I love what Billy Graham says: “Being in church no more makes you a Christian than being in a garage makes you a car.” So, the answer is, “No,” you do not have to go to church to be a Christian, but attending church serves a three-fold purpose to help us to grow in our faith:
1. To worship with other believers.
2. Church is a place of Christian fellowship, and lone ranger Christians don’t do well in the journey of faith.
3. Church is a place where we can use our gifts in service and ministry.
While you don’t have to come to church to be a Christian, failure to attend retards your spiritual growth. But not only that, not attending your church is just plain selfish, because it denies your spiritual gifts to fellow believers. And when we’re not in church, we miss out on the rich fellowship of other meaningful relationships with believers.
Yes, you can worship God out on the lake, or on the golf course. But doing so only takes from the creation of God. We miss out on the encouragement of others and we miss out on them being encouraged by us. While you do not have to be in church to be a Christian, it is certainly the place where you are needed and where the committed Christian wants to be.