Can I be a Disciple of Jesus Without Belonging to a Local Church?

Discipleship and the Church

Discipleship involves the making and nurturing of disciples of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). Professing faith in Jesus commences the lifelong journey of being a pupil of the Lord Jesus. So where is this kind of discipleship supposed to be taking place? Answer: your local church.

Today, many Christians consider the church unimportant, outdated, inefficient, and maybe even a hindrance. Others have been hurt by the church and have virtually given up on her. While the church will always be imperfect this side of heaven, such views fail to take seriously God’s intent for the local church and its role in the life of believers. The church is at the very heart of Jesus’ mission. Christ came to die for his church (Ephesians 5:25). The church is the bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7). The church is the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). And the church is called to go and make disciples and to teach them all that Christ has commanded (Matthew 18:18-20).

The importance of the local church for discipleship has practical implications. Discipleship involves a community of believers; it is never a solo endeavor. There are no lone ranger disciples. God’s appointed arena for discipleship is the church (Ephesians 4:11-16). We need to be involved in the life of a church through worship, instruction, and relationships with fellow believers. Without these components, growth in the Christian life ordinarily does not happen. In the church we are called to worship together (Hebrews 10:25), to grow together (Colossians 1:9-10), and to love one another. The display of this love is actually how the world knows that we are Christ’s disciples (John 13:34-35)! In short, discipleship requires involvement in a local church (Romans 12:3-17). 

Because we are passionate about people knowing Christ and growing in Christ, we are also passionate about the importance of the local church because the church is where discipleship takes place. At Trinity, our desire is to see people trust in the Lord, to know him more deeply, to love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly.