An article in 2017 by a group that conducts research on cultural trends related to religion reported that one-tenth of the population self-identify as Christians and strongly agree that faith is important in their life but are “de-churched.” “De-churched” is a term the article uses to refer to people who have “attended church” in the past but haven’t assembled with a church in six months or more, and the article describes them as those who “love Jesus but not the church.” This reminds me of a term I once heard describing this same approach to faith in Christ – “Christian at large.”
While it is important to discern in the article the unsound language and concepts of the church, the gist of it should be heard: More and more people are thinking they can be a Christian without being associated with any “church.” What does the Bible say?
First, Christians are those who have been saved: “And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26).
Second, the church is made up of the saved: “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Christ is the Savior of His body, which is the church (Ephesians 5:23; 1:22-23)
Third, let us not forget that there is one body, and the body is the church (Ephesians 4:4).
So can one be a Christian and have nothing to do with the church? No, because if he’s a Christian, he’s a part of the one church. And Christians should be following the New Testament examples to be part of a local church, for there is a clear pattern of Christians organizing themselves in a discernable body in a locality (e.g. Acts 13:1, 1 Corinthians 1:2, Philippians 1:1). “De-churching” is contrary to the pattern.
The church is made up of the saved, and the saved must love the saved – the church: “Beloved, let us love one another” (1 John 4:7). Loving Christ and the church involves things like assembling together because we want to stir up one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25) and caring for one another both spiritually (Galatians 6:1; James 5:15-16, 19-20; 1 John 5:16) and physically (1 John 3:17).
Those who believe they can be Christians, considering their faith important in their life, and yet have nothing to do with the church are deceived. Since 2017, is it not possible that the idea has become even more popular as a result of the responses to COVID, including isolating from others and virtual meetings on the first day of the week? Some Christians may well have bought into the notion that they can be disengaged with the local church and yet be faithful. The idea is culturally acceptable but devoid of the truth and Biblical wisdom.
Christians must love both Jesus and His church.