this answer, let’s delve a little deeper.

Isn’t church for Christians only?

Church is a place where Christians meet. But it is not a private gathering. On the contrary, since we Christians desire for the whole world to know God, we are happy to invite non-believers as well to show them what it is like to be a Christian. Church is a good place to discover more about the Christian faith. You’d not be the first one to be convinced by what you hear and become a Christian yourself…

Every church member was an unbeliever first

The church is full of people who first were unbelievers. Nobody is a Christian “automatically” from birth. We all need to be born again and to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Church members either came to faith when their parents took them to church, or they heard about the Gospel from others. So, if you do not (yet) believe, or are not yet certain what to believe, you are not the only one. You need not wait till you are a Christian, before you go to church!

Jesus set the tone

Christians are followers of Jesus. He is their Lord and Savior, but also their example. Jesus was very appealing to people, including those who were considered outsiders. He said, “Come to me all of you who are tired from the heavy burden you have been forced to carry. I will give you rest. Accept my teaching. Learn from me. I am gentle and humble in spirit” (Matthew 11:28-29, ERV).

In Jewish society, people who did not follow the religious rules were looked down upon. But Jesus said, “I did not come to invite good people. I came to invite sinners” (Mark 2:17, ERV). He mixed with both religious and non-religious people. He invited the rich and the poor, men, women and children to come to Him and listen to His teaching. He opened the door for everyone to come to faith.

What to expect in a church service?

Every church is different. Some are large, others are small; some are pretty formal, others more informal. Some services last many hours, others are much shorter. But there are a few things you’ll find in almost every church service: Bible reading, prayer, singing and a sermon to explain and apply the Bible reading. I wrote about this in more detail in our article “What happens in a church service?

Can I take part in the church service or can I just watch?

Visitors can participate in most parts of church services, if they just behave respectfully. You can sing along with the congregation and listen to the sermon and the Bible readings. A church service is not the right place to stand up and proclaim your own opinions — if you want to discuss things, you can do so in a conversation afterwards, not during the service.

One thing you are not allowed to participate in if you are not a professing Christian, is the sacrament of Communion, also called “the Lord’s Supper”. This sacrament is celebrated regularly, but not necessarily in every church service. When celebrating Communion, Christians eat a small amount of bread and drink a little wine or grape juice in memory of Jesus’ death on our behalf. Most churches will limit this to adult Christians; children and non-believing visitors should simply stay in their seats or pass the bread and wine on to the next person.

The other sacrament is baptism. This sacrament is carried out only every now and then, not weekly. When someone first becomes member of a church, they are baptized. In some churches, babies are baptized when their parents are church members. In other churches, people are only baptized as adults, when they make the conscious decision to believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Being baptized is a serious step. You can’t be baptized just “for fun” or “to try” if you don’t really believe.

Some alternative options

If attending a church service is one step too far for you (now) but you want to find out more about the Christian faith, there are some other options you could try.

  • Many churches have a website or Youtube channel where you can watch their services. This is a good way to get a first impression.
  • Many Christians are open to questions about their faith. If you don’t want to go to a church, try having a conversation with some believers.
  • Some churches offer introductory courses for non-believers where you can learn about their basic beliefs and discuss your questions or doubts.
  • If you don’t know any Christians personally and there is no church anywhere near, consider subscribing to one of our e-courses and discuss your questions with a personal mentor.

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