My friend Grammatteus, the writer at The Alternative Ulsterman, and I have been having a conversation about churches. The question is, as Christians, are we obligated to belong to a church?
The most oft quoted scripture the devout church-goers offer to me is Hebrews 10:25.
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching…” (NIV)
I live with Rebekkah, a fellow Christian, plus I have friends I hang out with who are also, fellow Christians. In my opinion, I am already obeying this scripture without having to find myself a group of people in a brick building.
As for references to the body of Christ. My only statement is, I haven’t met too many congregations out there that should be referring to themselves this way. We Christians, dead, living or yet to be born, despite country, nationality, ethniticity, gender, or otherwise, together form the body of Christ. Not just the church members. That includes the black sheep rebels who are having a hard time sitting in congregations under people who don’t seem as committed to the Lord as they are. So, Romans 12:5 and most of 1 Corinthians 12 are covered by that distinction.
What no one really mentions, to me anyways, is that the main reason belonging to a group of devoted Christian groups is actually beneficial is accountability. Some people….nay, most people….conduct themselves better when they know people are watching. Along with encouragement, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and a plethera of other nourishing gifts, the desire to not let others down or at the very least, not be embarrassed, really does tend to help people avoid some pittfalls.
Now, the accountablility factor requires trust, and here is where I get into all kinds of problems. First of all, I am not too fazed by disapproval of anyone in general. I do the best I can, or I don’t, but I own my crap. If my crap is offensive to someone, that is their right to feel that way. That’s about where all that line ends for me. I’m not a people-pleaser. My self-esteem is unexpectedly robust considering all the wounds it should have suffered all along the way. I am not at all a fearful person. In a way, I feel inoculated against caring about other people’s approval. ….Except my kids. Forever, I’ve tried to live a life that my kids wouldn’t be completely appalled by, and to do something that I know they would completely abhor is just against the grain of who I am. So, me joining a church for accountability would have ZERO effect on me. My accountability factor lives in a room about 8 feet from mine, and she has no filter on that little mouth. And, in an interesting twist of fate, both of my daughters are pretty much the same way as me. We didn’t have too many peer pressure problems when they were in high school that didn’t involve MY kids peer-pressuring the OTHER kids.
Second, trust is not my strong suite. Just ask anyone. I trust some of my family, a couple of friends, and Jesus. That’s about it. And each of those are varying in range. In order for me to belong to a congregation, they would have to give me enough time to feel satisfied they aren’t wrong-motivateded, twisting the Word, greedy, deceitful, or any number of other common issues going on in church leadership these days. In the end, though, I don’t fit in to most of these little social groups. I don’t care to discuss ad nauseum enumeration of sins, or whether or not the manifestation of tongues can be used to determine one’s true salvation. I don’t want to take tests designed to locate my gifts of the Spirit, or talk about how one goes about becoming saved. I basically drop out from sheer boredom after a month or so at best. I love praise & worship, so I can be coaxed into staying for that. But the sermons ….well, they kind of suck.
I probably didn’t answer the question for everyone, but for me, I keep my mind open to meet real Christians in my everyday life, and I am looking casually for a church I don’t hate going to. I like worshiping the Lord with music, and that is where I’ve started these days. But as for feeling like I’m sinning when I don’t go to church, no. Like the 10% tithe crap that was taken out of context and then shoved in every face between here and the Sun, people have to decide for themselves which group of Christians they need to be around, and why.
I guess people wouldn’t even have this heated argument if greedy church leadership hadn’t made such a spectacle of the tithing thing to the point that the advocation to give generously is longer than the actual sermon!!!
That’s my opinion, anyways.
10 responses to “Are Christians Obligated To Go To Church?”
Amen, sister! You should preach this sermon next Sunday (if you can find a pulpit that will let you lol).
There is no obligation, I will admit, just as I myself try to ‘preach’ that as Christians we are not obligated to keep the laws of Moses – we have the imputation of righteousness by vicarious atonement, and are DEEMED righteous by God because of Christ [go google the words and doctrine if you’re unsure]. This is grace, beautiful grace (which I have been drafting a blog on for some time now). However, I feel constrained (NOT compelled) to try to live my life by what is called Christ’s law (by the Apostle Paul) which is his true law working out in my heart.
Church attendance is the same for me. Should I decide to never go near a church again, my faith and salvation remain intact. I just try to maintain fellowship and participation for various reasons; I DO feel a constraint in that, but again, NO compulsion.
However, if you feel no such constraint, I will not preach or judge. As long as you love Christ and trust in him, all else is secondary, and much less important. I’ll continue to pray you find a good (yet imperfect) church, though. Oh, and get that book: Undiluted.
Grace be with you.
Church isn’t the building IMO, it’s the people. We are the church – wherever or whenever 2 or 3 are gathered, there He is! Church doesn’t need to be an institution, organization, or formal gathering. Anytime we talk about God I believe He is pleased. And the fact you even bring this up shows me you are the church! Blessings, Diana
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totally Nail on the Head.
Hmmm. It sounds to me as though you have been exposed to the sordid belly of the beast for decades, dear Bird. What a shame. Truly, how shameful. I mean that in the truest sense of the word.
But consider this. James 1:27 talks about pure religion in the sight of God, visiting and providing relief for widows and orphans in their distress? Maybe you can let this be a tiny drop of oil for your bitterness.
My Chris lost his battle to cancer on 7/18/10. It seems so long ago now. He was diagnosed nineteen months before he died, and shortly after that diagnosis, my little Baptist church swung into action. The deaconesses organized calendars to bring me a significant meal every day. For nineteen months. Not a day was missed. Men organized to take care of my cars. Young women brought my children to games and school events, many friends volunteered to take Chris to his wretched chemo appointments.
As the end drew near, night terrors advanced. Several women encouraged me to call them, in heart pounding distress, in the middle of the night. The pastor’s wife was a particularly strong support that way, she a crippled epileptic. When he finally died, I zombied through a well supplied luncheon, on the arms of several churchgoers who simply held me up, physically. After he died, they listened to my railing, weeping broken heart. Many came alongside my children, as I was too involved with my own anger at God to be of much use.
I couldn’t have done it without that body of Christ around me. I’d be in a very different place if I had given up the gathering.
So, all that to say, it is possible, dear heart.
As always, much love,
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Jesus said the kingdom of God is within. And the first churhes during the times of the apostles were just people getting together in homes to share the teachings of Christ. The gatherings were usually hosted by a weathy person as the people were usually fed. For example Mary Magdalene was a supporter and Joanna, wfe of Chuza. So do we need a brick building? No, not at all. Jesus even said where ever two or more are gathered in my name I am there as well.
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Thank you for sharing your view with us! I agree with you that as Christians there is no obligation to go to a church. There have been times where I have stopped going to a church but faithfully attended small group bible studies and grew deeper in my faith. I also struggle with trusting people so that doesn’t help much with finding good fellowship sometimes. Those times when I was encouraged by brothers and sisters in Christ has helped me realize the gracious gift of fellowship. It does sadden me that the church can be a place of a lot of mask wearing and routine. Blessings!
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Here’s a very good blog that adds to the discussion. My son just happened to share it on Facebook this morning!
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Dude!!! I loved it!!!
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I so totally agree with you, but for different reasons. Agreement is agreement :)!