Sometimes when people become Christians, they decide that they will not join a church. Perhaps they have heard or seen something bad in church members. Perhaps they know some good people who do not belong to a church. Perhaps their parents do not belong to a church. In any case, the real reason is that they do not understand what the church is and why Christians belong to it. Now let us look at what the Bible says about the church, its value, and its mission in the world. Then you will understand why you belong to a church, and you will know how to help others understand this, too.
I. Christ, the Church and You
The church belongs to Christ. He called it “my church” (Read Matt. 16:18). Paul calls it “the body of Christ” (Read Eph. 4:12). In these verses the Bible is speaking of the whole Christian fellowship. But the church in your community is a colony of that fellowship. Should you belong to it? Paul felt it was so important for him to belong to the church in Jerusalem that he went out and found someone to recommend him for membership (Read Acts 9:26-27). He felt one of his greatest burdens was to care for the small local churches (Read II Cor. 11:28). Paul knew that the church, be it local or universal, belongs to Christ. He knew that he belonged to Christ. Therefore, he ought to belong to the church. That is the way every thoughtful, Bible-reading Christian feels.
II. The Church and God’s Work
There is another important reason for your church membership. You have dedicated yourself to do the will and work of God. Well, God designed the church to be a co-operative effort by saved people to do His work in the world. You cannot do many of the things God wants done if you are alone. But when your efforts are pooled with those of other Christians, you can do them together.
What is God’s work? Paul says that this work is that of reconciling the world unto Himself (Read II Cor. 5:19). The major work God has is to win lost people back to Himself through Jesus Christ. God is always at work trying to draw lost people back to Himself.
This is the mission He gave to the church through Christ (Read Matt. 28:19-20). Go make disciples in all nations; baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Spirit. Teach them all things that Christ taught. That is the command He gave which we call the Great Commission. That is what He wants the church to do.
And what does God want each individual person to be? (Read I Cor. 3:9). We are workers together ---- we are not standing alone. We are in the church, working together so that we can together accomplish God’s purpose for us in the world.
III. What New Testament Church Members Did
The writer of the Book of Hebrew urged those who read his letter to be present at the assembling of the church for worship (Read Heb. 10:25). There they were to speak and encourage in a manner that provoked one another to love and good works.
Paul’s instruction in Romans 16:17-18 were that they should be watchful of any person who caused confusion in the church. He said that such people did not serve the Lord but themselves. The Christian is to work and love so that there is peace in the church.
The first church in the New Testament was that at Jerusalem. Read Acts 2:38-47. The members of that church had become convicted of sin, had repented, and had gladly been baptized, had united into a fellowship with the doctrine of the apostles as their guide, and had lived in such manner as to win the admiration of non-Christian people. This band was called “the church.”
Would you like to look in on the scene of an early church at worship? Read Acts 20:7-12. It was the first day of the week (Sunday). They had a communion service. There was a long sermon. Someone fell asleep in service, much as they do today. They were in a large upper room which was well lighted. In I Cor. 14, Paul talks about what this worship service was supposed to do. He said it was to edify (build up spiritually) those who were there, even the unbeliever.
IV. Working at the Job
But there people did not just go to worship. They worked at the job. They were dedicated. In Acts 20:20, we are told that they witnessed for Jesus from “house to house”. The church at Antioch sent out the first foreign mission party (Read Acts 13:1-3). Some of the churches banded together to help Paul while he worked as a missionary (Read Phil. 4:15-17). Sometimes he was forced to take the gifts provided by one church and spend them upon the work in another church (Read II Cor. 11:8). All churches were expected to take offerings on Sunday for the Lord’s work (Read I Cor. 16:1-2). So together they worked and prayed and gave for the Gospel. They had a unified project to which all of them were supposed to give. They supported the “poor saints at Jerusalem”. Read Acts 11:26-29; Gal. 2:9-10; I Cor. 16:1-2; Rom. 15:25-27.
V. Your Church Organization
Your church here is organized as nearly as possible along those lines laid down in Acts 2:38-47. This local church seeks to lift up Christ in your community and to maintain worship services where people may be built up spiritually.
In order to carry out the mission of the church, it joins with other local churches nearby into an association of churches. First General Baptist Church of Owensboro is part of Union Association. Working with these other churches, we encourage home missions, develop Sunday School and Youth Programs, provide a camp facility name “Camp Clark”, support international missions and other worthy projects.
But there is a wider, larger mission which even this band or association cannot do alone. It takes thousands of dollars to sponsor a college, to send out foreign missionaries, to maintain a printing establishment, and to keep up an executive office that can unite and lead all of the churches in the world-wide work.
VI. What You Do for the Church
By uniting with and working in the church, you preserve it for future generations. It was the church which brought you a Sunday School, a pastor, a revival, and a message of hope in Christ. You help preserve that work for those who come after you. There you cooperate with other Christians to carry on these things which will glorify God and keep His work going in the world. Your membership and your influence make the church stronger for its task. Your membership says to the world, “Look, I believe in the things which the church stands. I urge you to believe in them too.”
By your membership in the church, you serve God’s purpose in the world. You, along with your fellow members, keep a pastor in your community, keep a Sunday School going, keep the Christian witness ringing out to others. And together you help to support the mission of the church. You teach, sing, pray, witness, and work to make the church stronger.
VII. What the Church Does for You
It provides you with a precious fellowship of others who have, like you, found Jesus. You are not alone in the world. The church provides you with a place to work, teach, sing, witness in many ways, and serve other people. It provides you with instruction in Sunday School and inspiration in worship. It trains you for Christian living and makes you stronger. And it provides an outlet for your stewardship. What is stewardship? We will talk about that in detail in the second part of our training program, Becoming a Disciple.
1. Write the name of your church below.
2. Write the name of the association to which your church belongs.
3. Where is the college that your church helps support?
4. To whom does the church belong? (Matt. 16:18)
5. What three things did Jesus command the church to do? (Matt. 28:19)
6. What are individual members of the church to do? (I Cor. 3:9)
7. What is God busy doing in our world? (II Cor. 5:19)
8. God through the Holy Spirit called missionaries. Who sent them? (Acts 13:1-3)
9. List the things you look for the church to do for you.
10. List the things that you want to do for the church.
11. Where did the first association of churches meet? (Acts 15:1-23)
12. What does a missionary in the local church do? (Acts 20:20)
13. How did Paul get into the local church at Jerusalem? (Acts 9:26-27)
14. What did Christ do for the church? (Eph. 5:25)
15. From Acts 20:7-12, what were some of the things they did in the early church service?
16. For what purpose does God give members different talents? (Eph. 4:11-12)