DEFINITION: The New Testament defines the Church as the physical manifestation of Christ, also called His Body and the Bride of Christ. The word actually means “the called out ones” or “dedicated to the Lord.” The church is the spiritual body through which Christ works in the world.
FACTS ABOUT CHURCH MEMBERSHIP:
Becoming a church member does not save you. Salvation only comes through confessing, repenting, and accepting Jesus Christ as Savior (John 3:16; Romans 10:9).
There are two dimensions of the Church. The universal Church and the local Church.
-The universal Church is composed of all true believers in Christ–those now living and those who have preceded us in death.
-The local Church is composed of a local congregation living in a specific area and meeting together regularly, whether it be in a church sanctuary, a home, or even outside under a tree!
All born-again believers are automatically members of the universal Church. Believers become part of a local church through meeting together with them and/or a formal process of joining the local congregation. Various groups of churches have organized into what is called “denominations”. Although this was not done in New Testament times, modern churches have opted to do this for purposes of administration and organization.
The Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ are other names used in the Bible for true believers who are part of the universal Church.
Jesus Christ is the head of the Church. “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:22-23). Jesus loved the church and gave His life for it (Ephesians 5:25).
The Church fulfills Christ’s mission to the world. The book of Acts and the epistles record how God worked through members of the first Church to extend the Gospel around the world.
Christians are directed to assemble with other members of the Body of Christ. The Bible warns: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
Which local congregation one should be a part of is between you and God. The question is where does He want you–both for your spiritual benefit and for the benefit of others? This may change from time to time. You may fulfill your purpose in one church and move on. When you leave one congregation for another, however, it should be because of the direction of God and for accomplishing His purposes in and through you. Always leave a church right–that is with a good reputation and without making accusatory statement regarding the congregation from which you are departing.
There is no perfect church. If you are looking for a perfect church, you will not find one. The church is composed of men and women just like you–people who are imperfect. The “perfect” church is one where believers are following the mandates of God’s Word, seeking to mature spiritually, and fulfilling the Great Commission to the world.
Responsibilities of church membership include faithful attendance, service for God, and financial support. Each member of the Church has a specific purpose to fulfill (1 Corinthians 12).
God sets the leadership in the church. Apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists, teachers, and those with various other spiritual gifts are set in the church by God (1 Corinthians 12:27-28).
God’s purpose for the church is that “…through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:10-11).
The church of God is the pillar and ground of the truth. That is why it is so important to be part of a Bible-believing church (1 Timothy 3:15).
DEALING WITH CHURCH MEMBERSHIP:
Do not remain in a church where scripture is being violated. If the teaching or leadership of a local congregation do not line up with the truth of God’s Word, find a new church.
Recognize the importance of attending church. Hebrews 10:25 warns about abandoning meeting together, especially in the end-times. The church is important to your spiritual growth and development and provides a place where you can serve God with your talents and gifts. It is also the foundation of truth which will keep you from deception (1 Timothy 3:15).
Find a church. Become part of a Bible believing, Spirit-filled, proof-producing church.
Pray and ask God to guide your decision. Your choice of a local church is not about your preferences. Rather, it is about the best church for you to attend where you can grow spiritually and your gifts and abilities can be effectively used to bless others.
If you believe God is calling you to start a new church, do so without causing disruption in the church you are presently attending. God is not pleased with those who cause division among His people.
WHAT GOD’S WORD SAYS ABOUT CHURCH MEMBERSHIP:
Read through the book of Acts and mark each time the word “church” is used. You will note that the church was the agency through which the Great Commission to reach the world is fulfilled. The epistles are letters written to the church under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and provide guidelines for it in faith and practice.
And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47)
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:4-5)
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.(1 Corinthians 12:13)
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:27-28)
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:22-23)
His (God’s) intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephesians 3:10-11)
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:16-20)
… you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15)
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24)