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33 thoughts on “Do Christians Have to Go to Church?”

  1. Carlos says:

    I agree with the fact that being part of a local body of believers should be a natural extension of who we are as followers of Christ.

    You know what I find confusing nowadays? The use of the word “church” when referring to the building and to the body at the same time or at different times. You can hear it when Pastor McKinley speaks in this clip.

  2. CMM says:

    It is very important, and I think necessary to growing in the faith, to meet with other believers for teaching, prayer, fellowship, and spiritual discipline. This does not necessarily equate joining a (501c3) “church.” I think this is a very important distinction.

  3. John says:

    good stuff! doesn’t he look like and talk like Mark Dever – kind of creepy!

  4. B says:

    Good response but did they have to put the same background music that is used for interviews with serial killers?

  5. Jimmy Justice says:

    Was wondering…

    In the Bible…

    Did anyone ever *join* “A Church?”

    1. Michael says:

      In Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 5:14, there is a number given for the church. This number would represent actual “members”, as we think of them today. These numbers didn’t just include everybody out there in the group. So one must ask how they determined who was a believer and who wasn’t?

      Believers must give an account to their elders (Acts. 20:28-30; 1 Thess. 5:12-13; Heb. 13:17; 1 Peter 5:1-4). How does an elder know who his flock is without some type of “membership”?

      How does church discipline work (Matt. 18:15-20) if the church leaders don’t know who their “members” are?

      Here’s even more points taken from Scripture:

    2. Jimmy Justice says:

      Michael – Appreciate all the scriptures to look up. I really love when God adds 8,000 believers to His Body, the Church, in such a short time. And there were only 12 apostles at the time. I wonder how they knew who were really believers? I’m sure glad God knows those who are His. Maybe the 12 just trusted God to give them spirtual discernment. I don’t recall them having a membership list of any kind. ;-)

      Since none of the verses you gave says anything about joining a church or church membership am I to assume you can’t find anyone either who joined a church or applied for membership? ;-)

      Maybe you can answer this one. In the Bible… Did anyone ever “go” to “Church?”

      And you add some temptingly debateble points about believers giving account to elders and church discipline. Two subjects abusive authoritarian religious systems like to promote – often – in order to maintain control and keep “their people” in fear and submissive to their every whim. I pray that’s not going on where you fellowship. ;-)

      1. Justin says:

        What do you do with Jesus’ granting the Church the “power of the keys” and the power to “bind and loose” (Mt. 16, 18)? “If this real, not abstract gathering (a congregation or Session) determines that the individual’s profession of faith is credible, they will unite the individual to themselves. If not, they won’t. How do they exercise their authority to unite? They unite with the two external, visible, institutional mechanisms given to them by Jesus: initiation through baptism and ongoing participation through the new covenant meal. How do they unbind or loose? They deny the individual the opportunity to participate in this ongoing meal.” – Jonathan Leeman, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 31. While that authority may be abused for authoritarian purposes, it is still an authority that is to be exercised by the Church for the honor of Christ and the purity of His bride (among other reasons).

        1. Jimmy Justice says:

          Justin – Never did understand that “binding an looseing” stuff. :-)
          And can’t find Jesus granting the church the “Power of the keys.” What does that mean?

          And, how does one “determines that the individual’s profession of faith is credible?”
          And “Who” does this in the so-called church you are asking christians to join?
          And, who decides who can no longer participate in the covenant meal?

          Sounds kind of Roman Catholic to me. Sounds like fear and spiritual abuse to me. So I’m hopeing I’m misunderstanding why you promote that. What is the “Power of the keys?”

          1. Daniel says:

            Jimmy, LOL at “sounds kind of Roman Catholic.” You do know which came first, right?

            You are right that folks in the 1st cent. didn’t “join” a church like we join a church today. It does seem that baptism and a confession of belief were the physical outward indicators of a new allegiance.

  6. fjola hawryshok says:

    I hope that it is not a requirement as I know several of my family believe in Jesus and his teachings but do not necessarily go to a church. Our cultural has change so much even in my life time and some of my family works on Sunday’s others do not have the transportation needed to go. I do know for myself I like to go, don’t have to but find it uplifting and feel better of myself when I go to a Church and sing praises to God and listen to his word.

  7. I’m sympathetic to what he’s saying, but I would rather hear a non-pastor make this argument. I mean, obviously a vocational pastor is going to answer this question in the affirmative. Yes, this is a borderline ad hominem fallacy on my part. But I suspect many outsiders would take these reflections with a grain of salt, given that a pastor’s financial livelihood (usually) depends on getting as many folks into the pews as possible.

