Can You Be a Christian and Not Go To Church?

What does the Bible really say about going to church?

People are leaving the church, millennials are leaving the church. That’s a reality we need to face. Many in my generation have left the church for a variety of reasons. Some good, some bad. Regardless the religious landscape is changing in America.

America’s Changing Religious Landscape | PEW Research

There are many that have left the church and the Christianity. I’ve written on this before and probably will again (6 Reasons Why Millennials Aren’t Attracted to the Church), but that’s not what I want to focus on in this article. What I want to focus on is those that have left the church but NOT left Christianity. Because I think there is something important we need to grasp.

I know what some of you are thinking. A Christian should never leave the church. But I want to push back on that notion. Before you call me a heretic, hear me out. 

Christians are called to live in community with each other. You cannot really get around that; the Bible talks about the importance of that a lot. However the church has equated these passages to having perfect church attendance. But those two things are not the same.

We’ve mistaken church attendance with living in community. They are not the same.

Most of these go-to passages about community are surrounding the formation of the early church. Paul and other early church leaders wrote about the importance of living in community with others.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-35

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:4-5

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 1 Corinthians 1:10

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 2:46-47

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. Acts 4:32

I’m convinced that the reason many people, especially millennials, are leaving the church is because this community is becoming an increasing rarity in American churches. This is certainly a generalization; I am aware of many churches that still push great community. However many have shifted their focus to butts in the seat on Sunday mornings and little else.

These verses, and the others, clearly point towards the importance of community. However we still need to remember the context these were written in. In the early church they didn’t have anything similar to what we have today. There were no lights, skinny jeans, organized worship, or children’s ministry. It was just a group of people that met in someone’s house.

Attending church isn’t a bad thing, in fact I believe it’s a good thing. But we aren’t called to go to church. We are called to live in community. There’s a difference. You can be a Christian that doesn’t go to church. However all Christians should be connected to a community of other Christians. 

Many people get their community from their churches. However many have chosen to find their community apart from the organized church.

I’ve seen a lot of people that have decided to leave the church and get ridiculed and told they were bad Christians. But listen, if you are staying plugged into a solid Christian community I can’t find an argument that says they are wrong. And I’m sick of Christians bashing other Christians when they are doing the right thing.

Many Christians, especially in the millennial generation, are done with church. And by church I mean the organized institution of church. The thing that meets on Sunday. But they are not over community, they aren’t over meeting together, many are still plugged into solid Christian community. And I just cannot see how someone can say that doesn’t align with Scripture. And in all honesty their community looks a whole lot more like the 1st Century church than we might think.

Hear me on this… I’m not saying people should leave the church. I believe in the church; I work for a church. I vote yes for church. I want the church to reach people with God’s love.

Finding a community of people that are following Jesus that you can live life with is more important than finding a church that has great preaching and moving worship.

Maybe all this points to a need to shift the focus of the church. Christians are called to create community and if our churches aren’t doing that maybe it’s time to change. Maybe it’s time to refocus on the real mission, people not programs.

The power of the church is not in how big the building is, how relevant the message is, or whether the perfect worship song is played. The power is in the people; it’s in the community. The church changes lives when we get involved in each others lives, not when we sit and observe a service for an hour each week.

Christians are called to live life in community with each other. That community can come from a small group at your church, but it can also come from somewhere else. And I would argue if you have a group of Christians that meet together regularly, that is the church. Maybe they don’t’ have a name or a building, but neither did the first church.

It’s the church that emphasizes community that is going to make the biggest impact. It’s that church, that group, that will reach others with God’s love. This next generation doesn’t care about fancy buildings and cool messages. They want relationships. When Christians pursue community and invite others in that is when the church (organized or not) can do it’s best work.

If you aren’t plugged into a community of people that are following Jesus, do it! Your local church is the perfect place to find one. Although it’s not the only place.

I’m sure you have your thoughts, and I’d love to hear them and start a conversation with you. What do you think? If you have left your church but stayed into community I would love to hear from you!

