Is going to church necessary for salvation?
the man on the street corner in the city of Miami Beach where
I lived as a young man. The man was always on that corner
giving away New Testaments "to anyone who wants to be saved." I
knew I hadn't been "saved," but I was not convinced I was "lost."
later learned how easily we can be lost, and how universal
that condition is. But along with that doctrine of Sin, I
also learned that God, who created us, loves us unconditionally.
Yes, unconditionally. Christ died that all might live. Yes,
we are called to live in the image of Christ, but God created
us as human (fallible) beings and does not reject us for
what we do. Our repentance immediately brings His forgiveness.
Even without repentance, God loves us, though He may not
love our actions or thoughts or words.
do not believe we must "go to church" to be "saved"; I do
believe that as fallible human beings we need some source
of recharging, or encouragement, of community and of guidance.
Holy Scripture, homilies that give us perspective and God's
comfort, the fellowship and strengthening that come from
the mystical power of community all these are food
for our soul and can be found in a place of worship.
Rev. William A. Kolb
my opinion, absolutely not! The right church can be a wonderful
blessing that brings us closer to God. The wrong church can
be just the opposite. Whether or not a particular church
is "right" or "wrong" depends on whether or not it helps
YOU. It might be the right church for you and the wrong one
for me. However, none of us have to go to church to be saved.
All we have to do is seek a relationship with God through
Christ. If going to church strengthens that relationship,
by all means, go. If it does not, put that same time and
energy into something that does strengthen it, like simply
talking to God through prayer.
of school and work, I have lived in several different cities
over the past fifteen years. During that time, I was fortunate
enough to have found several churches that helped me in my
spiritual journey. There were times, however, when I could
not find a church that met my needs. When that was the case,
I did not quit growing spiritually, I just grew without the
benefit of a church. I believe that God helps us IF we ask
for His help. When I was without a church, God did not lose
interest in me. He helped me through prayer, meditation,
His word (the Bible), and in countless other ways as well.
now, the church I attend helps me tremendously. It is a great
blessing, but my relationship with God is multifaceted. There
was a time when I attended a church that actually turned
me off to religion. With His help I realized I loved God
but I hated that church. One
of the saddest things in the world is for someone to lose
faith in God because they have
lost faith in a church. The two are not the same. The church
is an imperfect institution run by fallible humans. God is
holy and He is far too great to be limited by human institutions.
If we seek Him, we will find Him, with or without the benefit
of a church.
have been times in my life when I've felt angry or far away
from God, and going to church was the last thing I wanted
to do. There are also times when the ritual of worship kneeling,
singing, going to the altar rail is the best thing
I do all week. And even when I don't particularly want to
go, the community of faith and the Word of God which is preached
from the pulpit nearly always make me glad I did.
are by nature and our relationship with the Creator, communal.
God is within each of us. Talking with the God within may
have some value, but in the end we're probably talking to
ourselves. Listening to God can be a solitary event, but acting
for God requires partners.
the past month, our 6-year-old son, who is passionate on
every subject, has told me, "I don't believe in God," "Jesus
is stupid," and "God is a big invisible freak."
parent that I am, I tell him, "Lots of people feel mad at
God from time to time; perhaps your point of view will change;
God knows what's in your heart, yada, yada, yada," thinking
if I don't make an issue of it, it will go away.
it seems like every time he sees a clerical collar, it triggers
another angry outburst at God. At his infant brother's christening,
he landed a swift kick on the deacon's shin. At the mere
sight of a priest in vestments, he balls up his fists and
hunches his shoulders in defense.
it possible, I wonder, that he has mistaken our clergy for
God himself? Maybe he's mad at God for having made a world
which must often seem baffling to him, given that an auditory
processing disorder makes adult speech sound to his ears
like Charlie Brown's teacher: "wah wah WAH wah, wah WAH wah."
will never take home the perfect attendance award. Our participation
in Sunday School is, at best, episodic.
the thing I love about my church is the thing I love about
the God of my understanding: They always take us back.
matter how intermittent, inappropriate, irreverent or irrational
I am, our church continues to embrace me and mine. That demonstrates
to me in a tangible way the persistence of God.
am the weary, fallible mother of preschoolers. I may forget
to brush my children's teeth, forget their bedtime story,
forget their homework. I may fail at giving them a formal
Christian education. But
there is one thing I never forget, and I learned it at church. At night when I tuck my oldest
son in bed, I make the sign of the cross on his forehead
and tell him, "You
are marked as Christ's own forever."
lately, he's been saying it back to me.