Do I Need to Join a Church?

Do I need to join the church?This Sunday (Nov 18) I am going to speak about membership in a church, and whether it is necessary, helpful. Do I need to join a church in order to be a Christ-follower? What do you think?

7 Comments

  1. Great conversation!!!

    (1) Every person who decides to accept Jesus as God’s Messiah, and joins with Him in His mission to the world as His followers, is automatically a Member of the Body of Christ, a partner with Him and His other followers in His worldwide movement to extend His Kingdom on earth. As Christ-followers, they need to figure out where and how He wants them to serve, and with whom.

    (2) We are not called to do this “solo”. The life of a Christ-follower is a communal life. Jesus makes it plain that the world will know that we are His disciples by our love. Grace is demonstrated to those who, like us, need to be treated with patience, mercy and forgiveness. The person who says “I can worship God in nature” assume that God is only looking for worshipers, when in fact He is looking for servants.

    (3) Every Christ-follower will seek out a community through which to grow in grace, love and knowledge, and through which to serve. That community may not be a “church” in the traditional definition, but it will be a community (large or small) of Christ-followers committed to fulfilling the mission of God with Christ. There are many options to choose from, but the Christ-follower will choose one.

    (4) Each community of Christ-followers will need to work out its own expression of their purpose, and the expectations of those who join with them. These expectations will naturally differ from one to the next. Some will be more demanding than others, some will be more effective than others. Each Christ-follower must identify which option best fits their own sense of Christ’s purpose and calling.

    (5) If a member decides not to join our community, that is OK. That is their decision. We do not terminate them, they terminate themselves. We simply acknowledge their decision not to work with us in our expression of the work of Christ. We bless them and encourage to find a community where they can serve. Hopefully they let us know, but as is often the case, they just leave. Its unfortunate, but all we can do is treat them with grace and respect.

    (6) If they decide to stop participating in any community at all, that too is there decision, like the disciples that stopped following Jesus after a while. If they decide to hang around at the fringes, so be it, we love them and continue to encourage them to join us, but we reserve the right to limit how they are involved. Are these fringers “saved”, I will not say, only the Lord knows, but the direction of their life may indicate (not always) that they are holding back from the Lord.

    (7) Is it possible to be an active member, yet not join the church as a technical member? Yes, and the reason has probably something to do with bad experiences in the past with “membership” or a misunderstanding of it. Is it possible to be a technical member, yet not join the church as an active member? Yes, on paper, but in reality, they are not partners. Time will eventually reveal the true state of their partnership.

  2. I appreciated your message on Membership. This is an issue I have been trying to sort out for a while. I do believe that membership is demonstrated by ones actions rather then a piece of paper signifying that you belong to an organization.

    My struggle is with the responsibility of the Church. When members do not regularly attend or do not wish to participate, then where will the church end up during times of struggle? If membership has its privileges how do we gracefully indicate that it has its responsibilities? When churches do encourage and teach members for many years and members simply choose to participate elsewhere should membership be terminated? If membership is accepted with expectations and these expectations are not being strived for, what should the church’s actions be? I am not referring to the struggling Christian but rather an active Christian who does not want to participate.

    Does simply participating as a Christian in a Church and affiliating themselves with other members make them an active member of some Church? Sometimes struggling thru the details and expectations of membership can be tough because it calls for churches to challenge members who may not be contributing their gifts. This seems to be the tough part of membership. It is much easier to allow someone’s membership to gracefully lapse then to challenge the individual and terminate the membership (ugh sounds harsh). Would other organizations as look at membership this way?

    I hope I am not coming across judgmental because I surely do not consider that the Kingdom of heaven has a member’s only lounge! Nor does not being a member of a church make one less of a Christian. I am just trying to sort out if Hope does have membership, Sunday described the role of the member, and now what is the role of the Church?

