Our Understanding of The Church
In looking at the total teaching of Scripture concerning the church, we find it to be on the one hand universal; an assembly of God’s people, stretching throughout the earth and throughout time. On the other hand, the church is more often described in terms of local groups in particular places, at particular times, with their own particular structure and social life. These local groups of believers were “churches”. For most of the Scripture references these local churches are in mind.
Our problem in understanding the local church is that people tend to think of it as an organization run by pastors, rather than an organism in which every believer has a part. The local church is actually described in the Bible as a living body called the “Body of Christ”. All Christians are a part of this body the moment they believe (the universal church), but each Christian is also needs to be part of a local church so that they can be accountable in life and teaching and so they can serve in the church with their gifts.
WHY JOIN THE CHURCH?
One of the most frequently asked questions relating to the topic of church membership is, “Why should I join the church anyway? After all, what’s the difference – I can still go to church and participate in all the activities without feeling tied down or responsible.”
The last word in that quote is the first reason to join the church. Responsibility is COMMITMENT. Church membership is a step of commitment in which dedicated Christians express through both word and deed, that Jesus Christ is Lord and Master in their life. Then by joining an assembly of Christians, you take personal responsibility to support, attend, serve and submit to the churches mission, mandate and message.
There is a second reason to join the local church membership, and that is RELATIONSHIP. There is no such thing as “hermit” Christianity. We “like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:5). The Bible sees one house made up of many stones (us!). God’s construction process involves using more than one stone to build a house. We are all together being constructed as a spiritual house for the work of ministry. Ministry is all of us together doing what God wants us to do. Teamwork is obviously important to God.
COMMITMENT and RELATIONSHIP – these are the two primary reasons a Christian should join a local church. Yes, you receive the right to vote at business meetings, but the true spirit of church membership lies in the attitude of assumed partnership.
(Excerpts from Midtown Church “Partners in Ministry” Handbook, copies available from one of the pastors.)