Do I have to go to church?
series that helps consider difficult questions of the Christian faith
am a Christian. Do I need to go to church? Can't my wife and I be church
on our own?
we wish to be New Testament Christians, taking our lifestyles from the
teaching and practice of the New Testament, then we will find such a
concept completely alien. However, that is the crucial question: do
we want to be Christians who follow the New Testament teaching or will
we be those who simply do our own thing and meander off into unbiblical
there has been so much ‘dropping out' of corporate church life in recent
years in parts of the West, we will seek to give a fairly broad (though
not exhaustive) response to this question.
consider this under the following headings:
Meaning of Church
N.T. Teaching about “the body of Christ”
General New Testament teaching
Practical benefits from fellowship
Why be alone?
Meaning of ‘Church'
The Greek word that is used in the NT for church
is ekklesia meaning “a called out body of
people”. It was used commonly of citizens who were called together in
society to discuss the affairs of state. The concept of church, therefore,
is one of a group of people who come together,
people who are believers, people who are Christians. The very concept
from the outset, denies individualistic interpretations.
The overwhelming argument must
be the very life of Jesus himself. Here is God who did not remain
in isolation but came in human form to
specifically encounter, communicate with, and have relationships with
people, many people.
Jesus didn't merely bring people to God, he brought disciples to himself,
to interact with him over a three year period to learn through relationship,
not merely words. Christian discipleship is largely about relating
to other people and 'church' (thecorporate expression) is the training
ground for that.
When the church started off after the day of Pentecost, their immediate
practice was to ‘be together' (Acts 2:42
-47), and this continued (e.g.
-35). It was the natural thing to do as children of God's family.
Wherever Paul went preaching the Gospel, he formed churches - groups
of Christian believers who together practiced
their faith. The NT Picture is of Christian people who come together
to learn, to grow, to be encouraged and to mature.
If you consider the things that earliest group of believers did (Acts
-47), you can see that it was impossible to do them in isolation,
they received teaching from gifted ministries v.42
they fellowshipped together v.42
they were all together and were mutually supportive v.44,45
they publicly met together to be seen v.46
they worshipped together v.47
this acted as a light to the world
who were drawn to God through them together v.47
N.T. Teaching about ‘the body of Christ'
of the main NT concepts to explain the life of the church is “the
body of Christ”. Thus when writing to the church at Rome
, Paul says we who are many
form one body (Rom 12:5) with different gifts (12:6).
his instructions that follow, Paul gives some instructions that can
be obeyed alone, but also some that actually express the corporate
devoted to one another v.10
one another v.10
with God's people in need v.13
in harmony with one another
all of which are clearly, in context,
about the body together.
1 Cor 12-14, arguably the greatest chapters on spiritual life together,
Paul speaking about spiritual gifts,
to them as for the common good, 12:7 (clearly within a church-first
to different people having different gifts, 12:8-10
then speaks of the body as a unit 12:12
and argues that each part of
the body NEEDS the rest, 12:14
-26, which expressly denies
the concept of ‘me alone'.
he moves on to detail in chapter 14, the idea of using prophecy to
edify the church denies an individual approach (v.4) – it is expressly
to bless others in the church, and then later others outside the church
he expressly teaches us to be eager to have spiritual gifts that build
up the church. Gifts therefore are to express Jesus as he seeks to
bless and build up the whole body of Christians.
thought of this being something between a couple at home is refuted
by the context (which was to a church group
in Corinth), and when he speaks about the whole church coming together
(14:23), it is in such a way that unbelievers can come in and witness
what is taking place.
expands this teaching in 14:26
on when he speaks of the corporate
use of these gifts. There is so much there in the following verses
that denies individualistic Christianity.
Ephesians Paul again uses this concept of a body – 1:23, 2:16, 3:6,
overwhelming picture that comes through in the New Testament in both
experience and practice is of groups of people regularly meeting together.
General New Testament Teaching
- clearly calls us to avoid ‘dropping out'
excuse that is sometimes used - surely I can meet with my wife alone
and do these things -finds no space in that part of Scripture. The
book of Hebrews was written in a corporate context as the references
to ‘brothers' (3:1,12, 10:19
), or ‘none of you' ( 3:12
,13, 4:1) and ‘dear friends'
(6:9) clearly show.
with the ‘body of Christ' teaching, although we have touched on this
in our consideration of 1 Corinthians, we need to specifically think
about the whole question of gifts and ministries as they are given
to the church.
4:11-13 clearly indicates God's intention of giving gifted ministries
to the church to train up the body, bring it into unity and express
Christ as fully as possible. All of this indicates a corporate dimension.
isolationist philosophy means the individual neither gets the benefit
of those God-given ministries, nor comes under the protection of God-given
leadership authority, nor is able to develop into one of those ministries.
The downsides of that are indicated below.
Benefits of Meeting Together
The following, we would suggest, are signs of isolation, common expressions
of having given way to Satan's lies:
can manage on my own.
one else has gone through this.
failed, I'm guilty.
The Christian on their own succumbs to these thought
simply because they do not have others of maturity, gifting and authority
around them as should be in the normal church situation.
a normal church situation there should always be someone who can:
Help carry our load.
Say, “I know how you feel”.
Say, “I care”.
Share our experiences.
Pray with us and encourage us.
we are isolated, therefore, we experience the following:
Sense of loneliness.
Feelings of guilt or shame.
Wrong thoughts about others.
Desire to give up.
Sense of aimlessness.
Feeling that God is at a distance.
Loss of faith.
Why Be Alone
Experience indicates that people who are refusing
to be part of a local expression of church, preferring to be on their
own, tend to have suffered from one of more of the following:
a negative experience of church life,
a negative experience of the wrong use of authority, possibly in church
life or possibly in the home,
receiving wrong individualistic, unbiblical, self-centred teaching.
In each case there is a wrong or limited understanding of what
it means to be a Christian and what the church is. To bring a right
perspective we recommend you read the chapters in Part 2 of Book 2 of
“Creating a Secure Church" by clicking
The New Testament experience and teaching clearly
encourages us to meet together on a regular basis to ensure support,
feeding, and spiritual growth, as well as to receive spiritual protection
in a variety of forms.