  3. For many years, (wasted years I feel) I thought I didn’t need to belong to a Church to be a Christian. To my deep regret, I found myself wandering through life without a purpose and far from a relationship with my Saviour. Those years spent outside a Church family, did take its toll on not only my faith, but also on my family. Without a firm foundation and the support of God’s people, my children continue to pay the price of my foolishness. Through attending Alpha, we have come to know and to love Hope Church and its people. Being a part of this Church family with all its differences, etc. has filled my life with untold blessing and joy. I know God can restore the years that the locusts have eaten and I commit those wasted years to Him. In our little home office, there is a placque on the wall which reads “Our family is a circle of strength and love. With every birth and every union, the circle grows. Every joy shared adds more love. Every crisis faced together makes the circle stronger”. This is true not only for our birth family, but is also so real in our Church family.

  4. It is so hard to keep one’s spiritual fervour as Paul suggests we ought when one is alone and not part of the church. I know several folks who say there is no need to associate with those hypocrites in church. Just believe and live a good life. I know for myself that we need other believers to keep us accountable and with whom to share our spiritual journey. Communal or corporate prayer and worship is an essential in order to grow. Spiritual zeal is contagious and inspires my own commitment to the Lord. Unfortuately the reality is also that often the church can be lukewarm and have the opposite effect. There is a dynamic at work in a church that is alive or open to the work of the Holy Spirit that stimulates an individual passion to worship in every area of life.
    The fire of the Spirit works communally as it did at Pentecost. As I heard someone explain it, to take the ember out of the fire causes it to grow cold very quickly. We need to stay in the fire to be effective and stay on fire for the Lord.
    The church is far from perfect but for me its important to function ,or maybe even survive as a zealous christ follower in this secular age.

  5. Maybe part of the issue in our churches is that we don’t get enough teaching about how to forgive, how to act in love towards others… We know we are supposed to forgive but what does it look like to walk that out in our daily life?
    When the person who harmed us is still in church and has not asked forgiveness or been held accountable what do we do? What do we do when we ask forgiveness and the person does not forgive us?
    What do we do when we have absolutly the opposite point of view of someone and both of us think we are right. What does it look like to act in love towards them?
    What do we do when we know someone thinks of us as less than them- we are not as learned or we have ‘major sin’ in the past or we are not as capable or we are female and they are male…
    Of course Christ followers need to be part of a group of Christians where they can learn and grow together and pray for each other and help keep each other accountable…
    but we have to be willing to walk in love and work out our differences and accept that many things we think are important are not Kingdom issues/ not imperative so we let them go for the greater good…. but it isn’t easy….

  6. Thanks Twiggy!!!

    I try to think of this in terms of Jesus. If Jesus gave up on us when WE hurt Him, where would that leave us? If Jesus is all about grace, how can we hold back from being gracious (ie working with an imperfect church), yet still claim to be living in Him? I appreciate the struggle some people have because they’ve been hurt – like Jesus – by the people who ought to have blessed and helped them – like Jesus. But I also wonder whether the words of 1 John 2:9 fit here, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.” The church, warts and all, is His body, and He is the head. If we remove ourselves from the body, do we remove ourselves from the head?

    This does not mean we approve of the church. In fact, the head may be calling you to be a gracious, prophetic presence. Not just grumbling about what is wrong but modeling what is right. Its easy to point out the flaws, can you model the better way? If we’re so messed up, then help us see where we should go. Show us the way the love, the grace, the patience, the mercy of Jesus would do things!!! We need your help!

  7. I believe that membership in a church allows a Christian to grow in their faith and allow you to become a help and encouragment to others as well.

    But at the same time of saying that, it is true that there is a high percentage of people in society that claim their number one reason for not pursuing God is from past hurts from the church.

    So what does a Christ-follower do? Avoid the fellowship of believers? The church forces us to work together in community, in experience of relationships and all that comes with them – the joy, the pain, forgiveness, patience, endurance etc…

    I guess the same argument could be used for the family – why should we keep the family unit? Yes, I can be a citizen without being a part of a family, but it makes the journey more lonely. Yes, there are family members that have been hurt by one another, but it does not negate the fullness that a familiy structure could provide.

    The Bible is filled with wise advise and teachings about relationships. I think if we followed them, we would see more healthy families and more healthy churches.

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