Why does church membership matter? Isn’t it just a formal structure we can take or leave? What’s the big deal, anyway?
You may say, “I can be part of Christ’s cosmic church without joining a local church.” To that, I would say, “Try it.” Try being a sideline-Christian. Try saying to your fellow Christians that you worship with week-in and week-out, sit in a community group with, fellowship with, and say, “I really love you, but I don’t want to covenant with you. I don’t want to commit to you. You never know, another church down the road might give me more of what I’m looking for. I want to keep my options open.”
You might not say those words with your mouth, but your unwillingness to enter the church body says it with your actions.
More importantly, you’re saying to Jesus, “I love you, but I don’t love your church.” Theologian Russell Moore says: “Saying ‘I love Jesus’ but hating the church is as irrational as saying to your best friend, ‘I like you–I just can’t stand being around you.’ Your attitude toward the church tells you–simply–your attitude toward Jesus.”
Now, I’m not trying to pile on anyone. I’m simply trying to express how important this is. After all, Jesus does call his Church his Bride. Commitment matters to him.
Church membership matters because it is the Church that Christ promised to build. It matters because it is the Church that is on the offensive against the gates of hell and the gates of hell will not prevail. We all know an army is stronger than an individual soldier. A Church is stronger than a Christian.
The world is a dark place, isn’t it? What’s God’s answer to this present darkness? It’s the Church! My friend Jared Wilson says, “The Church is God’s Plan A for the world, and there is no Plan B.” If you want to join Christ in pressing his light into the darkness, you cannot do it apart from the Church. The Church is where he works. The Church is where he saves. The Church is where he builds. The Church is where he moves. The Church is who he’s coming back for. When you join the church, you’re saying, “I will not let the darkness overcome the light. I will join Christ’s army for his glory. I will join my brothers and sisters not with a noncommittal I’ll-make-it-if-I-can attitude but with a firm I’ll-stand-by-you-and-die-for-you conviction worthy of the risen Christ.”
And as we do that, we find that through his gospel doctrine, God creates a gospel culture. And as we follow the Lamb wherever he goes, he creates a gospel family on mission together to evangelize the world for his glory alone.
You may be thinking, “Well, that sounds great, but I’m not sure I can do it. Sometimes I even wonder if I’m a Christian. Sometimes I fail to obey. Sometimes I struggle with intimacy with God.”
Well, Jesus said he did not come for the righteous, but for sinners. You may come in some days needing your fellow members to carry you on a stretcher. That’s fine with Jesus. He came to heal the paralytic. You may come some days so blinded by the world that you can’t see. Well, Jesus gives sight to the blind. You may come in so discouraged and lifeless that you’re not sure you can sing praises to God. Well, you’ve got brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers who will lift your faith up with their faith.
And those days you come in feeling good and ready to praise the Lord, it’s your job to pick up those limping in. You can’t fix them, but Jesus can! And maybe they need your help for years. Fine. Keep taking them to Jesus as they keep taking you to him. We’re in this together, guys!
Can we do that?
I know we can because Jesus died for his Church. He hung on the cross., and he took all our sin with him into the grave. And on that third day, he rose victoriously, and came walking toward us, gathering people in every city, in every country, in every nook and cranny of the world into local churches, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against the work of God. Sorry, Devil, Christ’s Church is here, and we’re going to be triumphant in him!
We can have meaningful church membership because what Jesus died for, he will also give life to. Jesus died for the church. He will give life to it.
Church membership is God’s idea, it’s revealed in his Word, it matters to God, and goodness knows, it’s good for us.
Editor's Note: This post originally appeared at David's blog, Things of the Sort.