Dr. Tan Kok Beng
A Question Raised on the Field
Often a new Christian or a seeker asks the missionary on the field a very important question: “Why must I join a church?” Is this not enough for him or her to worship the Lord Jesus Christ privately, in his or her own way and in secrecy? After all the Lord Jesus himself said, “But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
A follow up question often is as follows: “Why must I join a church and be a member? Isn’t going to church to worship God enough? Does it matter which church I attend so long as I worship God in a church every week?”
Church hopping is a very familiar phenomenon in places where there is more than one church. The proliferation of independent denominations as well as the competition between established denominations to attract new Christians to their fold further accentuate the problem.
Our missionary training needs to identify and discuss the reasons for the believers to join a church and be an active part of the church.
What Does It Mean “To Join a Church”?
To “join a church” means to put in our roots there and be part of that community in serving God and honoring Him with our gifts. It is basically a commitment to the Lord through the visible community meeting in His name. It is an expression of loyalty and faithfulness to God in ministering to Him and His people. It is also a viable to witness to outsiders that there is a church -the Body of Christ-where people have experienced the reality of God in their lives and want others to know.
Some Simple Reasons
Let me give a few simple reasons for being part of a Local Church.
1. The Example of the Early Church
On the day of Pentecost, after they believed, the 3,000 were baptized and then gathered regularly to worship God (Acts 2:40-47).
Baptism speaks about commitment to Christ because it is in obedience to His Command. Baptism is the “entry” requirement to be part of the visible church, in order to become a “member”.
2. Commitment to the Local Church
The 120 had been baptized previously. Now 3,000 are added through that same baptism. Together they are identified as a people committed to one another in worship, service and witness. The result: “Day by day the Lord added to the church” (Acts 2:47). God honors and blesses such commitment.
3. Loyalty to Christ as the Head
Christ is the Head of the Church, and being committed to the church as a member shows our loyalty to Him. Read the following verses:
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. Colossians 1:18
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27
The Church is the visible Body of Christ, and therefore commitment to the fellowship shows that we acknowledge His Lordship in our life.
4. Recognition of Authority Over Us
As a member of the church we submit to the Leadership God has placed over us. That shows that we recognize and accept God’s plan for the church. Non-members have no allegiance or submission. In Hebrews, we read:
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Blessings Flow From Obedience
Christians and Christian communities have been equipped with means to help the poor and the needy around the world through their disciplined obedience to the Leadership placed over them, a Leadership that seeks to emulate Jesus our ultimate Leader.
Faith Grows Unhindered!
Let the new Christian know for sure that his or her faith grows unhindered in the church. The freedom to be part of the community gives greater freedom to the individual under God.
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Dr. Tan Kok Beng
Bethany International University