Points to Ponder: Do you have to go to church to be a Christian?

Points to Ponder
Do you have to go to church to be a Christian?

This question came from a ten-year-old in our church who was concerned about loved ones who claim to be Christians, yet refuse to attend church. I answered her question as follows:
We can deal with that question in a number of ways. First, let me answer that question with a similar question: Do you have to live together in order to be married? Think about it. If you meet a man and grow to love him enough to marry him, you could do that - and then go back home. Now, how would that be? You will have a wedding ring, a marriage license, and you'll be called, "Mrs. So-and-So." You could be married and you and your husband live apart and go your way, and never see each other except on his birthday and your anniversary. What kind of marriage would that be? Would your relationship grow? Would you and your husband be able to learn more and more about each other, be able to share your hopes and dreams, and be able to bond as a couple?
If you could have the perfect husband, would you want to be with him? Would he want to please you - and would you want to please him? It's a fact that we want to be with and get closer to those whom we love.
"Christian" means "Christ follower." To be a Christian you must believe in Jesus Christ and want a relationship with Him; to get closer to Him, and to please Him, and to be with Him. The Church is the family of those who want to follow Jesus Christ, who want to be like Him, and who love Him. And like any family, there are disagreements and tensions at times, and some family members will do hurtful and wrong things, which will upset the family. But it's the love of Jesus for each one in the family and the family's love for each other, which keeps us together. That's the Church.
So with all of this in mind, there are two answers to your question:
1. No, you do not have to go to church to be a Christian.
2. You go to church because you are a Christian.
The Bible helps us to understand the purpose for the Church, the reason why Jesus established it, and why the Bible teaches that we are to be part of it.
Here are just a few:
Matthew 16:16-18 (especially verse 18): Jesus built the Church.
Hebrews 3:1-6: God chose His holy people over whom Jesus is our High Priest (Chief). The Church is the people of God.
Hebrews 10:24-25: We gather in church for the sake of each other, to encourage and support the spiritual growth of one another. We must not stop attending church (verse 25). The Church needs you.
Ephesians 3:10: God uses the church to reveal His wisdom and the knowledge of Himself to the world.
Being a Christian and a member of a church is so much more than just sitting through a sermon and going to Sunday School - just as being married is more than just wearing a wedding ring and changing your last name. The Bible helps us to understand the greater purpose, which Jesus has for each one of us and the great mission for which He established His Church.
II Corinthians 5:18-21 tells us that God sent Jesus to die for the sins of the world. And we who believe this gospel have been given the job of telling others. We are ambassadors, or representatives, of Jesus. And we need the support and encouragement of each other to learn and to grow, and to be able to live a life that tells others that God loves them and wants a relationship with them.
For some, work schedules or health issues hinder church attendance. For many others it's a matter of obedience.
"Jesus answered and said to him, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent me.'" (John 14:23-24)

Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship, 12624 Trinity Church Drive, Clear Spring, MD (1/4 mile east of Clear Spring on Rt. 40). Listen to Pastor Dennis on WJEJ-1240 AM, Tues and Thurs, at 10:45am and 7:50pm, both days. www.hilltopchristianfellowship.com.