    1. Robert says:


      Wow! By that standard, there isn’t much that a pastor could ever say that might not look somewhat self-serving to someone somewhere. So a spiritual shepherd who will give an account for the sheep entrusted to him, and who is comissioned to feed the sheep, is NOT the best person to warn and encourage the sheep???? I couldn’t DISAGREE with you more! That’s almost the equivalent of saying: “Don’t read books about the church by people who get royalties from their writings. Their less credible than people who write about the church and give their books away.” Really?

    2. Robert says:

      That’s not an ad hominem fallacy; it’s a genetic fallacy.

  8. Justin says:

    If anything, I thought Pastor McKinley’s answer was somewhat soft-pedaled. A more thorough reflection on this topic can be found in Jonathan Leeman’s book The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline. Michael (above) hit some of the relevant points but the primary point is this: You’re not a Christian just because you say you are. Only after having given a credible profession of faith in Christ to a congregation or body of elders (depending on your polity) can you say with any certainty that you are a Christian. And that credible profession is step one in becoming a church member. This (joining a church if you’re a Christian) is a no-brainer that our highly individualistic sensibilities militate against. The Church is still the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.

  9. Ben Phillips says:

    I’m pretty mixed on this one. I think at the end of the day it is up to the individual…and their relationship with god.

    1. Jon Mason says:

      @Ben – but which of his Biblical arguments are you disagreeing with?

    2. Justin says:

      Yes, it is up to the individual to receive Christ. Then it is up to the individual to join a church: “Missing local church membership is like missing the fact that Christians are called to pursue good works, or love their neighbors, or care for the poor, or pray to God, or follow in the way of Christ. Submitting oneself to a local church is what a true believer does, just like a true believer pursues good works, loves his or her neighbor, and so forth. Someone who refuses to join – or better, to submit to – a local church is like someone who refuses to pursue a life of righteousness. It calls into question the authenticity of his or her faith.” Jonathan Leeman, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 16-17.

  10. donsands says:

    I don’t believe I shall be able to join my church. It’s Episcopal Reformed, and I’m very Baptist Reformed. However, I am very involved, and love my pastor, and love to worship and serve with my fellow disciples, and brothers and sisters in Christ our Lord and Friend.
    have a good evening.

  11. Jimmy Justice says:

    Michael – You ask, “How does an elder know who *his flock* is without some type of “membership”?
    “How does church discipline work if the church leaders don’t know who *their “members”* are?”

    Well, when you call it *his flock* referring to an elder and *their members* when referring to church leaders; I’m disturbed.

    It’s probable just what you’ve been taught by your church leaders and elders BUT, when I read the Bible the flock does not belong to the elders or church leaders – the flock belongs to God.

    Isn’t it called “The Church of God?”

    One of the verses you gave was 1 Pet 5:1-4, a favorite. When I add verse 5 it becomes a very favorite.
    In verse 2 it says “Feed the flock of God.” Not – feed the elders flock, not the church leaders flock. :-)
    Verse 3 says, “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage.”
    I like that a lot. I’m God’s heritage and elders are not to bully me – ever – never. They are to serve me.
    Verse 5 says, “Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility:”
    Verse 3 and 5 lets us know what type of elder is worthy of anyone to give account to. Yes?

    1 Pet 5:1-5 KJV
    1 – The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder,
    and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
    2 – Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint,
    but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
    3 – Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
    4 – And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
    5 – Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder.
    Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility:
    for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

  12. Robert, I wasn’t making a universal claim about the appropriateness of pastors commenting on this issue. Rather, it was an observation about how outsiders would likely interpret these thoughts. Like it or not, these people tend to view pastors as somewhat self-serving, when it comes to this particular issue. And let’s be honest, it’s probably difficult for pastors to avoid thinking in terms of filling the pews, even if they have good intentions, all things considered. Once again, I like what this guy is saying about the necessity of church involvement, but it would probably be more meaningful coming from a regular church member, at least insofar as the point is to convince outsiders to take church attendance seriously. Cheers!

  13. lisa says:

    A lot of this thoughtful video commentary is orientated to thinking is very personal and individual terms. Pragmatic, but not keeping the whole Story of God. We are invited into God’s Story, not the other way around, right?

    I think Evangelicalism has done much to make the idea of church, or going to church banal….but nothing could be more misguided in our journey of faith.

    It’s more of an American idea to think of spirituality and what God is up to as something semi-individual in nature. It shortchanges a lot of who God is (in our minds) regarding community/Trinity, and the whole Kingdom Here and Kingdom to Come sentiments. If this topic interests you, check out this post: which provides Christians which a much bigger, everlasting idea of Church. Your comments are welcome.

  14. Steve says:

    To be with “other people who love God in the same way, they want to hear teaching about God so they can know Him better, they want to praise God with those other people, to pray to God with those other people, to love those other people as an expression of their love for God.” Sounds great! Where do I find such a place?

