Can you be a follower of Jesus by yourself, and not go to church?
Yes. No question!
However, if you choose to be a Christian without sharing that experience with others, you risk losing many of the good things that an active relationship with God can bring.
The Bible contains a description of what the followers of Jesus did in the weeks following his resurrection. Their life together is described as being full of excitement and joy. The writer uses the word ‘awesome’ to explain it. Ever since then, it has given Christians a model of how the experience of being part of a church, rather than being individuals, could and should be:
> Eating meals together
> Welcoming each other into their homes
> Learning from their leaders what the way of Jesus should mean in practice
> Praying for their shared concerns
> Praising God
> Seeing God do things that they could only describe as miraculous
> Getting rid of excess possessions so that the money could be used for those who were poor
> Trusting each other that when a need arose, help would be at hand.
It was so effortlessly appealing that the group grew and grew, with people who had never met Jesus in person committing themselves to this way.
It is undeniably true that many people’s experience of church in the UK is that it can be rather boring. However, those who look for Christian friends with whom they can meet supportively find it to be entirely positive. To find people who want and need the same things that you want and need means that you are good for each other.
Churches, however, are places where people only receive once they start to give. So attending a church may involve putting up with some features that are not ideal in exchange for the benefits.
If you click the box immediately below these words, the Christian Enquiry Agency is able to help you find churches or groups of Christians close to you whom you may find good companions if you are hoping for your faith to grow.
What the Bible says about it
An extract from the Bible:
[The followers of Jesus] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Where to find it:
About these words:
This is a description of the first group that might loosely be described as a church. The setting was Jerusalem, the town in which Jesus died, and these events were happening just a few weeks after his resurrection.
And they said…
Roger McGough, poet and broadcaster:
I’ve had my doubts about religion, but if I don’t go to mass on a Sunday I feel as though something is missing. People are often surprised to find out that I’m a Catholic, but there is a real peace and perspective in it for me.
Jennifer Garner, actress:
I grew up going to church every Sunday of my life. When I moved to [Los Angeles] it wasn’t part of the culture in the same way. At least in my life. But it didn’t mean I lost who I was. There was something about making [the 2016 film Miracles From Heaven] and talking to my kids about it made me realise they were looking for the structure of church every Sunday. So it was a great gift from this film that it took us back to finding our local Methodist church and going every Sunday. It’s really sweet.
Mumford and Sons, from the 2010 album ‘Sigh No More’:
Awake my soul,
Awake my soul,
For you were made to meet your maker.
Tom Hollander, actor, describing his research for play the vicar in BBC’s ‘Rev’, 2010:
There’s a yearning for there to be something super-real beyond us … I went to church in a tiny village in Norfolk. I heard a very old vicar deliver the most beautiful sermon. Just giving us some pointers on how to think about our lives, and come to terms with ourselves. In a beautiful building, full of people who were terribly kind to each other, with the sunlight streaming in. And I thought, ‘This is fantastic!’
Simon Tugwell, monk:
It is time we woke up to the fact that people want more from the church than bingo and dance. They want God!