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 (Acts 1:15, 2:41, 4:4), rolls were kept (1 Tim. 5:9), servants were selected (Acts 6:2-5), discipline was practiced (1 Cor. 5:12-13), worship was corporate (1 Cor 14:23), and shepherds knew for whom they were responsible (Heb. 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 (1 Cor 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 (1 Cor 12:7, 11). As we use our gifts, we are being 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 (1 Jn 4:7). We also need the spiritual oversight and soul care of faithful shepherds (Heb 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 (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 (Eph 2:10; John 15:2). The fruit of the Spirit is primarily manifested in our relationships with others (Gal 5:22-23). Believers are to follow the example of Christ the Master Servant (Jn 13:15). 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.
For a fuller study of the subject of church membership download a free PDF study guide.
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[Originally posted September 19, 2011]