With all that, maybe you are wondering what this blog post is going to be about. I'm NOT going to say any more about those things I've just mentioned above. I hope you agree with me about them, but no matter if you don't. This IS my blog post, so I'll say what I must. Today, I'm going to make the rest of my post about church membership.
I've been a Christian since July of 1985. I've not always believed as I do now. I've grown, studied, prayed, learned, experienced, and trusted the Lord through many things to bring me to where I am now. I expect that, with the Lord's approval, I'll likely continue to grow and change over the next several years (until the Lord takes me to the Home He has prepared for me). But for now, and for the record, I'll say that very little has helped me to become the believer I am now quite as much as church membership. I've not always been a pastor. In fact, I've only done that for the last 16 years - less than half of my believing years. Before that - and afterwards - I've served the Lord through the local church in many different positions, places, and seasons.
I hear people all the time say to me that they are fine with being a Christian, they just don't need the church - or to commit to any single church.
I suppose some may mean they don't need to gather with other imperfect people every Sunday morning, evening, and Wednesday night. They don't EVER want to gather to sing of the glories of their Savior. They don't EVER want to contribute (monetarily, materially, or give their time and talents) to a particular group of believers. They want to be free of any entanglements, commitments, or obligations.
Others may mean that they don't have a church they "like" enough to make that commitment, so they "church hop," bouncing from church to church, depending on their relationships with the people, the quality of the sermon or the music, or the frequency of the dinners! When one thing slacks, they move to the next church. It's all about what they GET from the Lord's people, not what they GIVE to the Lord.
Still others may mean the church is not perfect enough for them. They always want a better preacher, better teachers, better music, and a more likable crowd. Someone may say something they don't like. Someone may sing off-key. Someone may come inappropriately dressed. Others may have acted less than Christian on Tuesday, and come in acting all holy. With all that going on, they say, why bother with them?
Ok, I get that - but I DON'T ACCEPT THAT! Neither does Jesus. Jesus took the most unholy, uneducated, and uncouth bunch of guys and changed every one of them in three-years' time. All were asked, eventually, to die for Jesus. All were committed to a local church (even Paul, later, had a home church). All were committed to sharing the gospel, helping one another, and worshiping the Lord with their whole hearts. Churches were popping up all over the world because of these guys' ministries. They weren't good preachers, teachers, or singers. Golden tongues they didn't have. Some had jail cells and shackles for their commitment - first to Christ, and subsequently to the Body of Christ (the Church).
And as for me - it is through the church that I learned (and still learn) so many things about trusting the Lord when things AREN'T PERFECT. I've learned and am still learning to get along with those that are hard to get along with. I've learned to lean on Jesus and to rejoice when He uses His people powerfully to show love in ways no single person can do by themselves. I've learned how to serve (and still am learning). I've been challenged and held accountable in my relationship with Jesus. I've seen miracles and mighty works of God in the lives of others because I'm a member of a local church. My doctrine is always being straightened by the Word of God - and others who live by it. I've found that God is faithful, sin is hateful, and I can be grateful all the time. When I'm not, the church will show it to me. I've learned and practiced sharing my faith with others because the Church has encouraged, assisted, and trained me to do what the Bible says should be done in that arena. Through all of these things, I've grown as a Christian in ways I could never do without His Church. Christ always intended to bring us closer to Him through imperfect people devoted to Him together.
If you are a Believer, but not a member of a church, I plead with you to consider one more thing. Refusing to join a church (which is to say, make a commitment to that church, not just attend on occasion), is to say by your heart attitude and your actions that Jesus' doesn't really have authority over you. You are in disobedience. Jesus always expects that we gather together and serve together, worship together and work together to reach our community together, give to one another and to the Lord, and grow in Christ-likeness together. Refusing is to say to Jesus, "You may save my soul, but you cannot be my Lord!" That is utter rebellion - and it is something that must be remedied ASAP! Living in rebellion to Jesus is EXACTLY how unbelievers live. What's the difference? Could it be that your rebellion is a sign of your need to be saved? Whether it is or not, there is only one remedy - repentance. That means stop rebelling and start submitting to Jesus - and NOW! If you ACTUALLY believe, then join a church based on that belief. If you don't believe, ask the Lord to help you - to save your soul - and join a church as an act of obedience to your new Savior and Lord. If Jesus is not your Lord, He's not your Savior! Church membership is a sign of submission to Jesus, not of being "holier than thou!"
I would love to hear your take, testimony, or thoughts on this post. All I ask is that you keep it civil and avoid profanity of all kinds. Your view won't be rejected if you can share it kindly!