Those of us who have the privilege of growing up in Christian families have likely always gone to church. It’s just what we’ve always done.
But when we move out, go to college, and get a little more freedom, we may start to wonder… “Wait, why do I actually have to go to church? I know Jesus, and I have a relationship with Him, is that not enough?”
We Need to Know Why
Whether you are growing up in the church or not, you need to understand why it is important as a Christian to be a member of a local church. Not just an attender, but a committed member.
Many who grow up in the church end up growing out of the church. They come up with every excuse possible for not going to church. They may say they have Jesus and that’s enough, or they’re surrounded by Christian people all the time and have a godly community of friends, so they don’t need to be a formal member of a local church.
But these lines of reasoning just don’t square with Scripture.
So, let’s work to see what Scripture has to say, because if we don’t understand why going to church and being a member of a church matters, then it will be a lot easier to deceive ourselves into thinking the church isn’t important.
Don’t be a neglecter. Hebrews 10:24-25 says:
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near,” (emphasis mine).
These verses are written to and for Christians. Christians are not to neglect meeting together, and a very serious warning is laid out for those who do (see Hebrews 10:26-31). The place Scripture has instructed believers to meet together is the local church! So, if you are physically able to gather with a church on Sunday and are failing to do so, then according to these verses you are being disobedient, and sinning against God.
Brothers and sisters, we must not be neglecters.
Church Membership in the New Testament
The first objection that might come to mind is, “Well, I meet with Christians throughout the whole week.” And I love that. You should do that. But that doesn’t replace the local church. The Bible calls us to meet in and to be members of a local church, not just to meet up with Christian friends.
How do we know this? We know this because there are passages all throughout the New Testament that assume Christians to be committed members of local churches. One of many examples is Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.”
Wait a minute. How do we know which leaders to submit to? Do we have to obey and submit to the teaching of every Christian leader in the entire world? If we go on YouTube and hear a sermon by a pastor, are we required to submit to him and his teaching?
No, obviously not.
The way we know who our leaders are is through the local church. It is the elders of our local church who are our leaders, not just any Christian leader we come across. We can’t obey this verse unless we are members of a local church. If we aren’t members of a church, we are failing to obey this verse, because we don’t have leaders to submit to.
What about our elders? This verse tells us that our elders will give an account for those under their leadership. And how do we know who is under their leadership and who they are responsible to give an account to God for? If I am in college, and one week my parents visit and come to my church, is my pastor suddenly responsible for them? Will he give an account for their souls before God?
Again, the answer is no. In 1 Peter 5:2, Peter tells the elders, “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you.” It is not just anyone they are responsible to shepherd and care for, it is those who are members of the local church where they serve as elders (those who are “among them”).
These are just a few of many examples demonstrating that the New Testament writers assumed the idea of church membership. And the most basic part of being a church member is to go to church! Brothers and sisters, going to church is not optional (Heb 10:24-31). We must go to church, join a church, and remain a committed member of a church!
When You Go Out on Your Own…
Many of you reading this may not have gone to college or moved out yet. What I am about to say next is not popular, but I am going to say it anyway: college is not about you. The idea of the “college experience” popularized and embraced today is dangerous because it makes it sound like college is all about you. But it’s not. Your time in college is about Christ. Even if you don’t go to college, you will be tempted to live for yourself. But your life is about Christ (Col 3:4).
So, if your whole life is about Christ, one of the most important things you can do when you go to college or move out on your own is to get attached to His body. Before you join any social clubs, join a church. Be willing to miss social activities and football games in order to be committed to your church. If you are a part of the body of Christ, join a local body of believers. The Bible over and over affirms that the Church is Christ’s body (1 Cor 12:27; Eph 5:23).If your whole life is about Christ, one of the most important things you can do when you go to college or move out on your own is to get attached to His body. Click To Tweet
If you are a Christ-follower but do not regularly gather with a church, you are essentially telling Christ, “Jesus, I want You, I just don’t want Your body. I’ll take Your head, but not Your body. That’s cool right?”
No, it’s not cool. We as Christians cannot have Christ and reject His body at the same time.
Not a Solo Act
I hope this article has helped clarify why it’s important to join a church. We can’t claim to be a part of Christ’s body and then say we don’t want anything to do with His body. We cannot be a thriving part of the body of Christ while living detached from the other parts of His body. When we neglect the local church, this is what we are doing. We are saying we can make it on our own, which is simply unbiblical (1 Cor 12:12-26).The Christian life is not a solo act. We need each other. We need other believers. We need the church. Click To Tweet
The Christian life is not a solo act. We need each other. We need other believers.
We need the church.
If you want to learn more about church membership, I strongly recommend a book called “Church Membership” by Jonathan Leeman.