Can you have faith and be a Christian without going to church or being religious?
The short answer is: you can have faith and be a Christian without going to church or being religious. There is no requirement in the Bible that a Christian attend so many services a year. But the longer answer is more interesting.
When I plant my tomato plants in the Spring, I don’t just plant them in the lawn. They might grow there but they wouldn’t produce much fruit. Instead, I clear a patch of ground, I remove any other plants or weeds, I dig a hole much larger than the plant needs and add peat moss for the dry summer months ahead. I plant the tomato plant, add fertilizer and then add a trellis or tomato cage around it to lend it extra support so the heavily laden branches do not fall to the ground; then I put out Sevin dust for the insects and spinning CDs and wind chimes to flash in the breeze and make noise to frighten away the birds.
I don’t do these things because I have nothing better to do. I do them to assure myself a fruitful harvest and to preserve the fruit from devouring insects or birds.
Religion is not faith and faith is not religion. Religion changes with the times. Faith remains the same and is timeless. Religion without faith is a waste of time. Religion added to faith is cultivated faith and dramatically increases and conserves your fruitfulness and your reward.
The religion around my faith helps me to be fruitful. Jesus told this parable:
Mark 4:14-20 NKJV
The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”
God is just. Once you fully understand that simple truth, the rest naturally follows: He always rewards our good and there is always a penalty for our bad. The penalty for the Believer is not hell. The penalty is the loss of reward. Jesus spoke of loss of reward often.
These rewards are not temporary. They are ours forever. And there will be those who enter into heaven by the skin of their teeth and have no reward. Those who are fruitful and productive in their faith have a great reward awaiting them.
Faith without any support or cultivation will produce disappointing results. Your genuine faith and trust in God may produce very little that the Lord can reward because you did not cultivate your faith by leaning on the strength of other believers or lending your strength to them; by regularly receiving teaching to help you understand who God is so you can be like Him; or by finding a place to serve and laying up rewards in heaven.
Every garden tends to gather weeds. The weeds will choke out fruitfulness. A good church helps you focus on the Lord and helps you pluck the weeds from your life before they sap away your fruitfulness. A good church strengthens marriages and families and helps guide the young and teach wisdom. They offer opportunities to serve—every investment in the kingdom produces rewards that swallow up the effort and the difficulty.
I’ve been broke with nothing more than lint in my pockets. I don’t want to be broke for eternity. I want the good that I do to be conserved and rewarded. I want the damage from the pests to be minimized so that I will produce much fruit and gain a greater reward. This is why I cultivate my faith and why I believe faith without religion to be unwise.
Ken Van Horn is pastor of My Father’s House Family Church at 501 Broad Street in Cusseta, Georgia and author of the book: “A Greater Reward,” which is available from Amazon on Kindle. Questions for him should be asked in the form below. You may also contact him through Facebook or follow him on Twitter.