20 comments on “Can You Be a Christian and Not Go To Church?

  1. Church never really did feel like community. Given the age segregation, life-station segregation, and other times there was separation going on – I felt like I didn’t belong. I think as long as I attended church, no one bothered to ask what I was struggling with or offered to help.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Do you still attend a church?


      • No, most churches in this area are pretty strict about what they believe and they don’t like people who have their own beliefs.


      • Thanks for sharing a part of your experience! I hate when I hear about churches clinging to tightly to their beliefs and not allowing others to think differently. There’s only one belief I think is essential. Everything else is up for discussion.


  2. I agree, It is not the church that defines our personal relationship with Christ. Also, in the Bible most of the miracles were performed outside of the church. We are to be disciples for Christ and that requires getting outside of those walls to reach the lost.
    I attend church regularly and I happen to enjoy but, it took years to find the perfect fit for me. Also, my church home is really involved in the community. Great post

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are right, we are called to get outside the walls. It’s really easy for a church to get caught up in what is happening inside, but that’s not the purpose.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Anonymous

    I believe we can.
    Whilst it can make it appear more difficult at times, as inspiration does come from others sometimes,
    And more importantly being around and hearing messages that are God breathed.

    Yet that doesn’t take into account different places or stages we might find ourselves in.
    Those battling depression or other such type social inhibitations should not be disqualified by other Christians as to be less than acceptable because of needing to withdraw.

    We also overlook personality and judgement issues that come from being around more than one person. (Church or otherwise). Group situations wherever may highlight already difficult circumstances for personal reasons.

    There’s so many things we don’t take into account.
    Ppl judge more ferociously in group environments. In church also. (Gasp, I know .. but it can happen).
    People can feel that from an earlier church and carry it into a new one.

    It’s not unreasonable to accept that not every social set is right for each individual.
    Not every party suits each and every person that exists.
    So why do we expect to be able to just walk in and be at home at the first church you enter.

    Recently heard it referred to as finding your DNA of a church.
    Think that is really appropriate.

    Let’s also not undermine some of he wonderful resources available to one now through the appropriate use of the net.
    Until finding the right home that is.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The church is the body of believers. naturally once you understand this you will seek others with the same beliefs therefore attracting those who are actually living the faith not just acting it out,. people leave the church because they realize its not the actual church talked about in scripture or because they realize the hypocrisy. the truth is the bride of Christ is the body of believers in Jesus not those who attend a building. the “community” is the actual believers living by faith we are children of God.


  5. Bevery Aubuchon

    Interesting, yesterday I was reading ! Corinthians !2:28. and the verses surrounding it. Paul seemed to be giving a structure to their churches, apostles, prophets, , elders———-gifts, each assigned by the Holy Spirit, As people leave an organized church,( some for good reasons ] , to live in community, are they taking with them the structure, the authority, gifts that each one is given by God so they can function as Christ body for His glory here upon this earth. It can’t be all about us but about Him. I value the church, Christ’s body. Without it I would not survive as a Christian these past 55 years. The importance in my growth in submitting to the authority of its leaders, sitting under the hearing of God’s Word, being able to use my gift, submitting to discipline, learning and still learning to look to the cross to love sacrificially. I believe without this type of structure churches whether a building or a community cannot survive. Do you sense that those that are leaving and seeking to live, as you say is the most important thing, in community, finding the structure the Paul gave to the early churches.


  6. Reblogged this on The Auxiliary Diary and commented:
    Well put…


  7. I wrote an article about the church not long ago!
    Great read, I totally agree !


  8. Great article!
    I am not apart of any formal church.
    However community is the key, I am always seeking fellowship, even if it means interacting with an online community.
    I visit weekday churches as often as I can, and often time pull my friends in for conversations on God and what we are learning on this path.
    Church is indeed about community!


  9. This is a sad truth about many churches and many individuals in the churches. We are often not like Jesus as He has called us to be and it shows in the way churches act and look. We need to be loving and caring as Jesus was. When that happens, then the church will be real and alive for the world to see and want.


