“I feel that Christianity is more about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ than it is about going to church” is a growing sentiment among many folks today. My reply is that it depends on what we mean by “church.” While I can appreciate the argument put forth by so many of the importance of a personal relationship with Christ, He and His “church” are not an either/or proposition. There is no biblical principle to which one could point that would back the notion of Christ without His church. Perhaps it is time to regain a both/and understanding of what it means to be a “Christian” and what, exactly, is the “church.”
The “the image of God” is humanity expressing the community that God shares within Himself. As God is community (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), so humanity has been created to be also. Adam was alone and “without a partner” in the beginning, so God fashioned him a woman out of Adam’s self. Though this is often used for the marriage setting, it cannot be separated from the notion of community. We are all a part of one another; we are community.
Furthermore, how does one possibly say that they have a “personal relationship” with God, yet not want anything to do with His church? Christ has come to live out His expression in humanity as a whole, individually and collectively. This expression of Christ is the church, by definition. Further still, how does one go about loving God without loving others? God has declared that the love of others, itself, is the love of God. The love of others is in fact the action of the church.
Therefore, it has nothing to do with the church as a building, and everything to do with the church as a people. The “church” is a community, not an organization. It is a misnomer to talk about “going to church,” for we are the church, though (for better or for worse) we have organized ourselves. I have yet to hear a coherent, rational argument against “being the church,” and especially by a so-called “Christian.” One necessitates the other.
We can argue about all the horrific things done by “the church;” to which I will say, It was not the church (that Christ is building), but the religion of humanity, that committed these atrocities. Unfortunately, it is so-called “Christians” leading the way in this religion. Certainly there are offenses committed in humanity that are not committed by “the church.” Thus, it must be a fault in humanity generally, rather the church specifically concerning these.
So, to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is, in fact, to be a member of the church (universal). One cannot be a “Christian” (owned by Christ) and not be part of His “church.” To be excluded from the church is to be alienated from humanity altogether.