Is it possible to steer clear of church and still be a good Christian? Many people would say yes to that question, and perhaps you would agree. You believe in God; you pray once in a while; you consider yourself a Christian; but you feel you can get along just fine without church. The important thing is how you relate to God, not how you relate to church. Right?
Is it possible to steer clear of church and still be a good Christian? Not if God knows what He’s talking about. God’s Word, the Bible, shows again and again that when people belong to Christ, they also belong to his church and are deeply involved in the life of the church. So if you think you can be a good Christian without the church, you’re saying that you know better than God. And that’s not a very bright thing to do.
Why Stay Away?
Here are some reasons people used:
1. Some of you feel you have no other choice. You feel you have to work Sundays. If you don’t, you fear that you could lose your job. Going to church and praising God may be fine, but going to work and pleasing your boss is what pays the bills. God will understand, won’t he?
2. Still others of you stay away from church because a member of the church or one of its leaders did something that really turned you off. You figure, "If that’s what the church is like, who needs it?" You want nothing to do with your old church, and you’re not eager to find another one, either. Why hang around with a bunch of hypocrites, when you can follow God on your own?
God Says So
If you think faith is purely private, a "me and Jesus" thing, you’re fooling yourself. You might ask, "Who says you need church to be a good Christian? Who says so?" Well, God says so. Just look at some of the ways that God describes the church in the Bible.
The Bible calls the church God’s household (Eph. 2:19), God’s family (Eph. 3:14-15). It is home for all who belong to God. So if you stay away from the church, you’re either running away from home or you’re not part of God’s family at all.
Now let’s consider the vital aspect of the church: the fellowship. Church is the special community where we share in the fellowship of believers.
I know that the church has its faults, that the fellowship is often far from perfect. After all, the church is a fellowship of sinners who still have plenty of changing to do. The people don’t always get along very
well. But I also know that when the going gets tough, the people pull together to support the one that is hurting.
The church’s fellowship does more than just get us through times of crisis. Christians devote themselves to fellowship because in the church the whole is greater than the parts. Like a body, the church has many parts, each with its own unique function.
You need the church, and the church needs you. Every part needs the others. If one part suffers, they all suffer. If one part flourishes, the others benefit. That’s how God designed our physical bodies, and that’s how he designed the body of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12). It’s not just "me and Jesus." It’s "we and Jesus." When Christians devote themselves to the fellowship, they all benefit from each other God-given abilities, and they accomplish many things as a group that they couldn’t do as individuals.
The church is a setting for loving fellowship, where we can stop thinking only about ourselves and start loving others as Christ has loved us. Jesus says, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35).
The final activity mentioned in Acts 2:42 is prayer. The Christians in the New Testament church got together to pray. You might wonder, "Why go to church to pray? I can pray by myself just fine." Well, it’s true that personal prayer is important and that you can pray anytime, anywhere. But praying together with others is also important. When God’s people come together, whether as a large congregation or in a small prayer meeting, their prayers take on added power. Jesus said, "I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. The bible states when two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (Matt. 18:19-20). Why church? Because there God’s people pray together with one heart and praise God together with one voice.
Every church has its problems, of course, even those where God is very much at work. But look at it another way: if the people of the church were all perfect, they might not want sinners like you and me to join it and spoil it. Be glad the church isn’t too good for you, and don’t act like you’re too good to join the saved sinners who are in the church. AMEN!