October 23, 2012

40 reasons to be part of a local church

by Jesse Johnson

churchIs it possible to live a faithful Christian life without being a faithful part of a local church? I’ve heard many people make the argument that it is indeed possible—especially if there are no good churches around. I disagree.

At the bare minimum, there are forty different commands in the New Testament to live life in some sense with other believers. While certainly it is possible to do some of these with Christians in general, the weight of this list should convince you of the necessity of having on going relationships with other believers.

And those relationships are only strengthened by the fellowship of the local church. In fact, I submit that some of this list is simply impossible to obey if you do not have the kind of ongoing  and ever increasing fellowship with other believers that only comes through ministry in a local church:

  1. Stimulate one another to love and good deeds (Heb 10:24)
  2. Confess your sins to one another (James 5:16)
  3. Build up one another (1 Thess 5:11)
  4. Be of the same mind as one another (Romans 12:13, 15:5)
  5. Comfort one another in the face of death (1 Thess 4:18)
  6. Employ your spiritual gifts in serving one another (1 Peter 4:10)
  7. Pray for one another (James 5:16)
  8. Be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10)
  9. Be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50)
  10. Encourage one another (1 Thess 5:11)
  11. Greet one another (2 Cor 13:12)
  12. Don’t become boastful in challenging one another (Gal 5:26)
  13. Be kind to one another (Eph 4:32)
  14. Abound in love for one another (1 Peter 1:22)
  15. Live in peace with one another (1 Thess 5:13)
  16. Love one another (2 John 5)
  17. Fervently love one another (1 Peter 1:22)
  18. Have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7)
  19. Don’t judge one another (Romans 14:13)
  20. Take communion (the Lord’s Table) with one another (1 Cor 11:33)
  21. Accept one another (Romans 15:7)
  22. Regard one another as more important than yourself (Phil 2:3)
  23. Bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2)
  24. Admonish one another (Rom 15:14)
  25. Serve one another (Gal 5:13)
  26. Do not lie to one another (Col 3:9)
  27. Bear with one another (Col 3:13)
  28. Forgive one another (Col 3:13)
  29. Teach and admonish one another (Rom 15:14)
  30. Care for one another (1 Cor 12:25)
  31. Cloth yourselves with humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5)
  32. Be hospitable to one another (1 Peter 4:9)
  33. Do not complain against one another (James 5:9)
  34. Show forbearance to one another (Eph 4:2)
  35. Speak to one anther in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph 5:19)
  36. Give preference to one another (Rom 12:10)
  37. Don’t bite and devour one another (Gal 5:15)
  38. Submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21
  39. Seek the good of one another (1 Thess 5:15)
  40. Don’t forsake assembling with one another (Heb 10:25)

That last one brings the whole list full circle. If being a Christian means nothing more than making a decision about Jesus Christ,than none of this matters. But if being a Christian means stepping into a life altering world, where God desires your sanctification and gives you the means to grow and the commands to follow, then it is simply impossible to do that outside of the context of a local church.

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA.
  • Heather

    Oh my…I could feel myself shrinking more and more as I read on. You only needed your title to this post and the list, and that would have said all you needed to say. What a weighty post…really, I mean that. The Word of God is so incredibly powerful; enormously more powerful than I think I give it credit.

    Thank you for posting those verses in this context, Jesse. I just love reading that list, even though some of them are like a stab in my heart, I still love it. I would say that list is more powerful than all the books I could read on how the church should function. I could probably take one of those verses a year and strive to perfect it within that year towards my brothers and sisters I assemble with, and after 40 years just begin to understand the spiritual value and growth of weekly (or daily) assembling with brothers and sisters in Christ, the power of the Gospel going forth from a unified church, and the beauty the Lord intended for His church. It is so humbling to see it laid out like that…I’m going to write them in the back of my Bible, then study them more closely.

    Oh, may we be found in Him…just only found in Him. I could, literally, never thank the Lord enough for the dear brothers and sisters in my local church, not for their perfections, but for their imperfections and our imperfect journey, together, in becoming perfected by our glorious High Priest and Head, Christ Jesus our Lord. For all the hardships, what a glorious and wondrous life He’s given us to live in Him…the secret to it is in that list :)

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      Thanks for this comment Heather. I agree that the weight of the evidence i stunning.

  • Doug

    Great post – So the next question is this. What do you do with the hoards of people who attend, but refuse to become members?

