To gather with God’s people in united adoration of the Father is as necessary to the Christian life as prayer.
Will you show up for an Easter worship service this year out of guilt, childhood habit, or is it your weekly routine? I am often asked on the Bible Answer Man broadcast, “Why should I attend church services?” More to the point: “Why join a church?” Today, I want to explain the importance of committing to and joining with a local church.
Let me clarify: joining a church should not be approached as an obligation or duty, such as registering to vote, supporting the public library, or taking the trash out. No, joining a local church should be considered a great joy and sacred privilege.
Let’s consider why.
First, throughout the Bible, we see that the believer’s life is to be lived within the context of a family of faith (Ephesians 3:4–15; Acts 2). Indeed the Bible knows nothing about lone-ranger or “closet” Christians! Far from being born again as rugged individuals, we are born into a body of believers of which Christ is the head. A friend of mine aptly remarked, “When we are born again, we are born into a ‘forever family.’”
Furthermore, spiritual growth is impossible apart from membership and participation in a healthy, well-balanced church. It is in the church that we weekly receive the Word and sacraments as means of grace. Recall the early Christians who “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). Moreover, belonging to a body of believers also allows for accountability. The Bible requires that believers respectfully call attention to patterns of persistent, sinful behavior on the part of a member (Matthew 18:15–17).
Finally, while it is in the church that we enter into worship, experience the fellowship of believers, and become equipped to witness, church membership itself does not save us. No, we are rescued from God’s wrath, forgiven of all our sins, and declared positionally righteous before God solely by grace, through faith, on account of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:17; 3:21–4:8; Ephesians 2:8–9).