41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
42And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
43Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
44Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common,
45and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
46So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,
47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
I have in my hand an umbrella.
Allow me to read to you what I found out about umbrellas.
The word "umbrella" comes from the Latin root word "umbra", meaning shade or shadow. Umbrellas were first designed to provide shade from the sun. The Chinese were the first to waterproof their umbrellas for use as rain protection. They waxed and lacquered their paper parasols in order to use them for rain. Starting in the 16th century the umbrella became popular to the western world, especially in the rainy weather of northern Europe. At first it was considered only an accessory suitable for women. Then the Persian traveler and writer, Jonas Hanway (1712-86), carried and used an umbrella publicly in England for thirty years, he popularized umbrella use among men. English gentleman often referred to their umbrellas as a "Hanway."
Today I want to use the umbrella as an illustration of the church.
I am concerned about the growing number of people...
who seem to think being active in a local church is not important.
Many people come to church only when it is convenient.
Others make little or no effort to belong to a church.
Most of the churches in this area are down in attendance figures.
Many of the area churches that are growing...
are doing so by drawing people from the small churches.
Today, I hope to prove to you
how important it is to be under the umbrella of a local church.
POINT #1. Belonging To A Local Church Is Biblical.
Acts 2:41, it says, "the Lord added to their number."
In Acts 2:47, it says, "the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
God ordained the church to be the way
through which the world would come to know Jesus.
In the New Testament,
there's not one example of a believer or believers
refusing to become a part of a local church.
In fact, believers in the New Testament
found their identity through the local church.
The church at Ephesus, the church at Philippi,
the church at Philemon's house--
It didn't matter where you were,
if you were a believer, you were a part of a local church.
When people started getting saved,
they started a church to help with the birth, care, feeding,
nurturing and maturing of these believers.
In Acts 6:1-2 and 1 Timothy 5:9,
we see the early church keeping lists of their widows.
All the churches in the New Testament were organized
with leaders, patterns of worship and ordinances they followed.
Acts 4: 32-35: 32 Now the full number of those who believed were of 1 one heart and l soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul preached to them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.
So clearly, new converts to Christ joined a church...
and attended worship services regularly!
Point 2. Church Membership Means We Are Accountable.
We are accountable first of all to God;
then, to our spiritual leaders
and our fellow members in the local church.
Membership in the Body of Christ demands certain conduct.
This is one reason why some people
who call themselves Christians
choose to stay away from the church.
They don't want to be questioned about the way they are living.
We are responsible to be active, viable, contributing members,
building up the body of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-16 says:
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ--16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
The body can only function and grow properly
when every part is healthy and functioning.
Too many churches resemble a person who has suffered a stroke.
Part of them is dead and the other part has to compensate,
which drastically limits and reduces the effectiveness of the body.
Acts 2:42 says, "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers."
They devoted themselves to the church.
When we join a local church, we are saying,
"I am going to give my time, talent and resources to help make it everything God wants it to be until I die or Jesus comes to get me."
Point #3. Local church membership provides benefits for its members.
The local church places the believer
under God's "umbrella" of protection.
He becomes part of a family and a flock
that is guarded and guided by the prayers
and care of a "shepherd" and fellow-believers
Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.
Preachers on TV and the radio can't do that for you!
A church family provides support and accountability
for victorious godly living among its members.
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
The church helps keep us on the straight and narrow road!
The church is also to be an umbrella for genuinely needy members
1 Timothy 5:3-16 speaks of churches providing for the needs
of godly widows who have no children to support them
and no other means of support.
Romans 15:26 For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem.
In California, the giant sequoia trees grow.
The sequoia tree has roots just barely below the surface.
We know that if the roots don't grow deep into the earth,
strong winds will blow trees over.
Not sequoia trees!
They grow only in groves together...
and their roots intertwine under the surface of the earth.
So, when the strong winds come, they hold each other up.
Christians in a church are like the giant sequoias.
When the strong winds of life blow,
these people get reinforcement and support from others
who hold each other up.
Point #4. Church Membership Gives Protection From Satan.
Listen to 1 Corinthians 5:1-5
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles--that a man has his father's wife! 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. 3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Paul speaks about "handing over to Satan"
certain members of the church in Corinth.
Listen now to 1 Timothy 1:18-20:
18 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, 20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
Here, Paul hands over to Satan two disobedient Christians.
What does Paul mean by "handing over to Satan"?
This is done by putting them out of the local church.
Therefore, to not be a formal part of a local church body
puts a person in dangerous territory--
outside of the authority and protection of the local church.
Without the covering of a local church,
you're a sitting duck for Satan.
A man from Boston was eating in a restaurant in Atlanta.
Looking over the menu, he saw they served "grits".
He had never seen them before.
He asked the waitress, "What exactly is a grit?"
The waitress replied, "Honey, they don't come by themselves!"
Neither do Christians!
Jesus has called us to be a body of believers working together!
Every person who claims to be a Christian
should be an active, contributing member of a local church.
They should stay in that church.
The way some people jump from church to church
is a horrible testimony to unbelievers.
The only valid reasons for leaving a church are:
(1) they are preaching heresy and no longer preaching the truth.
(2) You move too far away from your present church.
Scripture commands us to submit to spiritual leaders,
to be accountable with other believers
and to meet together regularly for worship and preaching
so we can encourage and build one another up in the faith.
The only way to do that
is to be an active member of a local church.
So who needs the Church?
We all do!
If you're already a church member,
renew your commitment to make your church
the best church we can possibly be for the Lord.
And if you're not a member yet . . .
. . . what are you waiting for?