It’s probably not the first time you’ve heard that saying before. You might have even said it yourself. I know I have. It’s probably one of the most common phrases among Christians in North America today. And while the statement in and of itself it may be true, but what we often use it to mean is not.
“I DON’T HAVE TO GO TO CHURCH TO BE A CHRISTIAN” is one of those statements we make often when we as fellow believers are trying to justify to another believer our consistent absence from church. Now I can’t speak for everyone but I can say from my own experience that most of the people I know who became Christians, just, started going to church. It was a natural next step in their walk with God. Hebrews 10 talks about the importance of getting together as believers and encouraging one another, and while that is not the main reason we should be going to church, it is a good reason. We all need encouragement and to be spurred on by one another to continue pursuing a living and active relationship with Jesus Christ. And newly saved people seem to have a natural understanding of this need. In my experience, personally, and with people I know, who have used this phrase before, it’s only after awhile of attending church that people stop attending church. It’s usually because they have been hurt in some way at church. Sometimes it’s hurt caused by fellow believers who make mistakes and say things they shouldn’t, and sometimes it’s hurt caused by our sinful lifestyles being exposed by the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that one of the Holy Spirits jobs is to convict us of sin. Not because God wants us to feel horrible all the time, but rather so that we can repent and be set free from the bondage of those sins in our lives, and in turn can experience deeper and deeper relationships with our heavenly father. Hebrews 12 tells us that a sign of being a legitimate child of God is experiencing His Divine discipline, and it goes on to tell us that if we don’t experience His Divine Discipline, that is a sign of being illegitimate. So it should be no surprise to anyone that when we attend church, and when one of the main purposes of church is for us to worship and glorify God and enter into His presence, that we experience conviction. The problem that occurs many times is that we end up getting convicted of sins that we really don’t want to give up. And that brings us into a difficult dilemma. We can either continue coming to church without godly sorrow that leads to repentance, and continue in whatever sin we are being convicted of, which is not fun at all. Or we can avoid the presence of God. Now I am not saying that God’s presence is always in a church. And indeed there are for sure many churches where God’s presence cannot be found at all. But there are way better odds of finding God’s presence in a church then to not. So it’s this hurt that we experience at church, whether caused by people or by ourselves, that usually drives us out of church. We start off by watching sermons online of whichever pastor we feel like that morning. Whichever pastor is soothing the itching of our ears at the moment. Eventually we get to the point where we realize not only do we not have to go to church to be a Christian, but we don’t even have to watch sermons to be a Christian. And eventually we get to the point where the only thing that is different then us and every other non-Christian is…..well I’m actually not sure if there is any difference. This is how Satan loves to work, he likes to keep the ‘ring’ of truth but change the meaning. THE TRUTH IS “You don’t HAVE to go to church to be a Christian. BUT YOU REALLY SHOULD GO ANYWAYS.” I mean if the Christians in China are still getting together in underground churches, traveling hours just to meet as believers and spur each other on, under threat of jail, torture and death. Then it must really be vital to our health as Christians. When has not going to church ever solved anything in a Godly way? Yes we are not justified by going to church, we are justified by faith in Christ(Galatians 2:16), but the whole goal of church is to reaffirm that fact by encouraging us to take our eyes off of ourselves and focus them on Jesus Christ our Savior. That’s a hard thing to do anywhere if you are a human being, we are so naturally selfish, but in North America we have built our society and culture on a focus of ourselves. How much more do we need to go to church in North America, while we still can do so freely?
So I encourage you my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Go to church. Take your hurts, your guilty conscience, your sins, everything you are and go to church and lay them at the feet of Jesus Christ. Let Him make you whole again so that you can experience His love whenever you are in church and so that you can be one of those people in church that freely share His love. Don’t go to church because you Have to, go because you CAN. We don’t have to eat healthy to be humans, but it sure makes being human a lot more enjoyable where it counts. In the same way, going to Church helps us re focus on Jesus Christ and re-think of everything He’s done for us. Church isn’t just about what Jesus can do for you, it’s also about what He has already done for you and I.