I was just finishing my break at work when a co-worker walked in and made the comment, “I believe in God, I just don’t go to church…That’s okay right?” I immediately regretted that my break was over because I would have loved to have gotten into a conversation about it. I didn’t have time to say much but made a mental note to discuss it whenever the opportunity presented itself again.
A couple days later I went to my dentist for a teeth cleaning. As I leaned back in the dental chair, the assistant wanted to know what it meant to ones faith if you believed in God but didn’t attend church. Two people, two days apart, same comment regarding church attendance and faith. Gee, what a God-like coincidence. Despite the gritty paste on my teeth, the scrubbing utensil and water-sucker-outer-thingy in my mouth, I managed to share what I could then decided to write this article.
There are so many things that could be said on this subject but first let’s begin with the core issue—salvation. According to scripture, there is only one way to be saved and church attendance isn’t it.
Whether you read the King James version, NIV, The Living Bible or any other Bible version, the way to salvation is spelled out simply and directly in Romans 10:8-9.
“For salvation that comes from trusting Christ—which is what we preach—is already within easy reach of each of us; in fact, it is as near as our own hearts and mouths. For if you tell others with your own mouth that Jesus Christ is your Lord and believe in your own heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (The Living Bible)
It doesn’t get clearer than that. If you truly believe in your heart and accept that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sins through His life, death and resurrection, then you my friend, through your faith have the assurance of eternal salvation.
It’s a heart thing. It’s as simple as that. There is however, one little thing you may want to keep in mind. God is the true judge of our hearts and no matter what we confess with our mouth, it is our actions, lifestyles and choices that often reflect what’s really going on in our hearts.
Personally, I said I believed in God for a long time. And the fact that I was a pretty good person led me to believe that I was in pretty good standing. But as I began to purposely seek God, I realized that there was nothing about my actions that truly reflected a heart change—a heart choice to accept God as my Lord and Savior.
It wasn’t until I began attending a strong bible-teaching church and was encouraged to read the Word of God for myself, that I discovered talk is cheap. Surrendering my will to God and letting Him lead me, grow me and teach me His ways was the heart commitment He was looking for. I had said the right words but my heart wasn’t aligned and God new it way before I did.
So with that said, where does going to church come in?
In the book of Mathew we learn that Jesus established the church during His earthly ministry. It was created as a place of refuge, a community of faith, hope and love. It is meant to be a place for spiritual nourishment, teaching, correcting and guiding in God’s way. Because we are all sinfully human, we’ve let each other down, disappointed and hurt one another in the church and out, which is one of the main reasons people don’t want to go to church. They don’t want to be hurt.
One commentary described the purpose of church well: “The church is not organized for the sake of organization but so that Christ can be honored and glorified in the midst.”
Is the church filled with hypocrites? Will anointed preachers, teachers and church members occasionally let us down? Absolutely, they are human and fail, just like everyone else.
However, if the church as a place that brings glory and honor to God then we must look beyond what we think about the stumbling people and instead focus on learning about God. With the right focus, going to church doesn’t have to be a burden or scary thing. It can be the place like Jesus intended. A place where we let God worry about the fakers and hypocrites and spend our time gathered with like-minded believers growing together in our faith.
So, if you are a sincere believer who has confessed with your mouth and believed in your heart that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior but you live the rest of your life without ever stepping foot into a church building, will that change your eternal destination? I highly doubt it.
But you will miss out on growing in faith with other believers, developing friendships with prayer warriors, who know how to lift you up in prayer when you’re struggling. You’ll miss getting to know seasoned believers who can mentor you in the areas you need and sharing the gifts God has given you for the betterment for your brothers and sisters in faith.
Of course you can share outside of the church, but we have to realize that the church based on faith in Jesus Christ definitely has a place in our life; otherwise God would never have made a point to establish it.
If you haven’t been much of a church goer-type due to “those hypocrites,” take a chance. Going to church is not going to get your “more saved,” or “more right” but when you go with an open heart on God instead of a critical eye on people, your faith will be strengthened and you will grow like never before.