I'm a Christian but don't go to church
1. I’m a Christian but don't go to church
This might well have been true for the disciples and followers of Jesus as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. However, they would go to the synagogue or meet in other places to be together for prayer, worship, fellowship, and mutual support and teaching.
The root meaning of church is taken from two Greek words, meaning ‘belonging to the Lord’ or ‘assembly’, as a gathering of people. This reminds us that ‘church’ is a gathering of people who believe they are called by God to offer worship, praise, thanksgiving and acts of service. Someone once said that the plural of ‘Christian’ is church. Simply ‘going to church’ can be for many and different reasons, which would include, for some people, belief in God, Jesus the working of the Holy Spirit.
To be a Christian is about belief in Jesus as the Son of God, who was filled with the Holy Spirit and who brought healing and new life possibilities for all people. A vitally important part of being a Christian is to be actively involved in a worshipping community. That was how the church began. Today this is often described [in shorthand] as ‘going to church’.
2. I’m a Christian but don’t go to church
This might well have been true for the disciples and followers of Jesus because the earliest Christians met in existing Jewish synagogues or in each other’s homes. They did this to spend time together in prayer, worship, mutual support and learning.
The root meaning of the word church is taken from two Greek words, meaning ‘belonging to the Lord’ or ‘assembly’, as a gathering of people. Someone once said that the plural of ‘Christian’ is church. Saint Paul, writing to the church in Corinth expressed this in his famous passage about Christians being a body (See extract below). This picture reminds us that everyone is different and that each of us, no matter what we have done in our lives, is a potential member of that body with gifts to offer. It also reminds us that being a Christian, just as with a part of the body, involves growth and development. This can’t happen in isolation.
When people talk about ‘going to church’, it can be for many and different reasons, and can involve both Christians and not-yet-Christians. Some people go to church because of their belief in God, in Jesus and in the present day activity of the Holy Spirit. Others go because they feel that something is missing in their lives but they haven’t necessarily identified what that is, whilst others go at times of emotional upset in their lives.
Another barrier that many non-churchgoers have is to look at the bad things that Christians do (and people purporting to be Christians) and reckon that they are as good, if not better, than such people without going to church. If you’ve got that impression, then it’s not how it should be. The Bible tells us that everyone is in need of forgiveness, that no-one is perfect and we all need to recognise that only belief in Jesus can begin to change us into the people we are designed by God to be.
So we don’t need to be a Christian to go to church. However, we do need the support, encouragement and love of a worshipping community – the church – to be a growing, functioning Christian or to learn how to become one.
A short article like this can only begin to explore the issue. The best way to make meaning of a question like this is to talk it through with someone. Why not come along to a service or get in touch through the Contacts page?
1 Corinthians 12
Unity and diversity in the body
12Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.13For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body;– whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free;– and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14And so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15Now if the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ 22On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, 25so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.
27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.