Yesterday, I ran across an article on Facebook entitled “If You Don’t Go to Church, Can You Still Go to Heaven.” My initial thought was “duh, grace covered that and all sins on the cross,” but I figured I’d take a look and see what the guy had to say. Well, that was a bad idea. I read it yesterday, and I’m still upset this morning. I’m not mad at the pastor that wrote it, and I’m not mad at the many people that shared it. I’m mad at the cheapening of what Paul said in Ephesians 2:9. When we reduce Christ’s amazing sacrifice…the very idea of God becoming a man, living a perfect life, dying a horrible death on the cross, and miraculously raising again?All this for the sole purpose of recovering a relationship with humankind who, according to Romans 5:8, were still sinners. To say that we need something in addition to that grace of Christ, something that we can achieve on our own, is to cheapen, devalue, and spit all over the sacrifice of Christ. I apologize if this article sounds confrontational, angry, or mean-spirited. I don’t mean to be that way. However, I do believe that we should pick certain battles. I fight as rarely as possible (which is a big change from the me of 10 years ago), but I argue when I need to. And I believe that when a spiritual leader attacks the grace of God, that’s a fight worth having.
First, let me make a very important point. If you’re a Christian, YOU SHOULD BE IN CHURCH. I’ll be the first person to say that being an active part of the body of Christ and the bride of Christ (the local church) is Biblical. The Bible tells us to do it. The local church has always been God’s “plan A” for reaching out to the lost people in our communities. I would even make the point that to be the strongest Christian possible, you need to be active in a local church. A healthy local church is a phenomenal opportunity for discipleship, correction, and fellowship. I’ve heard many people say in my life that they “don’t need the church to be a Christian.” Well, the whole point of my article is to point out that statement as true. However, those people either don’t grow as quickly in Christ as those in church, or they just get their “fire insurance” and move on. Neither of these are healthy. The church is an amazing institution, endorsed by God, blessed by Christ, and helped by the Holy Spirit. Many of my friends sacrificed a great deal to plant Genesis Church because we believe in the local church, and we believe in God using the local church to accomplish His mission. That doesn’t mean that attendance is a requirement for salvation. Again, it’s impossible to put something that we can achieve ourselves on the same level as the grace that God gives, according to the Bible, “as a gift” (Ephesians 2:8).
So, if we take the author’s points, where does it end? Is there a certain percentage of the time we must be in church? What if I’m there 89% of the time and God’s requirement is 90%? What if it’s 100%? What other requirements can we put on salvation? Memorizing the whole Bible? Not picking anything up on a “day of rest?” There was a group of people in the Bible that thought the same thing that this author did. They were called the Pharisees, and they believed in the power of the law over the power of the blood of Christ.
Now, before I wrote this, I checked this church’s beliefs. I would be much less likely to write this if the church that this pastor serves believed in salvation through some other work. However, this is what their post under “salvation” says:
“The Bible teaches that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation does not come as the result of something we have done but rather because of what God has done. It is a free gift that cannot be earned or deserved (Romans 6:23). We receive that “gift” by faith in the Lord JESUS CHRIST.”
Sounds like the church’s beliefs nailed the point I’m trying to make.
Finally, the author ends the article with this quote:
“Because, if you’re not going to church and you’re not an active, viable, faithful, participating, contributing, integral part of the church, you need to remember: the devil wants to keep you out of church…so he can keep you out of Heaven.”
This one perturbed me too. Again, he’s making the same point (that you can’t go to heaven without going to church), but he’s making it in a different way. To say that Satan has the power to keep me out of heaven is a ridiculous point. I’m a Christian. Are you really saying throughout this article that I may be able to lose my salvation because of a church attendance roster? And, in your final point, are you contending that Satan has the ability to pluck me from God’s saving hand? I don’t even know what to say about that…except that I do. Romans 8:39 says that NOTHING…no power in all of creation can separate us from the love of Christ.