Can you be a Christian and not be part of a local church family?
This is a question that we, as Protestants, usually answer with a hearty "YES!"
The answer I give to the question, however, is "Yes and No." This is how I came to this conclusion:
I believe, as Protestants have historically believed, that salvation is based on God's grace alone. This salvation is confirmed by our faith. Salvation is based on grace alone, not based on works. This may be most clearly stated in Ephesians 2:8-9. If we confess Christ and trust in him, we will be saved (Romans 10:9).
In theory, then, a person can be a Christian without attending any church. He can follow Christ without attachment to a local church body. He can be assured of salvation without being a part of a local gathering.
He can be a part of the universal church of God without being joined with any local manifestation of that church.
This is where it gets difficult. When I look in scripture, I see Christians who want to be with other Christians. I see followers of Jesus Christ sharing life with one another. I read about Christians gathering on a regular basis to build one another up in Christ, to encourage one another during times of trial, to confront one another if one is in sin, and to support each other as they live for Christ as part of the Kingdom of God.
In the bible I do not see Christians who are not part of a local church. There may be instances where a local church does not yet exist (I'm thinking of the Ethiopian eunuch), but that's not what I am discussing. I'm referring to followers of Christ who consciously reject fellowship with a local body. As far as I can see, they do not exist in the bible.
In our day we all know about Christians who have recently moved to a new location and are not yet part of a local body. We also know about those who are too sick to attend anywhere. We are aware to followers of our Lord who have been hurt within church and are a bit "gun shy" of church life. These are not folks I am talking about.
What I am saying is that in the bible we do not see Christians rejecting the church. What we do see is Christians thriving within the church. We see them growing in Christ in part because they are edified by their brothers and sisters in Christ.
So what are we to make of folks who today claim to be followers of Jesus but want no part of church life? We must be careful not to assume anything about their salvation. We ought to try to get to know them and ask to hear their story. If they have no desire to be part of a church, we should love them, serve them, and share the gospel with them. If they continue to reject the church even after we have spent time with them, then we ought to worry about whether or not they know the Lord.
It is normal for Christians to be part of the local church. It is not normal for them to be alone.
So can someone be saved but not be part of a local church? Yes and No.