    • Eric Davis

      Doug,

      I think that’s a great question. In my experience, with the exception of a minority, most do not take the step of obedience towards membership simply b/c they do not understand the importance from Scripture. Once again, w/ the exception of a few, as I have sat down w/ believers and explained it to them from the word, most are eager to embrace this responsibility and privilege.

      Situations arise now and then where people do not, however. We did a 2-part article addressing this, in part, a few months ago on the C-gate: http://thecripplegate.com/how-to-shepherd-church-shoppers-part-2/#more-4257

      But briefly, a refusal towards membership is legitimate cause for a healthy soul. Typically there is something else going on in an individual when they are in this position, and we need to shepherd that. Refusing to become a member is not an automatic sign of an unbeliever, but neither should that person think they are spiritually healthy. So, generally, I think there are really 2 reasons that a person should not take the step of membership: 1) They cannot safely put themselves under the shepherding of that local church b/c doctrinal error and/or sin in the leadership. 2) They are not converted to Christ.

      • Heather

        Hi Eric,

        I just read your articles about pew-hoppers…excellent and beautifully written articles. I say amen to what you said in those articles!

        But….I have to be honest and say that I find the whole idea of “membership” within a church as odd. Perhaps if you grew up with this, it is normal to you, and even expected, but, for someone like myself, who hasn’t grown up with it, and has never signed a paper that made me a “member” of a church, find the practice of it as unusual. It sounds more like a club than a church, but perhaps I have the wrong perception of it?

        My church doesn’t even offer such a membership, so even if I wanted to sign an agreement to be a member of my church, (which, I don’t), I wouldn’t be able to. Don’t get me wrong, though…I am absolutely committed to this local church for many reasons, (first of all, because I am committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and I yearn to bring God glory through Him Eph 3:21; I want to remember His death and what He did for me by “breaking bread” 1 Cor 11:26, Ac 2:42; the best place for me to be, and where I want to be, is where Jesus is Mt 18:20; I desire to be used to further the Gospel Phil 1:27; I value spiritual gifts 1 Cor 12:7; I love, need, and value fellowship! And I could go on to list 40 other reasons, but I won’t ;) ), but you won’t find a document that says I am a “member” of this church, know what I mean?

        So, this is my question…would you disapprove of a Christian who may not be a “member” of a local church, but is still committed to a local church? The reason I ask you is because I found it interesting that in your articles you mention “commitment” and “non-commitment,” rather than “membership” and “non-membership.” Again, maybe I’m not understanding what people mean by “membership” of a local church??

        • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

          I’d say if the elders of a church have asked people to attend a class or do some other step to demonstrate that they are committed to the church, than a person who is committed to that church should simply do what the elders have said they find helpful–if for no other reason than the elders have said they find it helpful for them shepherding. Is that a fair answer?

          • Heather

            sure, thanks for your thoughts :) My church has no such class or step to demonstrate one is committed to this local church. Of course, the elders encourage commitment, first and foremost, to the Lord Jesus Christ, and then encourage the exercise of spiritual gifts and serving the Lord in whatever way He has called them, which is naturally done through the body of the church. Works harmoniously :)

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  • regschofield

    Great post . I will be sharing this with any who think one can live apart from a local Church. I was one of “those”people who hought you could function without fellowship. In my pride and self-righteosness , I condemned all our local Churches as going astray from the truth . Thinking I had it all figured out. True there were many weak ones but still a few decent ones but my pride kept me blind. So over the course of 10 years I stumbled , fell into sin and began a path that saw me in a free fall. But praise be to God and His grace , over a span of 2 years , I started to cry out to God to brake my pride , to do what was needed to do so and He did . It was painfully sweet discipline but so worth it.
    I have been a member of a local Church for 5 years now and it has been a sweet and beautiful time of experiencing God’s grace and love through many new freinds and our Pastor’s sermons . It has awakened a passion and love for the bride of Christ , with all its messiness at times . So for any who think one can be a lone ranger Christian , think again , please .

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      Excellent testimony. Thanks for sharing it.

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  • http://twitter.com/StorytellerFL Anthony Allen Baatz

    An awesome example of the need and commandment for discipleship Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

  • http://twitter.com/StorytellerFL Anthony Allen Baatz

    I really enjoyed browsing your site Jesse! I’m reminded of the film Brave Heart when young Wallace goes off with his uncle for his schooling. He returned not just a man able to wield a sword, but a man prepared to serve Scotland with all of his mind and all of his passion. Matthew 22:37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

  • Eric Davis

    Jesse, thank you for your wisdom here. I appreciate how you make the conclusion that the existence of the one-another’s necessitates plugging in to a local church. I think that’s a critical implication for believers to see, esp. since the one-anothers, for the most part, were given to locally congregated and shepherded bodies.

