Every now and again, as a pastor, I get asked, “Why should I join a local church? I mean, I’m a Christian, which means I’m a part of the universal church. I attend church semi-regularly. Why do I have to join a local church?” For the most part, that’s an honest question. And an honest question deserves an honest answer. So:
Why should you join a local church?
I believe there are two reasons.
1. God has commanded it in Scripture.
The writer of Hebrews says,
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Heb 10:24–25)
First things first. God commanded us to join together with one another. Since we are commanded to gather together for the purposes of helping one another grow in love and good works, we shouldn't neglect that activity. In order to know which people you are to gather with, you need to commit to them. You show your commitment by joining that particular church.
2. God has given us the local church as a place where you can:
- Use your spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12; 14; Eph 4)
- Learn more about Him (Joshua 1:8; Ps 1:2; 112:1; Matt. 4:4)
- Be held accountable and be helped to grow in your spiritual walk (Heb. 13:7, 17; 1 Jn 5:14-15; 1 Tim. 2:8; Eph. 6:16-18; James 5:16; Phil. 1:15-18; Gal. 2:11-16; Col. 1:21-23)
- Serve others and the community (1 Tim. 5:3-16; Acts 6:1-7; James 1:27; Matt. 28: 18-20; John 6:35-40)
It is hard to do those things if you aren’t a member of a church. That’s because people in the church don’t know if you want them to hold you accountable or not. The leadership doesn’t know if you want them to shepherd and guide you spiritually. Nor does the church as a whole know if you want them to help you use your spiritual gifts.
In reality, you may not even be given the opportunity to use all your spiritual gifts if you aren’t a member. At the church I pastor, if you aren’t a member, you can’t head up a ministry, you can’t teach, you can’t serve on different committees, nor can you be a deacon. We aren’t the only church that limits people in these ways. Many churches limit non-members ability to serve.
For those reasons, I believe it is important you join a local church.
When I say local, I mean local.
I know it’s popular to attend a church with a big name celebrity pastor. Generally, they have more resources, deliver better sermons, and produce better content. They didn’t garner the following they have without being able to do those things. While it’s fine to attend those churches, I’m not against big churches or celebrity pastors, I don’t think you should drive out of your local area to do so. I say that because doing so will generally make attending weekly worship services and other church activities a burden. I don’t know about you, but I usually don’t do that which is a burden consistently.
When you aren’t attending regularly, you usually aren’t serving, holding others accountable, and being held accountable, or serving the community. Instead, you become a pew-sitting consumer who shows up a couple of times a month. When I read Hebrews 10, I don’t think that is the type of gathering together with one another the author had in mind.