  10. Interesting article. Great you are sharing this. I think it is easy for Christians to use the Bible as a “blueprint” for how the church “structure” should look, implement the blueprint and think they have a church. The true church is not a structure at all. It is a dynamic, interactive and living entity led by the Holy Spirit of God withIN our lives as a whole body. How that will manifest itself in any given group may look different than the “blueprint” our culture has adopted over the years. I have found it interesting that when Paul corrects the church at Corinth he does not tell them to sit down, listen, and be taught the word of God – not there is not times for this. He tells them to be sure to not usurp one gift over another and to be sure that everyone has opportunity to share their gift. (In that passage I see the church gathering very different than the traditional corporate-type setting).
    And I should mention that I believe the *focus* of the body should not be about a gift, or any other THING, or even about structure per say – it should be on Jesus Christ and HIS creating the order organically so we can all see Him in His greater light and not in our own. (Sounds obvious, but He does get lost in all our “stuff.”) I have found that this does take a bit more faith because sometimes there is only a little light shed on one step right in front of you. Blessings for the conversation 🙂


  11. Jay Arnn

    Romans 10:4-13: For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

    Do you need to be in a church to be a Christian? No – Do you need to be in a community to be a Christian? No. However, both of these entities, unto themselves or together can strengthen or weaken the Christian depending on their purpose.

    In Romans 10:4-13 the believer learns that Christ was the end of the law ( end meaning: termination, the limit at which a thing ceases to be) If you confess the Lord Jesus you are saved and by reading, seeing, and hearing the scripture you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and you confess Jesus is your Savior unto salvation – then you are saved. It does not matter whether you are born into the covenant (Jew) or adopted into the covenant (Gentile) – if you call on His name, the you are saved by faith apart from works.

    Ephesians 4:4-6: There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling. one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all.

    Unlike the Jew, who is required to repent in order to receive salvation, this requirement does not exist for the Gentile to receive salvation. Go back to Romans and you will not find the word repent in order to receive salvation – it simply is not a requirement of the free gift – if it were then the gift cannot be free and if you could repent of your sin then there would not be a need for a Savior. Also, take note in Ephesians that there is only one baptism – why would there not be two baptisms? Certainly there were two in the bible – the baptism of water and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. However, water baptism was a thing done before Jesus – as an outward sign of covenant faith just as circumcision was a sign for Jewish males who were born into covenant with the Lord. After Jesus comes the baptism of the Holy Spirit which is the real one baptism. I am not against water baptism just like I am not against circumcision – however, these are signs which amount to nothing without faith and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

    Why did Jesus wash His disciples feet? Was it to show His place as servant? Partly. However, remember, that in the beginning there was the word and the word was made flesh – therefore, Jesus is the word and when He washed His disciples feet it was the word washing the dust and dirt from the feet of the believer. We are not of this world but we are in it – saved and apart – but we walk in it daily and pick up the dirt and dust of concerns and hear the terror of the night and the arrows that fly by day – when we read the word of God – even though we are saved – this is Jesus washing our feet – removing the dirt and dust of this world from us.

    Church and community can strengthen you when you fellowship with like minded people. However, many churches and communities preach a mixture of grace and self-effort which creates confusion and frustration with the people. Their problems, they are told, are because perhaps they don’t pray enough, or believe enough, or have enough faith, or their sin is preventing God from acting on their behalf. All very wrong and very dangerous teaching. Another mistake of the church or community pastors is that they themselves do not understand how to rightly divide the word of God and they mix what was meant for Israel in with what is meant for the believer. I have seen even the most accomplished PhDs preach the Lords prayer to Christians when it was clearly meant for the Jew. Even Paul told Timothy to rightly divide the word because God instructed Paul to rightly divide the word. How terrible to think that a person became frustrated and left church because some pastor told them that they needed to forgive their molester, or rapist in order to receive from God. This terrible tragedy is just wrong believing and wrong teaching. You want to know why people are leaving the church – because of wrong teaching. It is that simple. What about the addict who is told that they must get right before God will bless them? Where is the hope in self efforts? There is no hope in self-effort. Whereas, you show them the leper who came to Jesus and asked – if you are willing, heal me – and Jesus answered – I am willing. Show the addict that Jesus loves them and is willing to heal them despite of their sin, despite their addiction – then there is hope.

