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I'm interested in people who say "I'm a Christian, but I don't go to church."

I understand the sentiment - it really fits in well with the "spiritual, but not religious" Zeitgeist, and it seems to often coincide with a dislike of "hypocrites in the church." Jesus clearly inveighed vehemently against the Pharisees and all who would put on a show, but I'm trying to figure out what Jesus or any of the Biblical writers would have thought of the person who doesn't show up at all.

In making the case against a non-churched Christianity, I would point to:

  • "Wherever two or more are gathered in my name"
  • The fact that the vast majority of the NT is addressed to churches and not inviduals
  • The fact that the OT seems to also simply assume corporate worship.

I could keep going on, but I'm interested in understanding the opposite view. What scriptural or traditional evidence could one muster to make the case for an idiosyncratic Christianity? (Etymologically, the word "idiot" actually comes from "one who refuses to join the greater body") In other words, how would the idiosyncratic believer claim he's a Christian?

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Before anyone asks - I am NOT asking IF a unchurched person is a Christian, nor even if he's saved. I want to understand substantive reasons for rejecting church, and evaluate whether or not there are any sound theological arguments for "the church of me" –  Affable Geek Jan 30 '12 at 21:35
Just as a question clarification: your target group "I'm a Christian, but I don't go to church." also covers a fair number of "cultural Christians"; but I assume it is correct that you are only referring to actual believers? –  Marc Gravell Jan 30 '12 at 23:18
So, I'd like at least one response from a believer, yes, although if there is a case to be made by the cultural Christian, I'd be interested in reading that. That is probably a separate question, though. –  Affable Geek Jan 30 '12 at 23:43
The answer might lie in how people define what the word CHURCH means. To many these days CHURCH is not a fellowship of Christians but just a building where some dude stands up to tell them how to run their lives. That might be the reason people say "I don't go to Church" but still associate with believers on a regular basis, not realizing that it is the community of believers gathering together to worship God that's called a Church. Whether that's in a building specified for the purpose or an old cave, it doesn't matter. –  Nicolás Carlo Feb 1 '12 at 1:56
Did Elijah not live a holy life? Yet what church did he attend? Was not most of his life in solitude? –  user1694 Aug 3 '12 at 0:10

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

None. Every time the Bible presents the belivers it presents them in a context of a group. The biblical christian (believer in the Bible) always get together in houses, underground. Here are a few passages tackling this subject:

  • Romans 12.3-8
  • 1 Corianthians 12.12-31
  • 1 Peter 2.4-5
  • Heb 10.25

The argument advanced by the non-church goer is all over the place, but not in the Bible.

  1. They say that Jesus never built a Church or been to one (But Jesus was in the synagogue).

  2. The church was to protect and help the member in hostile time like the beginning.

  3. There are hypocrites in the church.

  4. The church does not serve me ...

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We might even look at the definition of "Church". The early Church was more like a gathering of a small group, and not a world-wide organization with (less or more) political power. However, I doubt that the problem of definition plays that big of a role for most of these people. –  vsz Feb 1 '12 at 18:28
@vsz that sounds like the beginning of a good answer. Why not turn it into one! –  Affable Geek Feb 3 '12 at 11:33

I spent a long time as a non-church going christian. My reasoning was based in tradition/culture.

I looked into several churches and one of the few things they all agreed on was that if I picked the wrong church I was going to hell. So to not pick the wrong church I picked no church. I didn't have the time to look into over 40,000 (or however many there are) Christian churches and find the right one (at the time I believed there could only be one true church), so I studied the bible on my own, spread my word to those that I could, and prayed for a merciful God that would understand I was doing my best to follow the path of Christ.

I agree with David Laberge there is little to no biblical reference for not going to Church.

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"they all agreed on was that if I picked the wrong church I was going to hell". You looked at a very strange bunch of churches. No church I have ever been involved with said that. –  DJClayworth Jan 31 '12 at 20:19
@DJClayworth It wasn't that drastic with most of them but I had a couple of pastors tell me effectively that. It didn't help that I started out Catholic which from what I remember has some requirements to get into heaven that would require you to go to their church. The Baptist minister I went to next spent a good deal of time telling me who not to look at when I told him I was on a quest for the truth. I understand I probably had some pretty bad experiences. –  MaskedPlant Jan 31 '12 at 21:58

I'm an exchurcher who was raised in the Roman Catholic Church, left it in my teens, and tried the Protestant Church for awhile until I realized church doctrine contradicts scripture. The word "church" is an intentional mistranslation of the Greek "ekklesia," literally "out-called" which should be translated "ecclesia." The Roman Empire corrupted Christianity not only by changing the name of the ecclesia but by changing the name of "Gehenna" to "hell" and propagating the pagan doctrines of torture in fire forever, immortality of the soul, and the Trinity. There is good reason to not go to church. Two or three can gather together in his name anywhere anytime, and every day is holy when you're in the spirit. Scripture is sufficient for revelation. An accurate translation reveals that God is the savior of all mankind (1 Timothy 4:10); all on earth and in the heavens will be reconciled to God through Christ (Colossians 1:20); and God will be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:20-28).

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Your answer reads more like a testimony than an answer, but you came through with supporting information at the end. You may want to add some references to the "... changing the name of "Gehenna" to "hell" and propagating the pagan doctrines ..." –  The Freemason Sep 11 at 17:42
Welcome to the site. Thank you for sharing, but this seems more like a testimony, instead of a biblical argument for why Christianity does not need the Church organization. If you can edit this to better answer the question, that would be great. I hope to see you post again soon. –  fredsbend Sep 11 at 18:11
Well, I just tried to elaborate, but, like I thought might happen, I went over the character limit. So here's just a few words to try to explain my perspective. I think the body of Christ is independent of the church. I can't in good conscience belong to an organization that I think contradicts scripture. The reason there are so many denominations is there are so many interpretations of scripture, but all of them agree on the basic doctrines of the creeds that were established by Rome. Scripture is the only creed I need, and, as I said, two or three can gather in his name anywhere anytime. –  Tom Sep 11 at 19:01
Regarding changing the name of "Gehenna" to "hell," here are the twelve references: Matthew 5:22,29,30, 10:28, 18:9, 23:15,33; Mark 9:43,45,47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6. You can Google the pagan origins of immortality of the soul, the common misconception of hell, and the Trinity. Hell is actually just an Old English word used to translate the Greek "hades" which is simply the unseen state of dead souls. Here's a good link about that. concordant.org/expohtml/DeathAndJudgment/TheGehennaOfFire.html It's hard to provide much information with the short character limit. –  Tom Sep 11 at 19:24
Tom, did you get the irony of your position? "I can't in good conscience belong to an organization that I think contradicts scripture." Your not going to church contradicts Scripture - Heb. 10:25! –  Steve Sep 12 at 1:11

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