During our current sermon series entitled “Church Basics” we have investigated and answered several questions about the church such as…
What is the church?
Who established the church and upon what basis?
What type of power and authority does the church have?
How should the church function or operate?
How does Christ view the church?
What should the church be doing?
How does a person become a member of the church?
This morning, in our eighth message of this series, we're going to ask the question, “Why should someone join the church?” When we look at the attitudes of most people today, participation in the church does not seem to hold the same priority that it once did. The contemporary culture does not value or even recognize the benefits offered by church membership. As a result, many never attend church while others come only occasionally or when it is convenient for them. Many people who do attend the church never formally join. This can be compared with couples that choose to live together, but never actually get married. These regular attenders desire to receive the benefits offered by the church without being committed to it in any official way.
Jesus ordained the church and it is described in the Bible as “the body of Christ” – the physical body (or organization) that He indwells here on the earth. Jesus loves the church, “gave Himself for it”, and calls it His “bride”. Clearly, Jesus was and is formally committed to covenant relationship with His church. I wouldn’t want to ever stand before Christ and try to explain why, when the church is so valuable to Him, I didn’t think that joining His church was important enough to take seriously.
There are numerous reasons why a person should formally join a local church. This morning we're going to consider five of them. These are some benefits of church membership.
I. CONVICTIONS - 2 Timothy 1:12
A person's convictions are their personal beliefs. They are those things which a person is convinced are true. Paul was thoroughly convinced that Christ was/is the Son of God, and was certain that the things he was preaching and teaching were accurate. He had strong convictions that ultimately he was willing to die for. These weren't just personal preferences or opinions that were subject to change with the circumstances, but the were deeply held convictions that remained steadfast.
I remember a country song from several years ago by Aaron Tippin called, “You’ve Got to Stand For Something.” It was written based on a quote that supposedly was spoken by Alexander Hamilton back in 1798 who said, “You’ve got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything.” His point was that without a set of core convictions, a person has no moral grounding by which to make decisions. This is a recipe for disaster.
All churches have different sets of beliefs and ideas regarding God. People who hop from one church to the next present a very ambiguous testimony, making it difficult to know what they really believe – if anything. By formally joining a local church, a person gives clear indication of what their core convictions are – what they stand for. This makes them a much more effective witness for the cause of Christ.
II. CONCERNS - Psalm 37:4
The Bible teaches that each person has different desires - things that they want out of life. People also carry different burdens and concerns in their minds and hearts. Some of these develop as a result of painful experiences. Many people seek an avenue through which they can work to help these particular causes that are most important to them. Others have personal concerns that they themselves need to be addressed. The church provides a place for people to utilize their unique gifts and to meet their deepest concerns.
Each church is uniquely different… even those within the same denomination. For example, no two Southern Baptist churches are exactly alike, though they share the same basic core beliefs. Each is uniquely characterized by its people – particularly in the way it implements the church’s ministries and programs. Just as God gifts individuals differently, He works through churches in a variety of ways to accomplish various tasks. By formally joining a local church, a person reveals what they value, what their concerns are, what ministries are important to them, and how they want to serve. It is important that the personality and cares of the church are consistent with its members so that they “fit” into the congregation.
III. CARE - Acts 20:28
The Bible describes the devil as a lion who is roaming about seeking those whom he can devour. Scripture says that there are ravenous wolves out there who delight in preying on the sheep. Christians who do not keep close to the fold become more susceptible to attack and more likely to fall when it inevitably comes. Those who are younger and less mature in the faith can be easily led astray by false teachers who seek to destroy the family of God. It is a basic principle there is safety in numbers.
Elders in the church, who have over time developed a mature Christian character, are responsible to and can more effectively shepherd – that is lead, nurture, and protect – a specific flock of people. These caretakers include the pastor and deacons. When membership is not established, people do not fully avail themselves to this defense. As a result, there is no specific leadership to whom the person is accountable and no one from whom to receive to counsel, correction, and care. By joining a local church, the member places himself or herself in and under the spiritual protection of other Christians, shielded in a sense from false teachings and doctrines.
IV. COMMITMENT - Luke 9:62
We live in a generation that wants to receive all of the benefits without taking on any of the responsibilities. This is a sad fact of life that can be applied in many areas, including one's relationship with the church. There are many people who attend large churches specifically so they will not be noticed or expected to do anything. By blending into the crowd, they seek to avoid having to make a solemn commitment to the church itself. Some people are simply terrified of commitment.
Formally joining a local church establishes a person’s priority for giving of their time, talents, prayers, and resources. While it does not limit a member from supporting other churches or ministries, it clarifies that their intent is to make that specific local church the primary recipient of their ministry and support. This commitment defines and concentrates the member’s efforts, thereby allowing them to become more effective and less haphazard in their own personal service.
V. CONNECT - Ephesians 4:1-3
The church is a place where someone can go to meet people and make friendships that will last a lifetime. Hopefully, the members of the church will treat one another with brotherly love and affection as they strive model the behavior of Jesus. Personally, I’ve met almost every one of my closest friends over the past 30 at church. As fellow Christians connect with one another and relationships are established and developed, the church itself is strengthened.
It is one thing to have extended family across town, in another state, or even on the other side of the world. But the family in your immediate proximity is what provides consistent encouragement, strength, and joy. So it is in the local church. We need our church family from day-to-day, week-to-week, to share our lives with and to fellowship together. The relationships and connections we make with other believers create this “home” for us within the church. The Christian life was never intended to be lived individually.
Some might argue that one can receive all of these benefits without ever formally joining the church, and perhaps to some degree they are correct. But to fully enjoy them as God intends, a person must join the church and become an active participant within it. This is a truth that I have learned through a lifetime of experience. The church has provided me and my family with innumerable and invaluable benefits that have carried us through the highs and lows of life, and it will continue to do so for years to come.
People who don’t participate in church miss out on so much… and many don’t even realize it. My sister had been out of church for many years. During this time she faced defeat, depression, and countless hardships. Without the benefits of the church, she was left to face these struggles largely alone in many cases. Recently she was encouraged to join a local church and, to my delight, she did so. Although the trials of life remain, her attitude and countenance have changed dramatically and I sense a joy in her that had been absent for years. She is a vivid example of the benefits of being involved in church.
JFK once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you… ask what you can do for your country.” As we apply this statement to the church, we might say, “Ask not what your church can do for you… ask what you can do for your church”. There is no doubt that the church provides many benefits to its members, but these should not be the primary reason that people attend. Ultimately it is not about what we can get from the church, but rather what we can give to it. There should be a mutual benefit. So ask yourself… how am I beneficial to the church?