Jesus gave the church the Great Commission to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). This is a solemn and glorious responsibility. Jesus did not give this commission to one individual. He could have given it to Peter. “Peter, now that you are restored here is what I want you to do. You go and make disciples of all nations.” He gave it to the disciples as a group, and as we see from Acts the disciples obeyed and planted churches, which continued the work of Jesus’ commission.
Jesus gave the command to a collective group of people. The church is the primary vehicle God uses to grow His Kingdom. We must obey as individuals, but we are more equipped to obey when we belong to a church.
We Need Each Other
The Christian life is not meant to be a solo adventure. Membership means belonging. Becoming a member of a local church is an intentional decision on your part and the other Christians in that church to obey Scripture together.
Colossians 3:16 is one of my favorite verses. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Paul is calling the Colossian church to let Christ’s word abundantly dwell in them, and the result is that they would teach and admonish one another in all wisdom. One way they would do this is through singing. One of the key phrases in this verse is “one another”. They were to teach and admonish their brothers and sisters in Christ, within the context of the church. You need to be teaching and admonishing through your singing with the congregation and they do the same for you.
It is impossible to obey this command if we are never around the “one another” Paul mentions. God’s will is that this happens through the church—a local assembled group of Christians. Church membership is one way we express our need for other Christians. We need each other.
Benefits of Church Membership for Evangelism
This means we need each other for the work of evangelism. It is possible to tell others about Jesus without being a member of a church, but we rob ourselves of many benefits if we are not. Here are six benefits for evangelism when you are a church member.
The Great Commission
First, remember Jesus gave the Great Commission to the Church. We can only rightly obey Christ’s command when we are correctly linked to His body. We may tell someone about Jesus, but if that activity is always disconnected from a local church ministry, it is insufficient. To rightly obey we need the church, we need to belong to a local church.
Accountability Through Discipleship
At my church we use our discipleship groups to provide accountability for one another. The accountability provided could be as multi-faceted as the people you have involved since we have our unique struggles.
But one area we ask every group to provide accountability for is evangelism. This is not a time to beat up one another, but to keep evangelism in front of us. This is as simple as asking what non-Christians we are developing a relationship with so that we can share the gospel. This also provides a place where others can share when they did evangelize and how it went. Additionally, and most importantly, it provides opportunities to pray for those who are lost and for those who are spreading the gospel.
Being a part of a local church is an opportunity to receive training in evangelism. It is true that you could buy a book and train yourself, but that is not so much what I have in mind. Churches can—and, in many cases, should—offer formal training in evangelism. The training I have in mind is informal and it can come in many forms.
- You could be trained in evangelism by listening to how your pastor addresses non-Christians during his sermon. He may say something a certain way that you had never thought about. When that happens, you just received informal training.
- The conversations that happen between brothers and sisters in Christ are invaluable as well. You may talk to a mature saint one Sunday morning and hear their testimony of personal growth through evangelism. This, again, is something you can learn from and implement as you see fit.
- Being heavily involved in other people’s lives helps as well. If you consistently go to someone’s house, you will have the opportunity to see how parents treat their children, which gives them an opportunity to tell them the gospel. You can observe their interactions with their neighbors and how knowing and loving someone can lead to an evangelistic conversation.
More could be added, but as we invest in the members of a local church we will grow in evangelism as we see them obeying Scripture. None of us has perfectly figured out evangelism; I know I haven’t. We need each other for continued training.
Not only do we receive training, but support. How is support different than training? Church membership is another way of knowing someone has your back. You know that many people are there for you. When you have a friend that you want to share the gospel with, you have brothers and sisters who will pray for and encourage you. Without the Church, it is easy to get overwhelmed in evangelism. Who would you turn to if you were constantly rejected? Who has your back when you’re alone? With the Church we are never alone.
There will be times when you are burdened to share the gospel with a friend or family member, but you don’t know how to approach it or may not be sure what to say. God gave us pastors and mature saints in the church to help. If there is someone at your church that you think is gifted in evangelism, ask them what they would do. How would they approach the situation?
This is also helpful to know what not to say. I remember a time when my church was going through evangelism training and someone asking me when they should bring up the doctrine of election during evangelism. I politely told them they should stick to the main points of the gospel: God is holy, we are sinners, and therefore we need Jesus and the salvation only He can provide. For this person, if they had not been a member of a local church, they may have become frustrated in their evangelism because they were bringing up a doctrine that could distract from the goal of evangelism. We all know how our flesh, the world, and the devil will try to distract us. This is one reason why sharing about election in this context may not be wise. Of course, if asked a question regarding this doctrine, we should address it Biblically. But always remember the hope and prayer of the evangelistic conversation is to see them come to Christ.
A Team Approach
The final benefit of church membership for evangelism is a team approach. When we read in Scripture that we are to make disciples of all nations it could be intimidating if we were alone. But we aren’t. Jesus is with us and He has given us His Church.
There will be people that God has equipped you to evangelize to that He hasn’t similarly equipped others in your church for. And the opposite is true as well. We should be willing and ready to share the gospel with all people, but there will be times when you may have a harder time with one person and someone else in your church won’t. Be faithful. You may plant the seed and they may see the harvest. But with a team (or more accurately, a family) approach we can each be faithful where God calls us, knowing that we are not alone. In summary, the six benefits of church membership for evangelism are:
- Obeying the Great Commission as Jesus gave it.
- Accountability through discipleship.
- A Team Approach
Evangelism Without Church Membership Leads to Weak Converts
Evangelism without church membership leads to weak converts. Does that statement surprise you? Notice that statement says converts, not disciples. Too often evangelism that is disconnected from the local church leads to converts and not disciples. Perhaps someone was told the gospel and they prayed a prayer and came to church a few times, but they have never been back nor thought about Jesus in years. They may have professed faith, but their current lack of following Jesus should trouble us. Was this person ever truly saved?
In the Great Commission Jesus said we are to baptize and teach. Baptism is another gift Jesus gave to the church. One implication of this is that those that we share the gospel with, if they truly believe in Jesus, will integrate into the life of the church. It will be harder for this to happen if you, the evangelizer, are not a part of a local church.
None of this is meant to be legalistic. Jesus loves the Church (Ephesians 5:22-32), and we should too. We can only love the Church if we are striving to be as committed to it as Jesus is (Acts 9:5). Our present commitment to the Church is an indicator of our present commitment to Jesus. That has implications for our whole spiritual life, including evangelism. Church membership is for your good and has many benefits for evangelism.