Church Membership Part 3 Why join a church?
Over our last two dives into church membership, we have considered a biblical case for membership and some wrong reasons to join a church. Now, we look at the positive reasons for covenanting with a local church. Why should you join a church?
Before we begin, I’d like to compare church membership and marriage. Paul used marriage to illustrate Christ and the church. When we bring that comparison down to the local congregation level, it continues to be helpful for our understanding.
Consider people who say they support the idea of marriage. They think marriage is healthy. They believe society is better off if marriage exists. But, the rubber meets the road when they say, “I do.” A married person who still affirms marriage in practice is more persuasive than a single person affirming marriage in theory.
There are at least four key ways in which a church member is more committed than an attendee. Using the illustration of the marriage commitment as a backdrop, think of the following reasons to join a church.
Mutual Practice of Love: The local body of believers is where we practice committed love. Can Christians love apart from the church? Sure, but is it love at the same depth? I can love my neighbor as Jesus taught me. I can love the random person in need of mercy. But hanging with another person through thick and thin in a committed relationship is something more. The local church is that unique place where we can put the one-anothers of scripture into practice.
Mutual Accountability: This is pivotal. The church is a place that says of us, “Yes, we know that person to be a true follower of Christ. This person is not perfect but is a repentant believer seeking to honor Christ. He or she is not sinless, but they are striving.” That encourages us.
When Lydia was converted at the preaching of Paul she says this after her baptism, “And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ And she prevailed upon us.” (Acts 16:15 ESV) She wanted that accountability.
On the front end, we need people who affirm us as believers. We also require accountability on the back end. We need to know that if we start to fall away, to wander or to fall into unrepentant sin, that there is a committed local church congregation to call us back.
Mutual Edification: The church is like a body, and each person within it is part of the local body. Each part is said to be there for the edification of the other parts. Edification means to build up. The hand needs, the elbow, the arm, the shoulder, the foot, and vice versa. We are not meant to be random amputated body parts lying along the world’s highway. We need to build up others and be built up as well. If the one part cannot depend that the other part will remain committed, then edification will be lackluster.
Mutual Work: Finally, the local church is a partnership in the gospel. We share in common work. So, when a team goes over to Southeast Asia, it is an extension of Grace Community Church that is there serving. When our mentoring ministry is connecting and reaching hurting people in Great Bend, that is shared work. When we make disciples, and these disciples win the lost and make disciples, it is a common work. We need that partnership.
Next time, I’ve got one bonus piece on membership I’d like to talk about, and that will be what decisions you need to make before joining yourself to a specific church.