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Can you be a good Christian without going to church?

Given the Bible commands us to keep on meeting together, that is, to go to church. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” (Hebrews 10:25). It is clearly impossible to obey what the Bible says and not to attend church regularly.

Part of Christ

The fundamental issue behind this question is the nature of a Christian, and also of the Church. The two are closely related at this point.

When someone becomes a Christian, he/she is not just a single person who’s now a Christian. Rather, they become part of the body of Christ (that is, the church). Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:13:

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

In other words, when someone becomes a Christian, they are baptised into one body (Christ’s). And they are members of that body together with other Christians. Paul continues to describe the church as a body in verses 14-26, and argues that as in a human body every part (eye, hand, arm, leg, etc.) is needed. So also in the body of Christ, every part is needed. Paul concludes his argument in verse 27:

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

We need each other

Therefore, if someone is a Christian and isn’t a member of a church and doesn’t regularly attend that church, in effect they’re saying to the other parts of the body (to other Christians), ‘I don’t need you’ (cf. 1 Corinthians 12: 21). However, the reality is that we do need each other, just as a human body needs all its parts. Its head, arms and feet, etc.

This corporate nature of the church is also seen in the New Testament in other pictures that are used for the church. For example, the picture of a temple in 1 Peter 2:5:

“You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

(Note that “you” at the start of this verse is plural: i.e. “you all together, like living stones, are being built…”)

Commands to love or serve another

This is why the New Testament is full of commands to love or serve one another. Because we are one body together and we need each other, and other Christians need us too. Here is a list of some of the commands to each other in the New Testament:

  • 1 Peter 1:22: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.”
  • Hebrews 10:24: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
  • Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
  • Galatians 6:1-2: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
  • Ephesians 4:25: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body.”

Also read: How do I know if I am doing the right thing?

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Biblword

Biblword is a ministry of GlobalRize. Marten Visser is the founding director of GlobalRize. Marten is a pastor from The Netherlands with long years of experience as a missionary in Thailand. We now have around 200 people from all over the world involved in GlobalRize’s ministry. Besides the English page, Biblword also exists in 13 other languages on Facebook.

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Can you be a good Christian without going to church?