Someone asks, "Why should I be a member of my local church?" I think you should and it matters on several levels. Here is why.
In an increasingly individual culture where the most important person is 'me', church membership is seen as impinging on my time. But as you examine the Bible and church history you see that being a member of a local church is not only Biblical but a vital way to be connected to something bigger than you are.
Before we begin, remember that being a Christian is 'all' based on Jesus' free gift. The gracious sacrifice of Himself in our place for our sin is what being saved into the Church is all about. And Church in the New Testament is always seen as the body of believers, God's people, Christ's bride, not a building or a club.
So church is not a building, it's a people. You don't welcome people "to church" because people 'are' the church.
But while it is not a "salvation issue" being a member of a local church is an important witness and outworking of this saving faith. Here are some reasons why being a church member matters:
How do we know you are a Christian? Is your 'own' definition of faith a definitive witness? Many people say they are Christians. But unless a group of mature Christians examine your beliefs and your life and confirm this then you could be just another person whose self-confidence is unchecked. This was part of the church's challenges post reformation (17 Century onwards).
Many people proclaimed a faith but it was the Elders of the local church that would mentor and examine an individual to see if their beliefs really aligned with what the Bible says. From this nurturing approach they could be confirmed as a follower of Christ. This was the core of church membership.
This is a different look from the way some see church membership today but this core is still the same. The church leadership should strengthen and guide people to a more mature faith (i.e. membership).
It's a Biblical idea that if you are to submit your life to Jesus then you have to show submission (i.e. membership) to the local church (read Romans chapter 13). The Lord has His people and they meet together. We call this a gathering of the church. The church has leaders that God has given pastoral oversight to (1 Timothy chapter 3).
To acknowledge that God has given them oversight means that individuals can't see themselves as the boss. To go to church but not be part of that group of believers is a rejection of their authority. Again, this is a different understanding in our day with a culture that bucks authority. This isn't compatible with the idea that we must also acknowledge the authority of Jesus being Lord of all of life.
Some Elders (unfortunately, not often now) would visit each member before communion to see how their walk with the Lord was going, if they had any pastoral issues, and if they were preparing their hearts for the Lord's Table. This is a reflection of the benefit of being part of a church family that guides and encourages its members to be stronger in their faith (part of 1 Corinthians chapter 11 verse 28).
It shows a dual commitment: the church leaders committed to growing its disciples and the Christian committed to this growth of the wider church through being anchored to a local group of believers. The key in this area is church membership.
You are part of the solution or part of the problem. I have heard many people say, "Church is full of hypocrites" and "the church has serious problems." True! There is NO perfect church. This is because there are no perfect Christians. In fact, the letters in the New Testament highlight all these problems in the local church.
The start of the Book of Revelation describes churches that all had issues they needed to address. Read the start of the Book of Galatians and you get a very clear idea that the church has never been perfect. But that is why we need the gospel: to transform lives and rescue us. That is why we need to be part of this gospel solution, not part of the problem.
The point is you won't find a perfect church because you (and me and others) are not perfect. That is the point: God is refining us through this imperfection. But we have to be part of this imperfect church to make a difference to both ourselves and the church: to support and encourage one another.
In a culture that avoids commitment, to be a member of a group often brings uncomfortable feelings. But if the church is to have an impact in your local area it needs committed Christians that work together for His glory.
So, are you a member of your local church? Chat with your Pastor or leaders and ask: how do I know that I am really a Christian? Do you have a spirit of individualism and rebellion against authority rather than a commitment to growing the church? Are you fully committed to using your gifts to glorify God or do you want a church to offer you a product?
Church membership matters. Chat with your church leaders to find out more about this.
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor. Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover.html. This article appears courtesy of Christian Today Australia