Do you need to go to church in order to be saved and go to heaven? Is it a sin to not attend church? These are all wonderful questions that Christians sometimes have, and I’ll try to address all of them in this article.
Some people prefer not to attend church. There can be many different reasons: They work, they can’t afford the gas or offering, they don’t feel comfortable, they have some sort of disability, etc. Some people may have had bad experiences in the past, such as experiencing overly judgmental people, dealing with “fake Christians” who may have led you to have a negative outlook on church, money hungry preachers, or even some type of abusive situations.
Unfortunately, bad things do happen in churches. Nevertheless, the Bible is pretty clear that God does indeed expect Christians to gather in fellowship. Whenever we have a question, we should always see what God Himself says about it in His word. After all, who really cares what people think? Shouldn’t we care what God thinks?
Do I Need To Go To Church To Go to Heaven?
First, salvation isn’t something we earn by WORKS. You can ever “work” or do enough “good deeds” to get to heaven. Christ did the work on the cross. You, as a sinner, can never do enough good “deeds” or “acts of obedience” to earn your salvation. It will never happen. Rather, we are saved by God’s grace when we place our faith in Jesus Christ.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
So no, you will not lose your salvation by avoiding church, and you cannot earn your salvation by attending church. I like what one person said: “Going to church won’t make you a Christian any more that being in a garage makes you a car.”
Salvation occurs when you place your total trust and faith in Christ. It doesn’t happen when you recite a prayer, walk down a church isle with tears down your face, or saying a pray when an invitation is given. Salvation occurs when you place your trust and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing more, nothing less.
When you truly place your faith in trust in Christ, you will be born again, and the Holy Spirit will begin to dwell in your body. He will lead you to truth, teach you obedience, rebuke and cleanse you from sin, give you spiritual gifts, and so forth.
Is It a Sin To Not Go to Church?
While church attendance may not have any bearing on your salvation, it does indeed have a bearing on your obedience. If you have not yet joined and regularly attend a church, when you otherwise physically could, then you are not living in full obedience to God. Anything less than full obedience is disobedience. Disobedience is sin. You cannot be obedient without receiving some kind of blessing, and you cannot be disobedient (sinning) without experiencing some negative consequence.
It is true that there may be circumstances that arise that require you to miss some days of church, and that’s fine. That’s understandable. But the idea is that as a Christian, you have become a member of the body of Christ already, and you should seek out a Bible teaching/believing church for fellowship, to learn and grow, and to serve.
The Bible clearly teaches that believers are to fellowship regularly:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25) (Emphasis mine–this shows we should meet together physically and regularly)
And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. (Acts 20:7) (This verse shows that the early church all came together on the first day of the week, Sunday, to fellowship, preach, and learn.)
The scriptures above clearly indicate that believers are expected to gather weekly (physically), to encourage one another, to learn, etc. Also, even before the church was established (which officially took place during Pentecost), even Jesus Himself would teach regularly at the synagogues:
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. (Luke 4:16-17)
Satan would love nothing more than for you to stay as far away from church as possible. Why? Because he knows you probably won’t tithe, you wont be able to help that local church with your spiritual gifts, and he will have ample opportunity to lead you into sin or false doctrines. Indeed, Satan must grin when a true Christian begins to backsliding and stops attending church.
Benefits of Joining A Church
- Church is an act of worship, and you can worship God by singing hymns, hearing His word taught, tithing, and other acts of obedience.
- Church will enable you to meet like-minded people. You can establish Godly friendships with others, encourage one another, and more. Many people have found spouses, established valuable friendships, business partners, and more by simply obeying God’s word.
- Church will help you to remain accountable to God. One function of the church is to discipline you when you become ensnared in a sin, and to help lead you back into fellowship and obedience with God. We all struggle with sin, and this helps us to stay focused.
