I have heard many versions of this notion over the years, phrased as both a statement and a declaration. “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian—do I?”
More often than not, it’s been put this way: “I love Jesus and the Bible, but I don’t love the church.” Or those more inclined toward a naïve spiritualism have spun it as, “I can spend time with the Lord out in the woods. I don’t need the distraction of other people. Just me and nature and God.”
Yet, after years of hearing these pithy aphorisms and being asked this question (with the “no” answer often strongly implied), I remain unconvinced that one can be a Christian and intentionally remain outside the visible, local church. Granted, the grounds of a sinner’s salvation in Scripture are clear: Grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone. True, the Bible never adds “church membership” as a condition of salvation. But note the qualifier “intentionally” in my thesis—it is the key pillar in my argument. I am here assuming the individual making this query is intentionally seeking to avoid church membership and church attendance while claiming to be a follower of Christ.