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You don’t Have to Go to church to Be the Church?

I have wanted to write this post ever since I decided to do a blog. This is a topic that I am passionate about, but I have also been nervous to do it. But the Holy Spirit kept prodding me, so here we are.

Earlier this week, I read a blog post by a Christian woman who said that she loved Jesus, but she talked very poorly about the church. She mentioned different experiences that didn’t go too well, and she talked a lot about how the churches she visited were judgmental or too stuck up. The whole thesis of her blog post could be summed up in the sentence, “You don’t have to go to church to be the Church.”

All my life I have sat back and listened to so many people use this saying as an excuse on why they do not go to church regularly, and every time I hear it I cringe a little bit. Not because the saying isn’t true. It is 100% the truth, and I proclaim that every single day. Our salvation is not dictated by our name on a church roll. Going to church does not make you a Christian.

Let me repeat that: Going to church does not make you a Christian. It doesn’t make me a Christian either. Getting dressed up every Sunday and going to a building does not get me into heaven, and it certainly isn’t the way out of brokenness.

However, every time I hear it, I cringe a little bit because it neglects what the Church is supposed to be. It disregards scripture and it forgets why Church was created in the first place.

So, before I give you the biggest reason on why I go to church (and I think you should too), let me first define a few things. What exactly is church?

“Church” in the most basic sense is a body of believers. Church (with a capital C) is simply the Bride, the body of Christ. The “living stones”, if you will, of God’s sanctuary (1 Peter 2:5).  Church (with a lower case c) is a building, but more importantly, it is the local gathering of believers (who meet regularly) in fellowship to worship and learn more about Jesus. I don’t think these two are ever supposed to be used separately, but rather together. We each are the church and together we are the church. Not only do we live out God’s calling separately, but we also work together to further the kingdom of God.

I think we also get it wrong when we assume that church (local) has to all look exactly alike.  The powerful thing about being part of a united, universal Church is that we are all different, all unique in how we come before God. How I worship on Sundays (or Saturday, Thursday, or whenever) is going to look differently than how some of my brothers and sisters worship in another country, or in the same country for that matter.

For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them –Matthew 18:20

Church can be going to a First Baptist every Sunday. It can be gathering at someone’s house on a Thursday for worship and Bible study. The point isn’t how big or how many people are there, but the importance is in the gathering of believers for one purpose–to worship Jesus and learn more about Him.

So, why do I go to church? If it isn’t really needed for my salvation, why do we do it? What’s the point?

The reason I stress going to church so much, and the reason I think you should go to church too is simple.

God did not mean for us to walk alone.

All throughout Scripture, God reminds us that he is with us every step of the way, wherever we go. However, it has also been his design from the very beginning for us to be with other people. Just as the Son is in community with the Father, we too are supposed to be in community with other people. In the Garden, God created a helpmate in the form of Eve for Adam. Israel was designed to be in community with one another, all glorifying and honoring God together. Jesus himself called twelve men to come along side him in his ministry and then passed his mission onto them. The early Christian church worshipped God together on a regular basis and cared for each other’s needs. Community is a big part of Scripture because God knows how important it is to have people along side you in the hard and narrow walk that is the Christian life. He knows that we will need each other if we want to tell the world about his Son.

What are some benefits of this community with one another, the Church? Here are just a few of my favorite things about my Church family.

  1. Preaching/Teaching /Wrestling of God’s Word. Okay, let me be honest. I’m a pretty smart girl. As a Christian studies major, I have taken many classes on how to read and interpret Scripture. However, I don’t know everything. One of the best things about meeting regularly with a group of believers is that you get to continually hear the Word of God preached and you get to wrestle with it with other believers.
  2. Mission. Like Jesus called twelve men along side him in his ministry, so should we too work together to advance the Kingdom of God. The Church is one big community working together to take the name of Jesus Christ to the ends of the Earth. In order to truly provide light in a world full of brokenness, we have to work together.
  3. Accountability. This is a great thing about living in community, but also a hard thing. Having a group of believers who will pray for you and call you out (IN LOVE) whenever you aren’t living according to God’s standards is so important and vital to the Christian walk.
  4. Worship. Worship is a lifestyle, not only something to do on Sunday (or Saturday, etc.). I worship all the time by myself, and it is a great thing. But, there is something powerful about worshipping our Risen Savior together. Cooperate worship is awesome and sometimes the best times to hear from the Holy Spirit are when he is moving among a congregation.

So many times I see people who have gotten hurt by the church (which is a whole different blog post, maybe someday I will write) and have given up on the church.  And it’s sad because usually it involves cases where God’s people were not acting Christ like. It involves a fellow believer getting hurt by someone who is supposed to love them. However, whenever we give up on the church, we give up on God’s design for the community among believers.

Coming to Him, a living stone–rejected by men but chosen and valuable to God–you yourselves, as living stones are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to God through Jesus Christ. –1 Peter 2:4-5

Going to Church does not make us Christians. No, we do not have to go to church to be the Church. We each are God’s living stones. However, I think in some small way going to church, the impact that comes with meeting regularly with fellow believers, makes us better.

We are each living stones. Each stone Jesus Christ died for.  Each stone is important and unique. Together, the stones make up something beautiful. Together, unified and with one purpose, we the Church make up the beautiful and living temple of God.

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