Must I Join a Church to Be a Christian?

Jeff Robinson | August 3, 2017

In my ministry context, I have heard many versions of this notion over the years, phrased as both a question and also a declaration: “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian, do I?”

More often than not, it’s put this way: “I love Jesus and the Bible, but I don’t love the church.” Some have told me, “I can get my church on the internet. There are lots of great preachers there. I just download sermons and I get fed plenty.”

Yet after years of hearing these aphorisms and being asked this question (with the “no” answer often strongly implied), I remain unconvinced that one can be a Christian and intentionally remain outside the visible, local church.

Granted, the grounds of a sinner’s salvation in Scripture are clear: Grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone. True, the Bible never adds “church membership” as a condition of salvation. Note the qualifier “intentionally” in my thesis—it is the key pillar in my argument. I am here assuming the individual making this query is intentionally seeking to avoid church membership and church attendance while claiming to be a follower of Christ. And yes, I realize there are many situations that keep true believers out of church…

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