Question: "Does a person have to attend church to go to heaven?"
Answer: Salvation is found in Christ. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). God gave His Son so that we may have eternal life, thus destroying the need of good works, including going to church, to go to heaven. Eternal life is attained by faith alone in Christ alone. “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). Those who believe in Christ, who have accepted His sacrifice in payment of their sins, will spend eternity in heaven. Those who reject Him will not.
No amount of church attendance will earn eternity in heaven. No lack of church attendance will result in the loss of salvation. However, church attendance is important. The universal Church, made up of all who believe in Christ to the glory of God the Father, is Christ's body (Colossians 1:18) as well as His Bride (Revelation 21:2). So a church is a place of Christian fellowship. In addition, as members of the body of Christ, we possess certain gifts of the Spirit, and we are to exercise those gifts for the glory of God and the edification of the rest of the body. For a church body to function properly, all of its “body parts” need to be present (1 Corinthians 12:14-20).
Christians who have been made “new creations” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) will have a desire to attend church because they will recognize that doing so is crucial to their spiritual development and maturity. Reluctance toward church attendance may be an indication of disillusion with “organized religion.” There are indeed false churches today, but the true, universal Church is expressed through congregations whose doctrines are based entirely on the Scriptures, which are trustworthy (Psalm 111:7) and inspired by God Himself (2 Timothy 3:16). Although no church is perfect, and church attendance will not guarantee eternal life, finding a good local church is crucial for Christians.