Summary: Many go for years without ever becoming an active member in a local congregation. A myriad of excuses are given for not joining. We need to understand what the church is and the reasons for belonging to a local church.
Why Belong to a Local Church?
Introduction: Often I meet people who have become Christians but for whatever reason fail to follow Christ in baptism and to become members of a Bible believing church. Some have been obedient in baptism but go for years without ever becoming an active member in a local congregation. A myriad of excuses are given for not joining. We need to understand what the church is and the reasons for belonging to a local church.
I. We need to understand what the Church is not.
A. The church is not a denomination.
1. Denominations may consist of churches that hold to the same doctrinal beliefs or have placed themselves under some organizational structure that either governs them or allows them to have a unified method or vehicle to carry out the local churches outreach ministries in a greater capacity. But they are not a church.
2. Denominational labels do usually, though not always, identify a church’s:
a. Doctrinal position
b. Polity (Leadership or governing structure)
i. Presbyterian- i.e. Presbyterian and Reformed
ii. Episcopal –i.e. Methodist, Roman Catholic, Anglican
iii. Congregational – i.e. Baptist, Brethren, Congregational
iv. Monarchical – i.e. some Independent Mega Churches
B. The church is not a building.
1. Often people when talking about a church are talking about a building. They equate it with the Tabernacle and Temple of the Old Testament.
2. The individual born-again child of God is the temple today.
3. 1 Corinthians 6:19 “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”
4. In the first century Christians gather primarily in homes to conduct church services.
5. Romans 16:3, 5a “Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus... Likewise greet the church that is in their house...”
6. Philemon 2-3 “And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church in thy house: Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
II. We need to understand what the Church is.
A. The Local Church is mentioned in the Bible over one hundred times. The word "church" occurs 77 times in the singular form, and 37 times in the plural form in the Bible. All these verses are found in the New Testament.
B. The original Greek word for church is ekklesia. In normal usage the Greek word in New Testament times was understood to simply mean a called out or special assembly. The word "ekklesia" made specific reference to a group meeting in a particular geographical location. Paul who used the word more frequently than any other New Testament writer clearly understood the word to mean an assembly or congregation who met locally together. Paul always understands ekklesia as the living, assembled congregation. – Source: Colin Brown, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology.
C. 1 Corinthians 1:1 “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours”
D. Acts 2:42, 47 “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers... Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
E. The church is a called together body of believers who have been baptized upon a credible confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and are united together for worship, the observance of the ordinances, edification, fellowship, evangelism and such service as the Lord requires.
III. Why belong to a local Bible Believing Church
A. It is normal for a Christian to be an active member of a local church.
1. In the New Testament when people got saved they joined the church.
2. Acts 2:41 “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
3. The normal progression in the life of a believer is salvation, baptism, church membership, fellowship, and service.
B. God expects believers to regularly participate in corporate worship.
1. The local church offers the venue for a believer to unite with other believers in the congregational celebration of worship, the public proclamation of the Word of God, and the practice of the Christian ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
2. Paul exhorts Timothy as a young pastor in 1 Timothy 4:13 (ESV) “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”