The majority of people in our community do not attend church. This is a statistic that is seen across America. Church attendance and church membership are on the decline. Many people are deferring to practice their spirituality in isolation. With many recent technological advances, a person can have the ‘best’ Bible teachers and resources at their fingertips.
You may be one of those who see little value in a personal church experience. I can understand. I have had many negative encounters with church leaders and attenders. Sometimes I get to the place where it might be better just to practice my religion in private, with no distractions from other believers.
But I hope you understand that the church is important to the life of a person who wants to follow Jesus. You need the church and the church needs you.
Some people think that being a Christian is the same as being a member of the church. But except for a few instances referring to all believers of all time, almost every time the word church is used in the Bible it refers to a local, visible congregation. The Bible says a Christian without a church is like an organ without a body, a sheep without a flock, or a child without a family. It’s not natural.
Today’s independent culture has created an idea among some Christians that I don’t need to be a member of any church. This has created ‘bunny believers’ who hope around from church to church to get what they want from each group. There is no accountability, no identity, or no commitment. Many believe you can be a ‘good Christian’ without joining, or even attending, a local church. But God would disagree.
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
In Rick Warren’s best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, he lists six reasons for being committed and active in a local church. I hope these will help you connect to a good church.
1. A church family identifies you as a genuine believer.
I can’t claim to be following Christ if I’m not committed to any specific group of disciples. Jesus said, ‘Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.’ (John 13:35). When we come together in love as a church family from different backgrounds, race, and social status, it is a powerful witness to the world. You are not the Body of Christ on your own. You ned others to express that. Together, not separated, we are His Body.
2. A church family moves you out of self-centered isolation.
The local church is the classroom for learning how to get along in God’s family. It is a lab for practicing unselfish, sympathetic love. As a participating member you learn to care about others and share the experiences of others: ‘If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it. Or if one part of our body is honored, all the other parts share its honor.’ (1 Corinthians 12:26) Only in regular contact with ordinary, imperfect believers can we learn real fellowship and experience the New Testament truth of being connected and dependent on each other.
3. A church family helps you develop spiritual muscle.
You will never grow to maturity just by attending worship services and being a passive spectator. Only participation in the full life of a local church builds spiritual muscle. The Bible says, ‘As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.’ (Ephesians 4:16).
4. The Body of Christ needs you.
God has a unique role for you to play in His family. This is called your ministry, and God has gifted you for this assignment: ‘A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.’ (1 Corinthians 12:7). Your local fellowship is the place God designed for you to discover, develop, and use your gifts. You may also have a wider ministry, but that is in addition to your service in a local body.
5. You will share in Christ’s mission in the world.
When Jesus walked the earth, God worked through the physical body of Christ; today He uses His spiritual body The church is God’s instrument on earth. We are not just to model God’s love by loving each other; we are to carry it together to the rest of the world. As members of Christ’s body, we are His hands, His feet, His eyes, and His heart. He works through us in the world. We each have a contribution to make. Paul tells us, ‘He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.’ (Ephesians 2:10).
6. A church family will help keep you from backsliding.
None of us are immune to temptation. given the right situation, you and I are capable of any sin. God knows this, so he has assigned us as individuals the responsibility of keeping each other on track. The Bible says, ‘Encourage one another daily… so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.’ (Hebrews 3:13) We are called and commanded to be involved in each other’s lives.
The Christian life is more than just commitment to Christ. It includes a commitment to other Christians. Joining the membership of a local church is the natural next step once you’ve become a child of God. You become a Christian by committing yourself to Christ, but you become a church member by committing yourself to a specific group of believers. The first decision brings salvation. The second brings fellowship.
If you’re still not convinced you should be part of a local church, check out the experience of Bill, the Church Hopper…
What are other good reasons to be a member of a local church?