Question:I am a Christian from the United States and I'm living in India. I have suffered a lot of abuse in church in my life - yes, clear abuse and other things. Anyway, I do believe I need to be with other Christians, but I'm really praying and seeking to find out in what capacity.
I read your article, "Christians Without Churches."
The thing is, I find this whole mentality very American and not Christian exactly. The thing is, there are no churches here! So, you would tell me that I cannot remain a Christian and I (and hundreds of thousands of others around Asia and Eastern Europe, for example) cannot be Christian because we can't go to church?? I cannot believe that God is only in the United States. I am not saying I belong here. That remains to be seen. But, I really want to find someone who will answer this: do you have to be in a church building with other believers in order to be a Christian? If so, then what of these others I've mentioned who cannot go?
In churches in America, you always hear of the "hidden church" in Asia meeting in basements and such. But, there are some who cannot even meet with others at all because it's too hard to get around and things are too far away or expensive to get to. So, what of them? Is an online church still "two or three gathered in my name?" I just really want someone to convince me about this. Are you up for it? Most people ignore and never respond to my questions, so let's see.
Given the "in your face" challenge of your questioning, I don't blame others for concluding that you are not sincere in looking for answers but only want to promote your agenda. There is a reason God teaches us to approach one another in meekness and quietness.
Every Christian, when they come up from the watery grave, are automatically a part of the church in the universal sense. There is no choice in that matter. "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:26-27). But what Ethan was pointing out in his article is that one of the responsibilities of a Christian is to join with other Christians to worship together in a locality. There are responsibilities which a Christian owes God which can only be done by meeting together. A church isn't a building. It is a group of people in a location united together in worship and serving the Lord. Just as one example, Christians are to partake of the Lord's Supper as a church. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread" (I Corinthians 10:16-17).
Yes, there are times when Christians were forced to go places where a church never existed before. But it didn't stay that way. "Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:4). A good friend of mine was converted to Christianity when he was in the Navy. When he returned home, there was no congregation within a 100 miles of his town. So, he converted his girlfriend, they married, and they started holding Bible studies around their kitchen table. They are in their retirement years now, but the congregation they started many years ago still exists. If I could figure out how to afford to live there, I probably would be preaching in that congregation. That is what Christians have always done. Never is it considered adequate to say "There aren't any churches in my area. Oh, well."
I know a young man who started reading about Christianity from this web site. He is from India but was working in a Muslim country. He got several friends together and they began studying their Bibles. Since there were no other Christians in the area, they baptized each other. From that beginning a church was established. That is the way it has always been. It is why true Christianity can't be wiped out. It keeps restarting from the seed (I Peter 1:22-25).
It isn't an American concept. Ethan proved his points from the Scriptures -- something you didn't bother to do. It is God's idea. Preachers, such as Ethan and I, simply make others aware of what God said.
I had to smile when you complained that there are no congregations in your area. I don't know where you are, but I do know there are a lot of churches in India -- I get notes from people in that country all the time. I know of areas in the United States where it is hard to find a sound congregation, so I'm sure there are other areas in the same situation around the world. But since you find yourself there, it just means it is time to get out your Bible and fix that situation in your corner of the world.