  15. Jimmy Justice says:


    I refer to “Sounds kind of Roman Catholic to me.” Because they teach eating the body and blood is so important, mandatory, to be accepted in God, and to be accepted in their organization. Then if you don’t obey all their rules they will excommunicate you. forbid you to partake of the covenant meal. This is how they control and abuse so many. :-(

    Here’s a real story about this ugly form of spiritual abuse.

    Was helping out a friend at her food pantry. An elderly lady has a problem with her car and pulls into the parking lot. She goes inside while I’m under the car for 20 minutes removing a muffler pan that had come loose. When it’s fixed I enter to tell her the good news This elderly lady is in tears.

    This lady was born Roman Catholic. Always received the Holy Eucharist. She marries – her husband abuses her – for years – but the “Church Leaders” say divorce is out. She lives like this for years but eventually she gets a divorce. The “Church Leaders” tell her she can no longer receive the Holy Eucharist. She is devastated. She now believes that God has rejected her. So, for some 20 years she has lived with this belief that God was not pleased with her.

    My friend was ministering to her the love of Christ and the forgiveness of Christ and her tears of pain caused by “Church Leaders” became tears of joy. She left a new creature in Christ.

    So today when I see someone threaten people with “Church Discipline” that removes someone from partaking of the covenant meal – I experience – wrath – anger – indignation. Because, it says in Rom 4:15 Because the law worketh wrath: (anger, indignation) for where no law is, there is no transgression.

    In my opinion this guy in the video is creating another law. And the guy that Justin quotes about “Church Discipline” is also creating more laws. Jonathan Leeman says, to unbind, “They deny the individual the opportunity to participate in this ongoing meal.”

    That – “Sounds kind of Roman Catholic to me.” “Sounds like fear and spiritual abuse to me.”

    No thanks – Don’t have much faith in abusive elders and so-called “Church Leaders” who would practice this kind of “Church Discipline.”

    And I can’t find one person in the Bible who *joined a church,* or applied for *church membership.”

    I think I’ll stick with Jesus – I’m His heritage and He is my Shepherd. :-)

    1. Justin R. says:

      Jimmy, are you going to stick with the Jesus who commands church discipline in Matthew 18? The one who says that if an unrepentant brother doesn’t even listen to the church, he should be treated as a tax collector and sinners…meaning a non-Christian.

      Do you let non-Christians partake of communion? So if Christ commands his church to treat unrepentant brothers as tax collectors and sinners, who have no right to participate in the Lord’s supper, how can you say you will just stick with Jesus?

      Practicing biblical church discipline is sticking with Jesus

  16. Jimmy Justice says:

    Justin R – You ask, “if an unrepentant brother doesn’t even listen to the church, he should be treated as a tax collector and sinners…meaning a non-Christian.” “Do you let non-Christians partake of communion?”

    Well, yes, I’ll stick with Jesus. How did Jesus treat tax collectors and sinners? He ate with them. :^/

    Luke 19:1-10…Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans…and (Jesus) said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he (Jesus) was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.

    You gotta love that Jesus. Eating with a tax collector who is a sinner. He sure could aggravate the Religious Leaders. And He didn’t even ask Zacchaeus to say the sinners prayer first. Or baptize him. Or give him a list to see if he was really a Christian like the guy above has in his book “Am I really a Christian.” :^/

    And Jesus loves them. And He shows them mercy and grace. And He forgives them. Over and over…
    Isn’t that how we are to treat non-christians? Isn’t that another option? For us to love them?
    And, doesn’t a sinner, you and me, need to remember His death and resurrection?

    Pr 17:9 He that covers a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeats a matter separates very friends.
    Pr 19:11 The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.

    Why is your “Church Discipline”only punishment, denial of fellowship, denial of the Lords Supper?

    “Discipline ” also means “train oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way.” So maybe, “Biblical Church Discipline” is training for “you” to love sinners like Jesus loves sinners? To learn how “To pass over a transgression” even when it hurts? To love in a controlled and habitual way? :^/

    Jesus had communion with the tax-collectors. Fellowshipped with them. That’s what the word “communion” means in the Bible. “Fellowship.” In the KJV “communion” is only four times and it is always the Greek word “koinonia.” Which is mostly translated “Fellowship.” You were probably taught by your elders and church leaders that “communion” and “The Lord’s Supper” is the same thing. But, in the Bible “communion” means “Fellowship.”

    Mk 7:13 NIV Thus *you nullify* the word of God by *your tradition* …

    Now if you’re asking “Do you let sinners partake of “The Lords Supper?” Well, since all of my brethern in Christ continue to admit they are still sinners I guess my answer would still be – Yes. :^/
    Don’t you partake of the Lords Supper with sinners? And is every “member” of your “church” saved?

