Why Join a Church

One of the most countercultural things you can do is become an engaged member of a faithful local church.

In our flighty and noncommittal age, neither non-Christians nor Christians are naturally inclined to find a place to put down roots and make longstanding, objective commitments for the good of others. We want to keep our options open and, above all, preserve our own freedom of choice rather than make a covenant for the long haul and embrace a framework for real life in all its ups and downs.

But what if you went against the grain and became part of the solution to the modern problem of being so noncommittal? What if you joined the rebellion, and pledged your loyalty and engagement to a Bible-believing, gospel-cherishing local church?

Does the Bible Even Mention Membership?

Most of us have raised eyebrows at some point about the concept of church membership. “Membership”—where do we see that in the New Testament? Is it really essential to join a church? Can’t I get everything I need as a Christian from being a regular attender?

It’s true that the New Testament makes no direct argument for our modern concept of membership. The gospel’s initial advance into a pagan and pre-Christian world was a different situation than we find today in our increasingly post-Christian society. The complexities of life two millennia later make church-belonging as difficult, and as important, as ever. Not only are we less inclined to make firm commitments, but our cities and towns are much bigger, and church options more diverse.

But whether you call it “membership,” “partnership” or something else, the New Testament assumes some form of committed, accountable belonging as a reality for every true follower of Jesus. Each Christian has a definite place of local belonging. To be baptized is to become part of a particular local body.

“In the New Testament,” John Piper observes, “to be excluded from the local church was to be excluded from Christ.”

Six Reasons to Put Down Roots

Here, then, are six reasons, among many, to go against the noncommittal grain, put down roots, join a particular local church and be as involved as possible in the life of that church.

1. Your Own Assurance

Being accepted into membership in a Bible-believing, responsibly led church rightly gives affirmation and reinforces confidence that your faith is real, that it’s not your own private, self-made religion, but part of “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Jesus gives his church “the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” and according to Matthew 16:19, “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” It is no small thing for a solid local church to find your profession of faith to be credible, and your lifestyle and conduct not disqualifying, and to accept you into membership.

There is more grace to be experienced in this, for our assurance, than most of us know.

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David Mathis
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing., Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.

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