At the church I pastor we have several people coming who have never actually joined the church. They all have various reasons, some I know of, some I do not. Some have asked me why they should join, as they have come from a background where one does not formally "join" a local church. Since ours is a congregational run church, the reason I ususally give runs along the lines of "since we are a congregational run church, you must be a member in order to cast a vote or hold an office, so being a member means you have a "say" in the direction of the church and its ministries."
For some reason I have never felt comfortable with that reason. It's a good reason. It's the truth. But I have always felt there was more to it than that. There was something that I was missing.
Then I ran across an excerpt called, "The Importance Of Joining A Church" written by Ben Patterson, from a church leadership book.
When I read what he had written it was like getting a Holy Spirit "bullet" right between the eyes! He hit the nail on the head! I realized that this is what I had missed in answering the question, "Why should I join a local church?"
So, I took what he had written, tweaked it a bit, added a bit of my own, and then printed it up for our church bulliten tomorrow. I believe it is so important, that I thought I would share it with the blog world.
Now before someone jumps to conclusions, I just want to add this. To the many brothers and sisters who have been coming faithfully to our church, but who have not put down "membership roots", I want you to know that you are a blessing to me and to every member of the church. We do not, nor will we ever see you as second class believers just because you have not actually joined our local church. I thank God for you and pray for you every chance I get. I thank you for making the decision to worship with us and to allow us to get to know you. Of course part of my prayers include you making our church your "offical" church.
And now for the answer to the question:
WHY SHOULD YOU JOIN A LOCAL CHURCH?
Why do we emphasize joining Loma Rica Baptist Church?
Because every Christian is a member of the church, that’s why. “The same act which sets us in Christ sets us also in the society of Christ,” says P.T. Forsyth. When a Christian joins a particular congregation, he or she merely bears witness to a union that has already happened spiritually.
So if we are already spiritually joined together in the body of Christ, what’s the big deal about membership in a local congregation? What can a membership at Loma Rica Baptist Church add?
Paul’s metaphor of the church as the bride of Christ can help us here. Can you imagine a man saying to his fiancee, “Dear, we are spiritually one. Please, let’s not spoil it by having a public ceremony and moving under the same roof and making love and opening a joint checking account and getting all organized to live together. Let’s keep this lovely thing spiritual.” The fiancee might well doubt the future of their relationship.
In the New Testament, the reality of the spiritual is measured by the degree to which it becomes physical. To join a particular part of the body of Christ is not to bring something into existence that was not there before. It simply makes obvious what is spiritual to prove that the spiritual is real.
It is true that a name on a membership roll is meaningless in itself. But how seriously can we take a person who says he wants to be part of the church but doesn’t want to sign his name publicly?
It is true that the organized church has many problems, and Loma Rica Baptist is no exception, but are those who shun a commitment problem free? Yes, the church is blemished. But Christ still loves her, says Paul, not because she is without blemish but that he might one day present her so. He sees the church, warts and all, and knows that he must first love that which he would change.
Loma Rica Baptist is not the church it should be, but it is the church that will one day be all that God has called it to be. To go public and join is the first step in loving it as Jesus does.
Ok, so there's that.