    And Mat 18, doesn’t mention anything about “Church Leaders” administering “church discipline,” (that’s mans tradition), or denying someone anything, or punishing them. I think it only asks “you” to treat him as a tax collector and sinner. It’s all on *you* – NOT the whole congregation.

    Here is what it says in Mat 18:17…
    KJV – If he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto “thee” as an heathen man and a publican.
    ESV – If he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to *you* as a Gentile and a tax collector.
    NIV – If he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as *you* would a pagan or a tax collector.
    HCSB – …let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to *you.*

    See, no “Church Leaders” responsible to administer “church discipline.” Thank you Jesus. :-)
    Seems it’s up to *you* – and – how *you* treat him as a tax collector and sinner.

    Now what do you do? What kind of “Discipline” would you like to receive?

    1. Justin says:

      First,you do recognize there is a difference between a meal and the Lord’s Supper, right? So all of your references to Jesus eating a meal with tax collectors has little significance on the text.

      Second, Jesus is using “tax collector” in Matthew 18 not as “meal buddy.” He is using it in the same way he did in Matthew 5:46, “For if you love those who love you, what reward to you have? Do not even tax collectors do the same.” He is making a categorical distinction from “a brother”.

      Third, you say “Now if you’re asking ‘Do you let sinners partake of “The Lords Supper?’ my response is NO that is not what I am saying. Would you let a NON-CHRISTIAN, partake of the Lord’s Supper — the covenantal meal? If “a Gentile and a tax collector” isn’t meant to represent merely a sinner, but an unrepentant, unbelieving Non-Christian sinner, which I believe it is, then that is the question the text demands you ask.

      Fourth, you ask “What kind of ‘discipline’ would you like to receive?” I would like to receive a discipline that is consistent with God’s character and shows my sin as absolutely hideous in His presence. A discipline that highlights the gospel by showing me sin is no light thing. I want a disciple that will lead me to biblical repentance and not placate me in my sin.

      I want the discipline of Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5 because even though I might not enjoy it, I need it.

    2. Justin says:

      An additional thought…

      How then would you interpret 1 Corinthians 5:11 — “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one.”

      In verse 9 they had misunderstood a previous command of Paul about not associating with the sexually immoral person.
      Verse 10 we see how they had misinterpreted it — by concluding he meant every sexually immoral person, which would be impossible.
      Verse 11 he clarifies and applies the command only to someone who “bears the name brother,” meaning a christian.
      Verse 12 He elaborates on a clear dividing line between those who are “outsiders” (non-christians) and those who are “inside the church”. He calls the church to judge those inside the church and to purge the ‘evil person’ from among them.

      Essentially, practice church disciple! Those who bear the name “brother” but are living in gross, unrepentant sin remove them from the church — purge them. Don’t even eat with them or as Jesus would say, “let them be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

  17. Justin R says:

    Opps…supposed to be discipline instead of disciple above

  18. Jimmy Justice says:

    Hi Justin R

    Your correct, “there is a difference between a meal and the Lord’s Supper.” But, you’re the one who mentioned “communion,” which the Bible says means “Fellowship,” NOT the Lord’s Supper. Did you check that out for yourself? Or do you just go along with your elders and church leaders? The Bible asks us to, “Study to show yourself approved unto God.” 2 Tim 2:15. That’s approved unto God, not your church leaders, who often teach the traditions of men they were taught, and the doctrines of men, and not the Bible. ;-)

    When I finally checked the scriptures I found No communion tables, no one celebrating communion, no one taking communion. But you’ll have to check that out for yourself.

    And Jesus did eat and fellowship with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus, He’s the best.

  19. Jimmy Justice says:

    Justin R

    Your first comment to me was about church discipline in Mat 18. You said, “Jimmy, are you going to stick with the Jesus who commands church discipline in Matthew 18?”

    Can you now see Jesus NEVER commands “church discipline” administered by “Church Leaders” recorded in Mat 18:17 as Michael above questioned. Who taught you that? Why did they teach you that? Maybe you can correct them and show them what Mat 18:17 really says.

    Far as I can figure – It’s all up to *you* and how *you* treat “thy brother shall trespass against thee.” Mat 18:15. How does God want you to treat this brother who trespassed against you. You do have some options and your use of Mat 5:46 is a good place to start – well maybe a few verses before. Mat 5:43. ;-)

    43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
    44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
    45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
    46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
    47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
    48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

    Maybe you have to go to Jesus and ask Him how to treat this brother as this sinner and tax collector.

    John 18:37 …Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

    So for someone who is focused on unrepentant sin – If you’re not: loving your enemies? Blessing those who curse you? And praying for those who despitfully use you?

    Would that mean you’re in unrepentant sin? ;-)

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