Does it really matter if I actually join a church? Am I not already a member of “the church”? Isn’t my personal relationship with Jesus what really matters? Such questions are common and not altogether surprising given our individualistic culture and natural tendency towards independence. However, such questions also reveal a misunderstanding about the church and God’s purposes in and through the church.
The Scripture makes it clear:
…I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
1 Timothy 3:15
…if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
Believers in the New Testament clearly identified themselves with a specific local group of believers and elders and were challenged to become committed participants. We want to follow that biblical precedent, and membership is our way of doing that.
Unlike membership in social organizations or sports teams, becoming a member of a local church signifies something deep, something fundamental to our Christian lives. Membership makes possible a community life that could never be experienced by a collection of “attendees.” Such a community is marked by promises of serving one another, willingness to resolve conflicts biblically, pastoral care, and joining together to serve God both within and beyond the local church.
Membership in a local church is also a significant means to our personal growth. We are taught from God’s word that in the church we experience the life-transforming benefits of fellowship, our gifts can be employed, and we can experience the grace of God as we serve others. It’s an important spiritual step that moves each of us out of the vague clouds of our good intentions and into the clear light of committed belonging. In this way, becoming a member of a specific local church can be a very significant decision in your spiritual walk.