    Kind regards,
    J Arnn
    Jewish Studies for Christians


  12. notesfromthewalk

    This is a very thought-provoking post. Indeed, the church will be able to have a much bigger impact when we truly accept that church wasn’t meant to be an institution for believers but the body of believers themselves. Some of the greatest Christian community I’ve ever seen wasn’t during a church service (though there is definitely a place for those) but during Bible studies, small groups, family reunions, one-on-one conversations and anywhere they could get believers together in the Name of Jesus–including but not limited to living rooms, basements, backyards, cars, kitchens, and other random places. Pray for the church everywhere.–E.R.Peters


  13. A very thoughtful essay. Many uncomfortable truths about churches in the West.
    Nevertheless those who willingly disconnect themselves from any meaningful relationship with a local church are dropout believers. To be clear -any community of Believers that practices acts 2:42 is a local church.
    Unfortunately Dropout believers are outside of the known will of God and will not be able to contribute to the restoration of the church in the west with its many problems.
    Jesus said the Gates of Hell will not Prevail against my church. Rest assured he will take necessary steps to restore the Church of the book of Acts once again!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Twitter is my church. The bible K.J.V is my daily read for daily instruction. Who said what, when & why is irrelevant to me today in my daily life. It gives nothing to instruct for just today and that’s what matters, today. I only read one or two verses a day deliberately, that’s enough to focus on for any given day for me. I read everyday and know the bible quite well. I can’t quote any verses or tell you how to find them; but I’m not called to preach or teach. I simply focus on the day. Not many get into heaven, few do infact. I read it in the bible! Many speak, few are called. Most churches I’ve attended over th last 15 years are more into behaviourism and self rightiousness, group dynamics, power authority & money. Jesus says unless you are born again you cannot see the kingdom…….. But how do you get born again? Not straight forward; not according to your own will and timing but according to god and his timing: and once you are, it’s impossible to give it back or deny it. It’s a total and immediate change of heart that continues. Sin is revealed in an instant as is an amount of gods love through Jesus (enough love to know the power of true unconditional love, anymore and we couldn’t function normally). That’s what we receive and that’s what changes us. It’s not about our love for him. Would you reading this sacrifice your child right now for someone else’s in faith? Exactly. So stop measuring your love for god, as it’s at best inadequate.

    Why would anyone (anyone who can read that is) need church when we have a bible and direct relationship. All the answers for any individual are in the word. Fellowship is nice, not crucial.
    Twitter, here, and other social media fulfill this need. I have a Jesus page on twitter. Only post my daily/weekly readings and prayers and is open to comment from anyone called to OR wanting to speak. In just over 200 or so tweets, and 16 weeks- over 4K followers and rising daily. Engaged followers/fellowship of all denomination and peoples who follow Jesus and the word. Why would anyone need a building or any status? The building wouldn’t be big enough for this kind of growth anyway.

    The church is full of a Nice people being nice and doing nice things, that doesn’t mean they’re born again, a new creation or even really nice. Infact, it has very little to do with being Christian. People talk god and Jesus, read bibles and go to churches, they do so for years, they ‘ cast out demons and cry out Jesus name, doesn’t mean they’re in true relationship with god or that they are actually born again. I walked into one church in 15 years where I could feel, see and know the presence of the Holy Spirit – it was packed to the rafters with mostly old people crying out and worshipping freely. Turns out I later found out they hadn’t had a pastor for over 2 years and were completely unorganised – apart from their own just to get things done. A few minutes in this room and I knew god was there. #Jesusfuelsme @jesusfuelsme


  15. Reblogged this on Removing The Veil and commented:
    I have been saying this forever. My blog partner here says it very well. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: