Those who have had bad experiences with “religious people” or a certain church should not use such experiences as an excuse to totally reject religion in general. Some say they reject “organized religion” and do not “attend church” but still follow Christ. Is that possible? The word “religion” is not a bad word, as many people seem to think. James used the word in a positive way (Jam. 1:26, 27). Christ Himself was a religious person who had a “custom” of regularly assembling with others of like faith (Lk. 4:16-19). The apostles and early Christians regularly gathered to encourage one another and to worship (Acts 2:36-47; 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:18, 20, 33; 14:23; 16:2), and Christ commands all Christians to faithfully assemble with other Christians for these purposes (Heb. 10:23-31; cf. 1 Cor. 14:37).
Christ shed His blood for His church (Acts 20:28), so to say the church is not important is to say Christ shed His blood in vain. Christ’s church was in God’s eternal purpose, and faithful membership in it is necessary for salvation (Eph. 3:9-11; 5:23; Rev. 2:8-11). Christ’s followers are supposed to love one another enough to die for one another (1 Jn. 3:16), so refusing to assemble with Christ’s followers while claiming to follow Christ is hypocritical and contrary to what Christ Himself commanded (Heb. 10:23-31; cf. 1 Cor. 14:37). Those who use this excuse either have not studied God’s Word enough to know His will, or they willfully reject what they know Christ commanded (Heb. 10:26).
There can be bad apples in any group of people (like Judas among the apostles), but that does not mean every apple is bad. None of us are beyond the possibility of committing a sin, but that does not mean there are no sincere Christians, or that nobody can be faithful. We simply must repent and do what God commanded us to do to be forgiven and faithful (Acts 2:36-42; 8:12-24; 1 Jn. 1:6—2:6; 5:3). We should therefore love and appreciate others who have repented and are faithful, instead of having a negative attitude toward them. As for those who are not faithful to Christ, we should love them enough to teach them how to be faithful, but we may have to move on if they make it clear they refuse to be faithful (Mt. 7:6; 10:14,15; 28:18-20; Acts 13:44-46; 18:6; 19:8-10). If we refuse to repent and be faithful, we should not call ourselves Christians, followers of Christ (Lk. 9:23; 14:25-35; Rev. 3:1). However, if we are faithful, we will be faithfully assembling with others who are faithful in our area and practice pure and undefiled religion before God (Jam. 1:27).