As we recently celebrated our 70th anniversary as a local church, I have been thinking of the role that a local church has played in my life. I am so glad that my parents taught and showed me the importance of belonging and being faithful to the local church.
I was saved on Sunday night, March 15, 1970, in a local church. I was baptized the next Sunday, March 22, 1970, under the authority of a local church and became a member of that local church on that Sunday night.
I believe that local church membership and involvement is a vitally important part of every Christian’s life. The church is God’s organism through which He seeks to reach the world with the gospel. I am thrilled that Sharon and I have been a part of Beacon Baptist Church for over 37 years.
The New Testament is filled with local churches. The word church is found 77 times in the New Testament and the overwhelming majority of those references is to a local fellowship of baptized believers who came together around common Bible doctrine for the common purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission.
Everywhere the Apostle Paul went and won people to Christ, he established a local church (Acts 14:23). The New Testament is filled with letters to local churches in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, and Thessalonica. The Lord Jesus addressed the seven local churches of Asia Minor in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodecia (Revelation 2, 3). So, great emphasis is placed throughout the New Testament on attending, joining and being involved in a local church.
There are two misconceptions about church membership. The fact that you join a church does not make you a Christian. Being a member of a local church no more makes you a Christian than being in a garage makes you a mechanic. The greatest question is not whether your name is on a church membership roll, but whether your name is recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 20:15; 21:27).
The other misconception is that God considers church membership only as optional, rather than essential. It is just as dangerous as the previous one. I heard of a group of men discussing the issue of membership in a local church when a pastor walked by them. They asked the pastor, “Don’t you agree that you can get to Heaven without belonging to a church?” The pastor replied, “Yes, I believe it is possible for a person to go to Heaven without belonging to a church.” The ringleader of the group spoke up, “See, I told you so.” As they prepared to walk away, the pastor said, “I want to ask you a question. If you care nothing for being a part of a church, where people get saved, sing the praises of God, learn the things of God, and fellowship with the people of God, why would you want to go to Heaven in the first place?”
May our Lord help us to be faithful and fully involved in the life and ministry of our local church!