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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
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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
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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

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 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
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@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

To begin with I will apologize because I am not an academic and consider myself to have a very simple faith in Jesus which is the perspective I will share from...

For some people attending "a church" is not an enjoyable experience and is not something that they regularly do, but this doesn't mean they choose not to be a part of "The Church". A lot of men especially find the traditions & cultural practices within church difficult... Sitting for long periods of time, being told by one person how they should live, and for some even the singing is not their thing but this does not in any way reflect on their love of Christ and others. For some they have been hurt or had negative experiences which although they have not turned their back on Christ, they have become disheartened with the man made institution of church and church culture. It doesn't mean that they opt out of gathering with others, or worshiping Christ, or reading the Bible or living their life for and with God. They still love Jesus and try their best to live in a God honouring, Christ replicating life. Their version of gathering may well be within the family home or with a small group of other Christians in a less formal manner because for many it is the institution of church that they reject and not the gathering of believers or the worshiping of Christ the redeemer. And for some it is simply that they have not yet found a church where they feel at home, so instead they opt to worship outside of the church building and they find their fellowship with other Christian there too. There are just so many reasons and everyone has their own, but not attending a church does not mean that they are not part of "His Church."

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@curiousdannii That comment is not worthy of you. It seems extremely judgmental to me. –  Reluctant_Linux_User Nov 13 at 23:03
    
@Nina Lawgun Welcome to Christianity.SE - it seems to me that your answer is based around the idea that church can be considered more broadly than is often interpreted. However, the question was asking for Biblical support. As such the answer does leave something to be desired. May I suggest you read this page on what makes a good answer. –  Reluctant_Linux_User Nov 13 at 23:07
    
@curiousdannii That may be so, however, that is not the point of this site and Nina is making a genuine effort to explain why people may think that being unchurched is a good/acceptable idea. We are not here to read your opinions on what is and is not a sin. –  Reluctant_Linux_User Nov 13 at 23:09
    
@Nina while the things you say are understandable, none of them sound like big enough reasons to excuse meeting together as Hebrews 10:25 instructs us to do. I do think that meeting together as a small home group is okay, but far more common are those who don't meet anywhere regularly. –  curiousdannii Nov 13 at 23:13
    
Hey guys- remember we don't do "truth" here. I asked what the reasons were and Nina did a good job articulating them. She wasn't trying to convince anyone she was "right" and even if I'm not convinced of the position I still +1 the facts nature by which she addressed it. I think this is a case for "be nice". –  Affable Geek Nov 14 at 9:36

What Biblical support is there for a non-Churched Christianity?

Some word definition is required before looking into this question. For example the word "church" is not found in the Bible. It is used to translate the word ekklēsia (called out ones). It is even used in Acts to refer to the Israelites that were with Moses at Mt. Sinai.

Non-"Churched" Christians might fall into the following categories;

  1. Those who see to reason or purpose to associate with other Christians.
  2. Those who can find no others with whom they could fellowship.
  3. Those who shun organizational systems in favor of relational connections.
  4. Those who cannot find fellowship without an intolerable level of taint from the flesh and the world.

While there is no Biblical endorsement of Christian isolation, There are verses that can apply to those who do not see a possibility of worthwhile fellowship.

Those who shun fellowship on the basis of denominationalism (divisions) can cite;

1 Corinthians 1:11-12 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

Galatians 5:19-20 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, (heresies = hairesis = divisions)

Those who shun fellowship on the basis of false teaching can cite;

Philippians 3:18-19 For there are many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, who walk (live) as enemies of the cross of Christ (the Anointed One). They are doomed and their fate is eternal misery (perdition); their god is their stomach (their appetites, their sensuality) and they glory in their shame, siding with earthly things and being of their party.

2 Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

Galatians 2:4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

Those who shun organizational Christianity as preventing "one another" fellowship and restricting ministry only to approved programs or the task of paid staff;

Rev 2:6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Those who shun fellowship with those lost in their sin;

1 Corinthians 5:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

Those who shun fellowship with those given over to worldliness;

James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

We have come to think of "church" in terms of the organizational systems Satan has led the world into. If one considers several generations of school children being told for twelve years each to shut up, sit down, and do what you are told, it is difficult not to see this pattern impressed upon most church systems.

The picture of the "called out ones" in Ephesians is a little different;

Ephesians 4:11-16 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

While some who call themselves Christian reject church as unnecessary or inconvenient, others reject church because attendance has nothing to do with learning and maturing into the full image of Christ. The Bible gives us a little insight into the relationship between Paul and Timothy. It seems a little more involved than a boring once a week lecture.

People who use their church system to measure Christians may find that some of those Christians fall short. People who use the Bible to measure churches may find that churches fall short.

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Saying ekkelesia means "called out ones" is an etymological fallacy. The word means a assembly/gathering/crowd/mob. –  curiousdannii Nov 15 at 0:34
    
I have to agree - but if you take out the first paragraph, I think I could +1 this. it hews to the question very well. –  Affable Geek Nov 15 at 1:38
    
If someone said that a "meeting was held of stockholders who had been invited" as opposed to a "stockholder's meeting", would this be a critical error? The phrase "stockholder meeting" implies a group that had been invited to gather. The origin of ekklesia had a more explicit emphasis on "calling" that by the time of the first century may have become more implicit. However, I do not see an inclusion of or emphasis on the implied "calling" as compromising the definition. –  timf Nov 15 at 16:57

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