Why Do We Need Church?
I want people to see something of the urgency of the need for a healthy local church in a Christian’s life and to begin sharing the passion for the church that characterizes both Christ and his followers. I want people to see that, for the sake of their souls, they need to join a local church.
If you want to follow Christ but aren’t a member of a local church, consider with me one compelling reason why you should join one.
Be Held Accountable
You don’t join a church in order to be saved, but you may want to join the church to help you in making certain that you are saved. Remember the words of Jesus:
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. . . . If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. . . . You are my friends if you do what I command. . . . Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 14:21; 15:10, 14; 13:17)
I could quote many more words from Jesus that teach us how we are to follow him and how we must be careful not to delude ourselves. In joining a church, we are asking our brothers and sisters to hold us accountable to live according to what we speak with our mouths. We ask the brothers and sisters around us to encourage us, sometimes by reminding us of ways that we have seen God work in our lives and, other times, by challenging us when we may be moving away from obeying him.
We Covenant Together
It is easy to fool ourselves into thinking we’re Christians simply because at one time we made a tearful decision and then joined a church. Perhaps we’ve gone along with the life of the church for years, supporting its organizations, making friendships based around activities, liking some of the hymns, complaining about others, but never really knowing Christ. Do you have a vital relationship with Christ that changes your life and the lives of those around you?
How can you tell if you do? One of the ways you can discover the truth about your own life is to ask this question: Do I understand that following Christ fundamentally involves how I treat other people, especially other people who are members of my church? Have I covenanted together to love them, and do I give myself to that?
Or, have you claimed that you know a love from God in Christ, and yet live in a way that contradicts that claim? Do you claim that you know this kind of love that knows no bounds, and yet in loving others you set bounds, saying in effect, I’ll go this far but no further? Membership in a local church is not an antiquated, outdated, unnecessary add-on to true membership in the universal body of Christ.
Such a claim to love, without a life backing it up, is a bad sign. And yet, if you just hang out by yourself and refuse to join a church, other Christians can’t help you. You’re sailing your own little ship your own little way. You’ll come to church when you like the sermons, you’ll come when you like the music or when you like something else that the church does, then you’ll sail on out to wherever else you may go when you want something else.
Membership in a local church is not an antiquated, outdated, unnecessary add-on to true membership in the universal body of Christ; membership in a local church is intended to be a testimony to our membership in the universal church. Church membership does not save, but it reflects salvation. And if there is no reflection of our salvation, how can we be sure that we are truly saved? As John explains, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).
In becoming a member of the church, we are grasping hands with each other to know and be known by each other. We are agreeing to help and encourage each other when we need to be reminded of God’s work in our lives or when we need to be challenged about major discrepancies between our talk and our walk.