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Do you have to attend church to become a Christian?
Thank you for your question - it is an extremely important one for anyone who finds it difficult to attend a church for whatever reason, be that the location in which they live or other situations which might prevent them from meeting with God’s people.
Firstly let me say, the straightforward answer to your question is that you do not have to attend a church to become a Christian. Here’s a verse from the Bible:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
What Paul is telling us here is this: salvation is not something we earn for ourselves, but something which God in his kindness and love gives to those who trust Him. It has nothing to do with the ‘works’ that we can do to earn it from God, but rather God gives the gifts of eternal life, forgiveness of sin, and acceptance into His family to those who have ‘faith’ in Him.
In other words, to those who (a). come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God who came into this world to save us and to bring us to God; and (b). repent of living without God and commit themselves personally to Jesus as their Saviour and as the Lord of their hearts and minds for the rest of their life.
The big mistake made by a lot of people is this:
People think God gives salvation to 'deserving' people - those who live better lives than bad people by their own efforts - what the Bible calls 'works' (i.e., good deeds).
Taking this approach, going to church becomes misunderstood as a major means of earning God's love and favour. The same idea can be had about such things as prayer, reading the Bible, serving needy people, even telling others about Jesus. Now, there is nothing wrong with doing good things! But what is wrong is to count on them earning God's favour and forgiveness. The truth is that we simply cannot do that. We are sinners despite any good we might achieve, and because there is sin in every one of us, our good deeds are never good enough to reach God's standard of perfection.
The true Christian message is not that 'good people' go to heaven - in God's sight there are none! This is the true message - sinners go to heaven if (a). they truly repent of living without God and against God and (b). put their trust in God's free love and grace rather than in their own ability to please Him.
So to sum up this part, all you need to do to become a Christian is to put your faith in Jesus - trust Him that He has done all that was needed to save you from your sins in dying for you and rising from the dead, and commit your life to Him in complete dependence upon Him. This is the first and most important thing for anyone to make sure of - have they truly come to believe in Jesus and put their faith in Him entirely to save them?
Let us say a few things about the importance of belonging to a church. First of all, it is an absolute requirement for living the Christian life. The Bible knows nothing of 'churchless Christianity.' That is what baptism is about; it is the first act of obedience to Jesus as Lord - "repent and be baptised" (Acts 2:38) and it is the doorway into the Christian Church.
Second, it is a great spiritual privilege to belong to the only body on earth founded by Jesus' experience: His holy presence as its Head, to be a genuine family of brothers and sisters that transcends every culture in the world, and to preserve and proclaim the biblical faith as it was given to us by Christ and his apostles.
Third, it is a test of our spiritual reality to want to worship, learn, and share our lives with fellow Christians. The Bible even says we are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13) if we don’t spend time encouraging each other in our faith.
Fourth, if we don't get the input of others into our lives we can easily walk off the right track and get caught in sin. It is easier to stay on track within a group than by ourselves, and when someone within a group begins to stray, the others can see what is happening far more clearly than we can by ourselves. Consider this verse from Hebrews:
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
It is sometimes impossible for a Christian to attend a local church, for example because they live too far away, or they are very ill, or they are forced to work when churches are meeting, or even in some countries because Christian churches are forbidden. However, these are exceptions and don't provide us with an excuse for neglecting our plain and obvious duty.
In short, as Christians we need each other, and in the light of that I would urge you to do the following:
- Do your best to find a group of Christians within travelling distance of your home. The church finder on this website may be able to help you with this, though understand it is not a completely exhaustive list of places where God’s people meet together.
- If this is impractical, do your best to find fellowship in other ways such as attending conferences or big meetings. Ask God to lead you to the right people, and even to other Christians living near you who might join you in regular fellowship.
- Take advantage of the wealth of Christian teaching on the internet. It can't replace real relationships in a local church but it is certainly better than nothing to encourage your Christian life.
So in summary, I urge you right now to make sure of your own salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ - if you do not feel ready for this, then continue to read and study, and seek after Him until you find Him. Then, take the first public step of obedience demanded of those who repent and turn to Christ - be baptised into a local church where the Bible is believed and taught. It is your duty, your privilege and your need and could make the difference between finishing the race and falling by the wayside.
Here are some more Bible Verses for your further consideration:
- Ephesians 2:1-10
- Ephesians 4:7-16
- 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
I hope this answer helps you to find peace with God through Jesus Christ. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: Watch the video
I encourage you to attend a local Bible believing church and speak to the leader about your question. If you want to find a local church, our Church Finder may help you: Find a Church
Please feel free to submit a question to us or to read our answer database: Ask a Question
*All Scripture references are taken From The New King James Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
*If anything in this answers affects you directly, then please feel free to call our confidential prayer line in the UK on 0845 4567729, where trained Christian volunteers will take your call and pray both for you and with you. If you are outside of the UK then you may submit your request for prayer on line at www.ucb.co.uk/prayerline
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