I grew up being taught that if you don't attend church at least semi-regularly, you won't be saved. Even now, the mentality of many people I know claims that I, and my family, will be going to hell because of our lack of church attendance. In fact, in a normal given year I attend church approximately three times - Christmas service, Easter service, and usually one random one (maybe it's a mother's day, or confirmation Sunday, or whatever).
But, is church attendance really that important?
I have asked a few pastors this question, and usually get the same response - yes. If you are Christian, and want to be saved, you must attend church. In fact, some seem to place so much importance on this weekly event, that it negates everything else one does throughout the week. This is one of my issues with the Church. Its participants will often leave the church, pleased with their salvation, and head off to the cafe to talk about how horrible other people are... how they won't be saved... how these non-attenders are on a fast track to hell.
Is this really how the game of Christianity is played? Two hours of worship a week, and we can spend the rest of the week being two-faced, back-stabbing, hypocritical people doing the work of Satan? If that's the rules to the game, I don't want to play.
One pastor actually gave me an answer to the question of the necessity of church that made sense. He essentially said that no, church isn't necessary, but some form of fellowship is. This can be a bible study group, a church, or any form of community with a shared spiritual desire and belief.
So what does the Bible say regarding this topic? There is one verse I particularly like:
Matthew 18:20 - For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
1 Timothy seems to have the closest reference to attending a church, but even with these verses, it does not specify that it is to be a church:
1 Timothy 4:13 - Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
1 Timothy 2:8 - I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;
A few neighborhood children, including two of my own, have created their own Bible camp. They gather once or twice a week to read scripture, pray, and discuss and teach each other what they feel the scripture means. By the verses above, they have met the requirements even though they may or may not attend church on a regular basis.
We must not fool ourselves into believing that Church is a requirement, and definitely should be cautious that we are not making this a sole requirement for salvation. We need to worship God in all we do and everywhere we are. We should act as Christians Monday through Saturday as much or more-so as we do on Sundays. Attending Church is not a necessity, provided we are surrounding ourselves with Christians, and doing our best at being good Christians. The reason for the Church is that it is meant to be a place where Christians with similar beliefs can gather... but when the church is not that fellowship, then find a fellowship that works for you whether it be a Church, or a group of friends you can have bible study/conversations with, etc.