Luke 22:26 | Romans 10:9-10 | Acts 2:42-47
“But do I have to??”
Many people have asked the question: “Do I have to go to church to be a good Christian?” If this is you, you are not alone.
First, let’s talk quickly about being a “good” Christian. Jesus told his disciples how to be great in his kingdom, and it was as revolutionary then as it is now.
But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.(Luke 22:26 NLT)
So if you want to be a “good” Christian, you have to be a Christian who puts others first and serves them. But really our question here is: If you are a Christian, do you have to go to church?
It’s a fair question. Let’s be honest…sometimes attending church services can be (how do we say this…) less than fun. And aren’t we saved from God’s punishment by just believing that Jesus died for us?
If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.(Romans 10:9-10 NLT)
It’s not just believing in Jesus that saves us. We also have to freely tell people about that belief. We cannot be ashamed to be part of the family of believers known as Christians.
To stay undercover with your belief would be like disowning your family, wouldn’t it? Think about it…let’s say you had an uncle Tim who was constantly embarrassing you with what he says, and by generally being (shall we say…) different. You are out with some new friends who you’re trying hard to impress, and guess who strolls up to say hello…good ol’ Uncle Tim. But instead of introducing him, you avoid him. You tell your friends you don’t know him! Essentially, you are choosing your new friends over Uncle Tim.
Let’s take this even further and say that your father shows up with your younger sister and brother. They each throw an arm around Uncle Tim, then turn to you and ask to be introduced to your friends. (And here’s where it gets crazy…) Instead of admitting you actually do know Uncle Tim, you pretend not to know your dad and siblings as well! How would this go over with the rest of your family?
If you have not already guessed…in our story Uncle Tim is Jesus, your father is God the Father, and your siblings are your Christian brothers and sisters. Each day, you are given a decision: will you choose your family or the these fickle friends that make up the rest of the world?
To be a part of God’s family, you need to spend time with them. You can do this on your own through Bible reading and prayer, but also by regularly meeting up with your brothers and sisters. This was how the first Christians did it:
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.(Acts 2:42-47 NIV)
At the heart of Christ’s Church is a group of devoted followers who spend time together (every day!) and love each other like family.
We encourage you to dig deeper into your congregation–usually by serving with them in some way–so that you may be a part of the fellowship and family described here.
Questions for Group Discussion
- In Hebrews 10:24-25, what are Paul’s reasons for Christians habitually meeting together? Do you see this happening in your church meetings?
- Have you ever wanted not to be a part of a church congregation? If so, why? Also, was it one particular congregation or was it that you did not want to ‘go to church’ in general? Do you still feel this way?
- Why do you think some Christians decide not to be a part of a church congregation?
- Why do you think some people choose to go to church regularly even though they do not fully believe in Jesus?
- How important do you think it is to be part of a church whose beliefs about Jesus match your own? When is it worth changing congregations to do so? How perfectly do your doctrines have to match?
Challenge: Be the Church
This is more like a dare than a challenge: Up your level of involvement in your church congregation.
Many people don’t see the point in ‘going to church’ because that’s all they’re doing: going to a church service. And it’s easy to lay the blame on the congregation… “They don’t have anything for people my age,” or, “I just don’t get anything from the teaching,” or, “It takes up half my Sunday and what do I have to show for it?”
The truth is: unless your church is spiritually dead, it has a contingent of people serving the community faithfully, helping the poor, sharing time, wisdom and resources with each other. There may be a layer of stale tradition to dig through, but the Holy Spirit plants these things in every Christian fellowship, and they are there for you to find.
How to start:
- Ask God to show you how to be a part of your church. (Suggested prayer below.)
- Stay around the church meeting area for a half hour after the Sunday services. This is the easiest place to find committed church members. Offer to help clean up, stack chairs, etc.
- Find an area of church ministry to serve. You may need to try more than one to find where you fit.
- Join a Bible study or community group, especially one that meets outside of church hours or in people’s homes. Aim for a group that meets on a long-term basis, but be willing to settle for a temporary Bible study group.
- Be willing to hang out with older or younger people. You can gain a lot of wisdom from older people, and you may be able to impart some wisdom to younger ones.
Father in Heaven, how can I be a part of your Church? Would you please show me also where I can become more a part of my own church congregation–who to ask, who to get to know better, how to serve other people? Thank you for bringing me into your family through your son Jesus. In his name I pray, Amen.