Joining a Church and Membership

Why Should Anyone Join a Church?

Many churches do not keep a formal church roll, so we should ask the question, “Why should there be church membership?” Even those churches that do not have a formal list of members usually have a recognized group that are accepted in the body. These churches have either written or unwritten standards by which they accept those who share common values and principles.

The church in the New Testament was called upon to take corporate action such as sending out missionaries (Acts 13:3), or denying fellowship to a sinning brother (1 Cor. 5:17). If a group acted together, they must have known who was included in their fellowship and they must have had standards that became the basis to excommunicate those who did not live up to them.

The church corporately is told to keep pure doctrine (Titus 1:9; Col. 1:23; Jude 3). They carried out this exhortation by identifying those who denied the faith (1 Tim. 5:8). The end result was, “A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject” (Titus 3:10). The New Testament implies that there was a listing or roster of the Christians. The term “numbered” was used to describe the Christians in the church at Jerusalem, indicating a census of both total count and inclusion of names. The church is described as a “number of names together” (Acts 1:15; also see Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 5:14; 6:1, 7).

What Comes of Joining a Church?

God accomplishes much through his church

Since God loves people and most of what he does is for the welfare of those he created, he uses the church to accomplish that purpose. These are several good reasons why joining a church is among the important requirements for a successful Christian life.

Joining a church gives evidence of our association with God

God wants the world to know who his people are and that they have identified themselves with him. When a Christian is baptized, he is telling the world a number of things; among these is that he is now identified with Christ. As he is baptized, he is saying, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

When we are saved, we are identified with the body of Christ on the cross in the vicarious-substitutionary atonement. By the Spirit’s baptism, we are placed into his body. Therefore, when we are baptized, we are symbolically fulfilling the meaning by being joined to his Body (the Church). By joining a local church we are telling the world in another way that we belong to Christ’s Body, both in heaven and on earth joining a church places us under the ministry of the Word of God.

Joining a church places us under the influence of the Word of God

Of course, this is not true if the church we attend does not believe and preach the Bible. In that case, it is important that we find a good Bible-believing church for ourselves and our family, where we can study the Bible together. The following chart lists some of the values you lose out on when you are not learning more of the Bible in church.

Results of Knowing the Bible

  1. Spiritual growth – 1 Pet. 2:2
  2. Victory over sin – Ps. 119:105
  3. Answered prayer – John 15:5
  4. Christian character – 1 Cor. 3:23
  5. Stronger faith – Rom. 10:13

When we join a church we pledge ourselves to Christ and his Word. This commitment will help keep us faithful to him. Also, if a church will preach and teach the whole counsel of God (Bible content, doctrine, and life expectations) a Christian will grow to maturity. Those who do not regularly attend church will not grow as consistently because there are gaps in their biblical education.

Joining a church causes us to grow through fellowship

Fellowship with believers in a local church will help us grow spiritually. By “fellowship” we are talking about much more than having coffee together after church. Fellowship occurs when Christian experiences with God are exchanged in an atmosphere of love and respect. Fellowship means giving and taking, not just selfishly absorbing from others like a spiritual sponge. Everyone must communicate himself to others and, in the act of fellowship, learn and be strengthened by others.

Fellowship involves letting others see us as we really are. At times, this involves confessing our faults (James 5:16). We hinder fellowship when we refuse to acknowledge our weaknesses to others. When we recognize our shortcomings, we become more dependent upon God. In essence, we cannot live for God by ourselves. We need the reciprocal fellowship of others. An important biblical principle to remember is that we become like those with whom we fellowship.

Joining a church fulfills the New Testament example

Almost every Christian in the New Testament was part of a local assembly. Obviously the thief on the cross was not included, but his yielded spirit to Christ indicates he would have followed the admonition of his Lord. Also, the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized, but there was not a church where he was converted. Even in his case, there is a strong tradition that the eunuch returned to his native Ethiopia with the message of the gospel to found what is now known as the Coptic Church.

The pattern of the New Testament Christian’s experience was established on the day of Pentecost. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). The next verse revealed their continual commitment to Christ: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship” (Acts 2:42).

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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