Neither non-Christians nor Christians are naturally inclined to find a place to put down roots and make longstanding commitments. We want to keep our options open and, above all, preserve our own freedom of choice, rather than make a covenant for the long haul and embrace real life in all its ups and downs. But what if you went against the grain and became part of the solution? What if you joined the rebellion and pledged your loyalty and engagement to a Bible-believing, gospel-cherishing local church?
The New Testament assumes some form of committed, accountable belonging as a reality for every true follower of Jesus. Here, then, are six reasons, among many, to go against the noncommittal grain, put down roots, join a particular local church, and be as involved as possible in the life of that church.
Your Own Assurance
Being accepted into membership in a Bible-believing, responsibly-led church rightly gives affirmation and reinforces confidence that your faith is real. It is no small thing for a solid local church to find your profession of faith to be credible, and your lifestyle and conduct not disqualifying, and to accept you into membership.
The Good of Others
There are two sides to church membership, and we can’t keep others accountable for their good to a covenant we ourselves haven’t taken. Love doesn’t say, “I love these people and don’t need to covenant with them.” Rather, it says, “I love these people enough to covenant with them.” Living the Christian life in community is committing to each other to be there for each other when life is hard, in sickness and in sorrow.
Your Own Good
It is for your own good to have others committed to genuinely caring for you in Christ. Joining the church also formally identifies you as part of “the flock” which the church’s pastors and elders should “shepherd” (1 Peter 5:2) and to which they should “pay careful attention” (Acts 20:28). It is for your own good in being intentionally thought of and cared for by the leadership.
The Good of Your Leaders
Formally joining the church helps the pastors and elders do their job. How are they to shepherd the flock if they don’t know who is in that flock and who is not? It is difficult, if not impossible, to respect and esteem your leaders (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13), and honor them (1 Timothy 5:17), and obey and submit to them (Hebrews 13:17) without identifying yourself to them and submitting to the membership structure that allows them to know and care best for those in their charge.
The Good of Unbelievers
We reach out and show Christ better as part of a committed, stable community. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). A lone-ranger Christian doesn’t make the best witness for Christ. Rather, someone who is grounded, has a home, and is part of a solid covenant community of support is best prepared to draw others into the kingdom. The whole community together serves to put Christ on display better than individual Christians alone.
Your Own Perseverance
In a good church covenant, we yoke ourselves to accountability while we’re in our right minds, in case someday sin gets a foothold in our hearts and blinds us to the truth. A covenant with others not to let you wander from the gospel, without pressing hard to bring you back, may one day prove priceless for your perseverance in the faith — and your eternity with Christ. It is, after all, as Jesus said, the one who endures to the end who will be saved (Matthew 24:13).
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org and pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines. This post is edited from the original post: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/why-join-a-church