Christian Living

Does Going to Church Make You a Christian?

The World’s Answer Doesn’t Align with the Truth

I recently read an article about church attendance that vexed me. It came from a Christian magazine. It addressed going to church. The author claimed to have statistical proof that Christians were turning their backs on their faith. What was the stat that caused him to make this rash conclusion?

Quite simply that overall church attendance is down. He made the erroneous assumption that church attendance equated to faith. In his mind, no church attendance meant no faith.

Sadly, I’ve heard the same misguided assumption too many times.

Joyce Meyer, however, smartly puts this in perspective. She says, “Just because you go to church doesn’t mean you’re a Christian. I can go sit in the garage all day and it doesn’t make me a car.”

Well said, Joyce.

Christians in Church

Many Christians attend church. Some go every week, some go once or twice a month, and a few go sporadically. That’s what good Christians do; they have a practice of going to church. At least that’s the conventional wisdom from those on the inside.

I’m there most every week, but the hour I spend at church each Sunday morning isn’t central to my faith. My faith grows most at other times of the week. The Sunday service is an ancillary practice.

Christians Not in Church

Yet not all Christians are in church on Sunday. Some stay away, either through circumstances or preference. I don’t view these folks as less than, even though most well-meaning church proponents do.

I don’t know who said it first, but many have repeated it over the years or agree with its sentiment. “I didn’t leave the church because I lost my faith. I left the church to keep it.”

Yes, there are those who stopped going to church because the experience detracted from their faith instead of enhancing it. Their meaningful spiritual experiences happen outside the four walls of the traditional church on Sunday morning.

Non-Christians in Church

There are three groups of people at most churches each Sunday:

  1. Christians
  2. People who think they’re Christians
  3. Non-Christians who want to learn more

Most churches are comprised of people in the first two groups. The third group rarely comes to church anymore. The church was once a respected institution, a safe place to go to find answers, but few in the non-churched portion of society feel that way anymore.

They may have needs, but they stay away. This brings us to the final category.

Non-Christians Not in Church

Aside from the people who think they’re Christians and aren’t, most non-Christians would never dream of walking into a church building to seek answers or have their spiritual needs met.

These people reside outside the church. If the church wants to reach them, they need to leave the comfort of their building and go out into the world to tell others about Jesus and make disciples (see Matthew 28:19-20).

The Truth about Church

In our discussion about church, we’ve not addressed the most critical consideration. That is, church is not a building. The true church of Jesus is the people. We are—or at least we should be—one united, universal collection of people who follow Jesus as his disciples.

Given this perspective, going to church each Sunday morning doesn’t matter too much. How we live our faith the other 167 hours of the week is where we need to focus.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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