- Church enables us to learn God’s word and will. A Bible-based church should have a pastor who teaches biblical sermons, and also great Sunday-school teachers that teach you the word on a weekly basis. This allows you to grow and mature as a Christian, as the Holy Spirit will continue working in your life. Remember, the Bible says “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)
- Church will enable you to use your spiritual gift. God gives us all a spiritual gift when we become saved, and we need to use our gifts to build up the body of Christ.
- Church will enable you to serve. In addition to your spiritual gift, church will provide ample opportunities to serve others. You can do this by volunteering time, money, or other resources to help the church or individual members.
Satan’s Lies To Keep You Out of Church
- There are hypocrites and fake Christians at church. Sad, but true. Most any church will have at least 1 hypocrite or fake Christian in the congregation (perhaps much more). Will that stop you? There are lots of quack doctors, but if I’m sick, I’m going to go to the doctor, won’t you? There is a lot of false currency, but if I see a $100 bill on the street, I’m going to grab it, aren’t you? And there may be fake Christians and hypocrites in the church, but I also know there are real Christians there, and I want to fellowship with them, don’t you?
- You’re a sinner and won’t fit in. Actually the opposite is true: If you’d never sinned, then you wouldn’t fit in. Church is nothing more than a bunch of saved sinners who finally admitted their sins, and decided to do something about it. You’ll fit right in. If the Holy Spirit is convicting you to go to church, pray to Him for help to guide you were you will feel comfortable and fit in.
- They only want your money. Yes, there are money hungry preachers out there, but God calls you to tithe and give generously anyway. If you don’t feel like your church is using your funds faithfully (or are fake crooks), then change churches–don’t disobey God! I’m happy to give my tithe to ministries, because I know how God has reached my own heart through the preaching and teaching of His word, and I want others to be as blessed as I am. The Bible wholeheartedly supports the idea of pastors being paid. Plus, I know that I’ll make far more money by giving my God 10% and living off 90%, than I can make on my own with 100%.
- Your too shy and anxious, and you may feel uncomfortable. I’m as introverted as they come, and I struggled immensely with this one. Nevertheless, God has called us to do it. Once you start going, then you’ll begin to loosen up over time and make acquaintances. Pretty soon, you’ll feel right at home. If you are too worried, then try to get some friends of family members to go along with you so that you’ll feel better at first.
Should You Ever Miss Church?
Having said all of the above, some circumstances may arise that will force us to miss a week or so of church. Church is wonderful, but it should never interfere with other responsibilities God has given us in life. In fact, some churches have so many festivities, you’d have to quit your job and abandon your family to do them all! Nevertheless, there are good reasons to miss church.
If you have a spouse on the brink of death in the hospital, by all means, miss that Sunday and be with them. If you are deathly sick with a 105 temperature, it is reasonable that you won’t go. If there is a blizzard outside with 5 feet of snow, stay safe and read God’s word and pray.
Also, some churches may hold multiple services per week. You aren’t necessarily obligated to attend all day or night services. However, you should try to faithfully attend at least 1 service per week if your circumstances permit it. If you must work on Sundays or other days, then try to get involved with a church that has multiple services so you can attend regularly each week.
At the same time, don’t let frivolous reasons keep you out of church regularly. Ultimately, if you ever wonder if something is worth missing church over, you should seek out God’s will. If you are unsure if you have a legitimate reason to miss church, you may want to ask yourself: Would God accept your reasons for not following His commands? Would you feel comfortable standing in front of your entire congregation and explaining why you didn’t come?
Sadly, too many people miss church these days because they want to shop at a flea market, go out to dinner, watch the Superbowl, see a movie, let their kids play tee-ball, or whatever.
Lastly, some people may have severe medical problems that prevent them from going, such as Alzheimer’s disease, advanced aging problems, or other severe physical or mental problems. In such cases, I think people should seek out to create a “church” atmosphere at home as much as possible with family and friends, and listen to sermons online, sing hymns with family, and ensure they are doing all they can to be obedient in whatever ways God allows them for their situation.
God certainly understands that some people will not physically be able to attend at all times due to those issues.