Can You Be A Member of the Church Without Attending Church?

The world has an incredible hold on many who consider themselves Christians. Americans have been conditioned by the “ask Jesus into your heart” mantra. But is it biblical? Is it biblical to say a short prayer and check it off your bucket list? Did Jesus hang on the cross so we can whisper a prayer only to continue with our lives as if nothing ever happened?

A common argument for Christians and non-Christians alike is that attendance at a church is unnecessary for worship. I don’t disagree there. A church is merely a building, but the intent behind the argument is typically, “I worship in my own way and corporate worship is unprofitable because all churchgoers are hypocrites.”

We are hypocrites. So what? Paul, the chief of all sinners could have easily named himself the chief of all hypocrites as well. He states, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. (‭Romans‬ ‭7‬:‭15‬ ESV) If Paul was a hypocrite, should we be surprised that Christians today are hypocrites?

This is a good time to drag in the oft misquoted verse, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭7‬:‭1‬ ESV) Did Jesus really mean that we are not to judge? Or was this verse meant for nonbelievers to lampoon believers? What is the context of this verse?

Context. That is what determines the meaning of everything. A statement without context is useless. Before I mention logs in people’s eyes, take note that calling me a hypocrite or telling me not to judge is a judgment statement in itself. If we are never to judge and I am in error for judging, shouldn’t you lead by example by not judging? Would the mere fact of not judging in fact be judging? We could debate the matter, but that would definitely be judging.

Jesus goes on to explain, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (‭Matthew‬ ‭7‬:‭5‬ ESV) Jesus isn’t attacking people who judge, he is attacking those who judge with a hypocritical Pharisaical heart. If I am an alcoholic, who am I to tell others about temperance? We aren’t supposed to point out others’ sins when we are mired in those same sins. We are called to turn to Christ to overcome our sins.

The Church is the bride of Christ. If we despise the Church (the body of believers), how can we claim to love Christ? Similarly, John 15:23 is clear that if we hate the Son, we hate the Father as well. If a friend tells me that I am a swell guy but my wife is a shrew, is he really my friend? If someone hates my greatest treasure, my wife, then he hates me as well.

To hate the Church is to hate Christ.

I’ve also heard the tired retort, “Well, what about the Inquisition and the Crusades? The Church is evil!” I have had that same strawman tossed about by friends of mine. For good measure, they threw in some unintelligible redirect regarding the persecution of the Cathars and the Waldenses.

As far as I’m concerned, there are two points to address. One, if someone kills people in the name of Christ, they don’t know Christ. Secondly, the Inquisition is irrelevant to your salvation.

Jesus created the Church so that we can assemble with fellow believers and commune with Him. The Church with all of its human flaws is in place to glorify Christ. The Church is for the broken. The Church is for you and me.

Jesus died for our sins, yet some of us believe we can recite the Sinner’s Prayer and continue with our sinful lifestyles. I believe that is why so many reject the Church. Not because the Church is brimming with hypocrites, but because they are hypocrites themselves and refuse to turn from sin.

I’ve been there. I grew up in a “good Christian home.” I was raised Lutheran and was confirmed when I was thirteen. I had checked all the boxes. I was in the club. I had experimented with alcohol when I was a teenager, but that was only the beginning. When I was twenty-two, I could get in bars and I was a disc jockey at an active rock station. That was a terrible combination because I spent the next ten years or so in a boozy haze. I was saved. I could do what I wanted, right?

I never went to church because I didn’t want to be in the midst of hypocrites. I said I loved Jesus, but wanted nothing to do with Him. I wanted even less to do with his bride. While I was wallowing in my sin, Christ beckoned to me. Thanks to my wife and her incessant prayers, I was saved for real about five years ago.

I’m not the man I was five years ago. I eventually quit drinking and smoking and going to all bars. I’m even one of those hypocrites who goes to church every Sunday. I’m living proof that you cannot embrace Christ and remain unchanged.

Can you be a Christian without attending church? I believe the answer, at least on paper, is both. Jesus freed us from the chains of legalism so technically, I believe attendance is optional. I also believe Hebrews 10:25 commands the assembling of the saints. You can repudiate the church with all of your justifications, but Jesus’ response might be, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (‭Matthew‬ ‭7‬:‭23‬ ESV)

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11 thoughts on “Can You Be A Member of the Church Without Attending Church?”

  1. I totally disagree with your post. This is not a black and white issue, there is a grey area that you are missing you out. You take the verse Matthew 7:23 way out of context. You are only a man you cannot see into someone’s heart or soul, you cannot compare your spiritual change with anyone elses. God is the final judge not man and thankfully we are judged by His standards and He does not judge us the way we deserve to be judged. By the same standards we judge others God will judge us. Your analysis is not a fair one. But its your opinion it was interesting. God bless you.

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    1. Thank you for your input. I didn’t choose Matthew 7:23 lightly. I try very hard to keep scripture within context and I do not believe I have taken it out of context here. Many claim to be Christian, but the day will come when the wheat is separated from the chaff.

      You are right in that we cannot know others’ hearts and if God were to judge us on what we deserve, every person would go to hell.

      The fruit we produce is a good indication of what resides in one’s heart, though. Looking in Matthew 7, Jesus explains, “A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew‬ ‭7‬:‭18-20‬ ESV)

      Thank you so much for posting. I really appreciate your thoughtful response.

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  2. Your razor-sharp insight, levelheadedness, and ability with the scripture makes this a rich and valuable article on the subject. Thanks for being matter-of-fact about it and saying what needs to be said. I hope many people read this.

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  3. the church is anyone who follows Jesus Regardless of the name of the religion.
    I agree that we shouldn’t forsake fellowship with fellow believers. It’ helps keep us encouraged. My beef is with anyone who tries to say THEIR church is the one and only… I never saw anywhere in the bible a church name aka religion. It say I (Jesus) am the way

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    1. You’re quoting John 14:6. It’s true that Jesus is the only way, but corporate worship is biblical. If it wasn’t, Paul’s job would have been easier and Jesus’ letters to the seven churches in Revelation would have been unnecessary. Much of the New Testament discusses the Church, so it must be pretty important.

      So do we throw out the Church with the bath water because we may have had a bad experience? Of course not. We keep searching for a biblically sound church.

      Should we seek out a church that makes us comfortable? That’s a loaded question. Certainly we want to belong to a church that we are comfortable with, but we don’t necessarily want to be comfortable.

      I can be comfortable at a church that affirms my sinful nature, but what I need is a church that promotes godliness. To be reminded of my sinful nature is very uncomfortable. I will choose the latter every time.

      Can I just avoid church altogether? I don’t think it is biblical. I’m not aware of any bible verse that would support that view. I’m even inclined to say it is an act of rebellion.

      However, if we are merely going to church because we are supposed to, we are going for the wrong reason. Ultimately church isn’t for us, the Church is to glorify Christ.

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      1. I never said anything about not attending church or anything to start a long debate. I never said I chose a church for those reasons. I think you misunderstood oh well 🙂 More proof we all think a little differently.

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          1. i agree with attending church that God leads to and agree with making sure it’s right. Each person should choose with prayer and Bible of course. I grew up in a cult that if you didn’t attend theirs you where hell bound…so sad

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  4. I appreciate, cause I found just what I was looking for. You have ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye gbgcfbkgffff

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