by Paul Tautges
It is our conviction that every Christian should be an active member of a Bible-teaching local church. As believers in Christ, we are members of His body and must discipline ourselves to be actively involved in ministry as a way of life. Here are some specific reasons why you should be a committed member of a solid, Bible-teaching local church.
1. You follow the pattern set forth in the New Testament. Although the word “membership” itself is not used the principle is present in the New Testament. For example, most of our NT books are letters that were written to specific groups of people who had chosen to identify themselves with Christ and each other. The word “church” is almost always used to refer to a specific group of people who in some way had committed themselves to serving the Lord and one another in the same ministry location. Numbers were known (At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together)…So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls…But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. – Acts 1:15, 2:41, 4:4), rolls were kept (A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man. – 1 Timothy 5:9), servants were selected (So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. – Acts 6:2-5), discipline was practiced (For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves. – 1 Corinthians 5:12-13), worship was corporate (Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad? – 1 Corinthians 14:23), and shepherds knew for whom they were responsible (Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. – Hebrews 13:17). If you are a part of the body of Christ by virtue of repentant faith in Jesus Christ then you should want to make that association visibly known through church membership.
2. You have a greater opportunity to use your spiritual gifts. At the moment of your conversion the Holy Spirit came to live inside of your body (Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? – 1 Corinthians 6:19). When He did this, He brought along the spiritual gift(s) that He sovereignly chose for you to possess for the blessing of the church (But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. – 1 Corinthians 12:7, 11). As we use our gifts, we are being good stewards of the manifold grace of God (As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. – 1 Peter 4:10). Can you use your spiritual gift without joining a church? Yes, but in most churches many ministry opportunities are limited to church members only. This is as it should be. Unity in doctrine, purity of life, and submissive accountability to one another and leaders are necessary for a healthy Christian life. The process of becoming a member also gives the existing leadership the opportunity to discern one’s agreement in doctrine, ministry purpose, and goals; thus enabling them to know where best you may serve.
3. You become a more committed part of a spiritual family. Joining a local church demonstrates a certain level of commitment. It shows that you want to be more than a bystander, that you want to be involved in ministry in a more significant way. Joining a local church is like entering into a covenant relationship with other believers in order to love them as an active part of a spiritual family (Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. – 1 John 4:7). We also need the spiritual oversight and soul care of faithful shepherds (Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. – Hebrews 13:17).
4. You ensure a balanced Christian life. By nature we all have the tendency to gravitate toward extremes. God’s design for the church—as a multi-faceted body whose members are interrelated and interdependent—provides the ideal atmosphere for balanced Christian growth. As we sharpen each other, our continual contact with other believers promotes balance. In his book, Spiritual Disciplines within the Church: Participating fully in the body of Christ, Donald Whitney writes, “No one develops the proper spiritual symmetry just by listening to Christian radio, watching Christian television, or reading Christian books. You can’t get this kind of maturity merely by participating in a group Bible study. Unless you’re an active part of a local church, your Christian life and ministry will be imbalanced.”
5. You avail yourself of the wisdom of a multitude of counselors. God never intended for us to live our lives independent of others, or “above” them. He desires for us to develop relationships of accountability with other Christians. According to Proverbs 11:14, in the abundance of counselors there is victory. The local church is a great place to find wise counsel and direction from spiritual leadership and older, more mature believers (But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us. – Titus 2:1-8). These relationships will help guide you in the many decisions that you face in life so that you may discern God’s good and perfect will.
6. You experience the joy of serving others. God has re-created us in Christ Jesus for the purpose of bringing glory to Him by bearing fruit (For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them – Ephesians 2:10. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. – John 15:2). The fruit of the Spirit is primarily manifested in our relationships with others (But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23). Believers are to follow the example of Christ the Master Servant (For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. – John 3:15). By joining a local church, you are agreeing with God that one of the ways to bear fruit in the Christian life is by serving others.