Sadly many people’s experience of church seems to be similar to our experience of life itself – a mixed bag. There are good churches and there are bad churches. There are good cultures and bad cultures. There are good leaders and bad leaders.

So what do we do with all of this?

Firstly, let’s recognise the human component of the church.

The reason the church is frequently imperfect is because the church is made up of human beings. And of course human beings are imperfect.

It seems to me that God is incredibly relaxed about the mess we often see. Perhaps more relaxed than we are.

There is no perfect church just as there is no perfect life. So what does that mean for us?

Perhaps you’re reading this and you’re not currently part of a church. Maybe you’ve experienced some sort of abuse or pain within the very place that you expected to be safe.

I know God himself sees your pain and cares deeply for you. And I’m sorry that the church has let you down. I know what it’s like to be let down by people. And what’s so beautiful about the gospel is that we see that Jesus himself also understood this unique pain.

So let’s come back to our question at hand. Can you be a Christian and not go to church?

Honestly the answer is yes and no. It depends on a few things – so let’s dig in.

It depends on our definition of Christian

A Christian is not someone who has grown up in a Christian environment or family. Just because your parents are Christian does not make you truly a Christian.

A Christian is someone who is in Christ. In other words, you have made the decision to accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. As we do that, we surrender our life to God and we choose to live out a new life with him.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) says it like this:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Perhaps it’s helpful to split our category of Christian into two. We have cultural Christians who largely adopt a Christian world view and morality. And we also have born again Christians who fit the above definition and have been born again into new life with Jesus.

Does becoming a born again Christian change what we do?

If we have now surrendered our life to Jesus, that means that our life now belongs to him. The same blood that was shed on the cross through which we receive forgiveness of sin is the same blood that has purchased our lives.

So now that I am surrendered to God, I must now align my life with his word and his will.

We can see clearly from scripture that God has designed human beings to live in community and this is particularly true of Christians.

1 Corinthians 3:16 (ESV) says it like this:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

The word ‘you’ referred to above is actually the plural word for you. It’s not a word we have in English but you may be familiar with ‘vous’ in French and ‘sie’ in German.

Perhaps the closest translation we could get is the phrase, ‘you all’.

The temple that God is creating is actually us. Of course we have individual free will and autonomy but it seems clear that God’s will is togetherness and unity.

We can see this throughout the Bible with phrases such as the body of Christ to describe Christians as united in Christ.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario where God does not want each individual believer to grow together in their faith.

But this leads us to something important.

How exactly are we defining the church?

We can see local expressions of the church which tend to be organised around Sunday services and programmes. We can also see the global church.

The word church is a description of people who are called out and gathered. Today we now connote that with organised religion but that’s not necessarily the truest definition.

Is organisation good? Well yes. But power can also be abused and misused and I understand why some may have created a negative connection to the church because of it. History is sadly rich with much corruption of every organisation, including the church.

I can see that God is very gracious with those who have been hurt within the four walls of the church. I can also see that there are less organised versions of churches (think house churches, prayer meetings etc) that are still absolutely valid expressions of the church.

What is certain is that every single one of us need community to thrive. It’s God’s design. If you’re feeling disconnected, then can I encourage you to find a way to connect? It might be online through Sunday services (like ours at Reflect Church). Or with Christians in your local area.

Either way, let’s not neglect gathering. Here’s one final scripture to encourage us from Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV):

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.

You might like to find out about our Sunday services in London, UK or tune in online.