Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”— Revelation 19:7-9 (ESV)
There are many reasons why you should join a church, I will speak to some of those and my own experience in this post. Know that this is meant to encourage casual attendees and those that have not made that commitment yet to take the step toward church membership. I don’t want to disparage believers that aren’t church members but call them to action in an encouraging way.
I have heard many arguments against church membership; I love Jesus but I don’t like (or even hate) the church, I don’t want to make a commitment to any one church, I don’t feel connected anywhere, etc. I am with you, I know the reasons and have been there too. I have thought a lot of these things too and in fact in my past brokenness I was ready to swear off all church ties for doing church “at home”. Thank God my husband said that was not an option for our family and was more faithful in this area than I was at the time. I want to compel you as you read this that although there may be many reasons not to join a church according to some, the reasons to join are far better and not just better, exceedingly so.
Firstly, It is an obvious mandate from the Word to join a church. The scripture says it time and again in scripture, Acts 2, Hebrews 10:19-25. I don’t believe that church membership can be refuted from the Bible. What this means that for the regular attendee, casual attendee, the church hopper, the “I can’t find the right church” shopper, that for all of us, it is a commandment that we should enter in joyfully.
The fact that a believer would not join a church for one reason or another is a rather modern concept.
The idea of experiencing salvation
without belonging to a local church
is foreign to the New Testament. -John MacArthur
I know that finding a church is hard, It can feel like dating, and I don’t remember the sliding doors method of dating to be enjoyable at all. But don’t date the church, no church is perfect, and like no potential spouse is perfect. If we are to have unreasonable expectations for the church body then we never will be happy in a local church body. I am not saying it is wrong to have core beliefs and values that line up with a church, we all have when finding a church. What I am saying is that there will be things that are not that important when searching for a church family.
In my own experience, I believed at one point that I needed a church that was filled with people like me to be ministered by it. Not in looks so much but whether we had the same type of background, socioeconomic status, likes or dislikes, geographic location, stage of life etc. I can tell you that all of those things don’t matter when God is doing the adopting and bringing all peoples together. I have benefitted from so much love, acceptance and friendship from women who are so different than me. I know that God brought us to where we are now so that we could grow in biblical wisdom but also just to be smothered in love from a wonderful church body.
Church membership is not an option for the believer.
Secondly, church membership is a commitment to family. John Piper says:
The blood-bought church of Christ is the new, supernatural family. Single people, married people, old and young, rich and poor, every ethnicity find brothers and sisters here. Marriage is temporary. Parenting is temporary. But the church — the new family — is eternal.
God wanted us to join in together as a family. A family on mission, a family that loves one another and loves others around us.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Romans 12:10-13 (ESV)
When you make a commitment to church membership, you make a commitment to a local body of believers. You are saying this is my family, we will live life together. I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to have fellow believers to come beside you and love you and serve with you.
Our church happens to be an excellent picture of the family of the church. When I have been in low places and living hard life they have reached out to me in the sweetest and most gospel-filled ways. God is blessing my family because of our church. One thing I have desired for years was to have believing older women in my life to whisper sweetly “Everything will be ok, I’ve been there and God is Sovereign”. I have that now and it is such a wonderful thing, but also women of all ages loving me in tender ways.
Thirdly, A family benefits one another. I was tempted to say you shouldn’t join a church just because of the benefits but maybe that isn’t quite true, maybe the benefits are part of the deal and because the benefits are all God-things we should. One benefit is that a local church has shepherds lead us on this faith journey (Acts 20). I have discovered in my own experience that not having that kind of spiritual guidance and “flock tending” can be dangerous. It is good to have Elders teaching us sound word and leading us as it pertains to that word. What isn’t good, in my opinion, is to never have your faith and your words probed by other believers. For me many times there has been a loving question asked in response to something I may have said regarding my faith and it has made me examine my thinking and whether or not it was biblical. If you are shouting your beliefs into a mirror then you agree with yourself and are never challenged. Pastors, Elders and your church family are not going to mirror your sin, they aren’t going to say “Yes, you are right always and they is nothing you ever should be challenged on”. To make a comparison the church is more like light-refining prisms. It is good to be challenged on your faith on your beliefs.
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
This also brings up the fact that church discipline is essential and beneficial to the body. Matthew 18:15-17 The church is a place where we are continuously transforming and being led in the word, corrected if need be, but in love and with grace and mercy. We are mutually edified by one another in the church if we choose to be committed to one another.
But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
The benefits of a church family, a local body, are desirable and should be essential for the believer.
Living out a commitment to a local church involves many responsibilities: exemplifying a godly lifestyle in the community, exercising one’s spiritual gifts in diligent service, contributing financially to the work of the ministry, giving and receiving admonishment with meekness and in love, and faithfully participating in corporate worship. Much is expected, but much is at stake. For only when every believer is faithful to this kind of commitment is the church able to live up to her calling as Christ’s representative here on earth. To put it simply, membership matters. John MacArthur
There can be consequences from not joining a church, I think I outlined some of them as we went along but know that obedience, commitment, benefits all should compel us toward being a member in a local body. Christ loves the church, when we say we hate the church, what are we really saying? “Christ, your church that you love, that are humans and sinners that you died for, that church, they aren’t good enough for me.” We should not be so pretentious about church. Our expectations are usually unreasonable. Our pains are valid, they truly are, but how better would it be to allow the church to help heal the pain of our “church” experiences. We should also love what Christ loves, in order to be Christ-like. If you aren’t a member of a local body as a believer is it not act of disobedience?
The body of Christ is his Bride, we don’t really have the option to say “no” to being the bride of Christ if we are believers. We need the church family just as God knew we would and instructed us to be in it. Our desire should be obedience.