Can we be Christians without the Church?
Someone once asked C.S.Lewis (the well know writer and social commentator) whether attendance at church was really necessary to a Christian way of life.
There are many ways you could answer this question. However C.S.Lewis answered the question by reflecting on why he himself often disliked Church:
“I disliked very much (Church) hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I continued on (at Church) I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit* just began peeling off. I realised that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-sided boots in the opposite pew, and then you realise that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit.”
(*conceited = to think overly well of ourselves in comparison to others.)
Conceit is certainly something that Christians often are guilty of. We’d do well to ask ourselves if any of the misgivings we have towards Church are born of our own conceit, rather than lying in the faults of others.
Of course there are many reasons for meeting regularly with other Christians. When we speak of Church being essential for the Christian, we are not speaking of dedication to one or other of the denominations. We are not speaking about visiting a building. We are not meaning “signed-up” membership in some institution. A church is nothing other than a body of believers who meet regularly in Jesus’ name, to declare His death and resurrection, and to love each other.
Christianity can be PERSONAL, but it can not ever be PRIVATE.
We are called to read God’s word publicly, and proclaim Jesus name in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We can experience at a PERSONAL level the public reading of God’s word, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.. but none of these things can be done only PRIVATELY. You can no more be a Christian “on your own” than you can be a family “on your own”.
When we attempt to do express our faith privately, we are actually robbing Jesus of some of the Glory that is rightfully His. Jesus himself said that others would know you follow and glorify him when we love “one-another”. We can’t do this in isolation from the church (ie God’s household of believers).
In fact, the book of Hebrews expects that as the Day of Jesus’ return gets closer, we’ll meet more regularly, not less (Heb 10:24-25).
The question should perhaps be not so much “Do you love Church” as “Will you love THE Church”… Will you love one-another?