Dr. Tan Kok Beng
When the 3,000 new believers were saved on the Day of Pentecost, the first thing they did was to remain in the fellowship of the Church. Acts 2:42 says, “They devoted themselves to the Apostle’s teaching and to the fellowship…” As a result they became strong spiritually and vibrant and “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (verse 47).
These new believers were walking in victory and power because they continued steadfastly in the teaching, worship and fellowship of the church. Many Christians suffer defeat in their lives because they are not faithful to the Lord in remaining steadfastly in the fellowship of the church. Being faithful to the church is also a sign of loyalty to Christ.
Why is remaining in the Church Fellowship so important?
1. We receive the Spiritual Covering.
Being faithful members brings us under the spiritual covering and anointing of God’s appointed leadership of the church. God puts His name there in His Church and therefore His protection and blessing are there. This is our spiritual protection.
An organization is not the church. Many Christian who are involved with ministries but not members of the church often get attacked by the devil. Accidents, misfortunes, sickness and disease may be some of the means the devil uses to attack them. Don’t be involved I any ministry outside the church, unless you have the blessing of the leadership of your church. Remember, an organization cannot replace the church!
2. We receive our spiritual nurture there.
The church is where we receive our spiritual teaching, training and guidance. Our Lord started and built His Church, not to be part of an organization, but he cannot do so with the church. A Christian may choose not to be part of an organization but he cannot do so with the church. He is commanded to remain in the fellowship of the church, because it is built by Christ and He commands believers to worship in His church. Hence being faithful members of the church guarantees protection and victory.
3. We show our loyalty to Christ.
Christ is the Founder and Lord of the Church:
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16 : 16-19)
God commands us all to worship and serve Him in the church. If any organization takes any member away from the ministry of the church then it is wrong. An organization cannot replace the church. It is supposed to help the member to be more competent in serving God in the church, and not take members away from serving the church. Loyalty to an organization at the expense of serving the Lord in the church is in conflict with our loyalty to Christ and breaks our pledge to the church when we join as a member. Breaking a covenant is a serious offense in the sight of God:
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words. When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. (Ecclesiasts 16:16-19)
4. We acknowledge the leadership that God has appointed over us.
It is a misconception to say, “the church is the Body of Christ, so if we serve the organization, then we also serve the church.” Organization leaders will tell you that. But it is wrong and not true. God has placed us in the local church to serve there under His appointed leadership.
In Revelation 2 and 3, when Christ wrote to the seven churches, He addressed the letter to the leader of each church. Why? That’s because He respects the leader He appointed. In the same way, organizations should not and cannot take church members to serve in their organizations without the permission and blessing of the leadership of the church. That would be going against protocol and professional ethics, not to mention going against Biblical principles.
When a member serves in an organization without the blessing of the leadership, he has no spiritual covering and will be vulnerable to the attacks of the devil.
When I minister in another church, I will not do anything without the permission of the pastor. I cannot just say, “The Holy Spirit told me to do this.” The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of order and not confusion.
Even in the exercise of spiritual gifts Paul says we are to do things “decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40). A Spirit-filled leader will respect the pastor of the church.
5. Our Responsibility in Giving to the Church
There is yet another important matter on being a faithful member which also enables us to have victory in our Christian life: our responsibility in giving to the church. The Lord commands us to give our tithes and offerings to Him and there is a curse attached if we disobey (Malachi 3:8-10). The command is, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse.” In the Old Testament, the “storehouse” was the Temple. Today, the equivalent is the Church. Notice the specific command, “Bring the whole tithe.” In other words, the complete tithe of 10% of our income must go to the Church and not to an organization or any non-Church body.
Notice God didn’t mention “offerings” to bring into the storehouse. It is compulsory to bring the tithe into His Church and permissible to give offerings to organizations. Otherwise we will be robbing God in order to pay others. Preferably we should be giving both our tithe and offerings to the church, God’s storehouse. However, based on verse 10, it does seem God insists on the whole tithe being given to the church alone and then offerings are not insisted on.
Members involved with organizations should take careful note of this command from the Lord! If you have been giving your tithes to an organization or any Fellowship and not to your church, then you are robbing God. You can give generously to any organization or fellowship, but you are wrong in giving your tithe which is reserved for God’s Church alone!
Membership has its privileges but also responsibilities as well. To be a member of God’s church also has its responsibilities, among which are serving God in the Church and putting our tithes into His storehouse. Obedience to His command brings protection and blessing. May we be good and obedient members of His church.
Dr. Tan Kok Beng
Bethany International University