The Great Commission directed gospel work to be done within the ongoing framework of Christian community. The continual teaching and shepherding toward faithful observance of Christ’s teachings is not done in isolation. Nor is the accountability necessary to hold our spiritual feet to the fire of obedience done alone. We need the body of Christ if we would follow Jesus.
I’ve heard it many times. “Well, you don’t have to attend church to be a Christian.” “Attending church doesn’t make you a Christian!” “I don’t need the church; I worship God in my own way.”
In each case, someone attempts to provide a barrier to further conversation about the gospel and its effects upon the whole of a person’s life. In the discomforting moment of confrontation (gently or firmly) concerning sin, Christ’s death and resurrection, the call to repentance and faith, and the ongoing call of Christian discipleship, that person wants to push away and still feel satisfied about his position with God.
So, can he/she still be a Christian without going to church? If one means, does church attendance save anyone, we have to agree that it does not. Jesus Christ saves. Certainly, a lack of church attendance likely inhibits one coming to faith in Christ by not being under the proclamation of the gospel. But the question is really not about whether attending church saves anyone—that’s only a ruse to steer the conversation away from the pointed realities of the gospel. Instead, what happens once a person is united to Jesus Christ through faith in Him? Can that person, despite his/her profession of Christ, maintain a go-it-alone approach to Christianity and be legitimate as a true believer?
Let’s consider a few things that we find in the Scripture, since Scripture alone is the foundation for our faith and practice.