  • Brad

    Ok, so here is the big question: Are church leaders responsible for creating a church environment where these things can happen?

    I have been wrestling with this question a lot in the past year! I see so many people going to churches that are 30 minutes or more away from their homes, just for the preaching. So my family and I have decided to commit to the church that is within a few blocks from where we live. The preaching isn’t as great, but I have to say that living in community is more important than good preaching. Everyone lives within 1-2 miles of each other and we are able to eat meals together on a daily basis, read the Scriptures together daily, pray together daily, be on mission together and be led by the Spirit together daily. To me this is what church is all about!!

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      Hey Brad. Jesse’s away and not near an internet connection for awhile, so I thought I might respond for him on the in-between.

      Are church leaders responsible for creating a church environment where these things can happen?

      The answer to this question depends on what you mean by it. I can’t imagine anyone thinking that the elders of a church bear no responsibility for cultivating an environment where the one-anothers are practiced. At the same time, I would reject out-of-hand the notion that if these things aren’t happening, the blame lies solely with the elders.

      Church leaders are responsible for teaching their people how to do the one-anothers, equipping them with the spiritual resources to do so, and modeling these in their own lives. Church members are responsible to do all of these, simply by virtue of their being commands of Scripture. If the leadership fails, the membership is no less responsible. If the membership is obstinate, the leadership is no less responsible. The failure to live these things out is not solved by blameshifting, but by confession and repentance.

      The preaching isn’t as great, but I have to say that living in community is more important than good preaching.

      Here again, the truth of that claim (i.e., community > preaching) depends on what you mean by “good” and “preaching.” If you’re choosing between two churches who preach the same sound doctrine, hold a high view of God and of Scripture, and thus a low view of man, and are faithful to the text; but one of the preachers is a better communicator, more dynamic, and resonates with more people, then what you’ve said is a reasonable claim. I’m assuming that’s what you meant.

      But if the opposite of “good preaching” isn’t merely “bad homiletics,” but rather a failure to teach sound doctrine, to hold in high esteem the authority of the Word, and to submit to its implications, then your statement couldn’t be further from the truth, and militates against the text of Scripture itself. Community is only valuable when people are in fellowship around the truth. There’s nothing distinctively Christian (actually, nothing Christian at all) about community in falsehood. No one needs to be indwelt by the Spirit of God to be united around falsehood. But it takes a work of the Spirit of God, revealing to man the beauty of what is not naturally beautiful to him (1 Cor 2:14), to be united around truth. Put another way, it doesn’t matter how many people are gathered around the table if the food is rotten.

      So yes, church is about living life together. It’s not less than that, surely. But it’s definitely more than that. The central orienting principle of that community is truth. So church is “all about” people living life together who are united by the truth and united in the truth.

      • Brad

        Thanks Mike!

        Very helpful. Once again, I think we are mostly on the same page. I’m not sure what to say other than I see a pretty dramatic difference in how these truths are played out. The only solution that I can see is for me to come up to Grace Community area and just observe how you guys live life for a few weeks. Would there be a time when I could do that?

        Blessings,
        Brad

        • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

          Same page, but dramatic difference. I’m not sure how those coexist, but I’ll accept that.

          Regarding a visit to Grace, of course. Anyone’s always welcome all the time.

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  • thatbrian

    Jesse,

    It’s easy for a guy from Virginia to write this post. Before you start work on part two of this post, please come and visit my little slice heaven in Connecticut. ;)

    I want nothing more than the fellowship of fellow believers, But there isn’t a gospel-preaching church anywhere near me. It tears me up. I mourn over it. I hate it, but there is not much I can do about it short of leaving the state.

    The best I could hope for around here is “moralistic therapeutic deism”, and that’s NOT Christianity.

    Please write a post that will encourage reformed church planters to come up here to the cold dark north east rather than reminding us churchless folks of what pains us most.

    • Stephanie

      We’re in the same situation as Brian here in north-central Florida. We can’t find a single solid church in our area. If we could even afford the gas to drive an hour or so to a solid church (if there were even one we knew of) what kind of fellowship could we truly have with others so far away? And we can’t seem to find believers in our area who know what true Christian fellowship (like y’all mentioned in a few previous blog posts) is. It’s a lonely place.

  • Hungry for Membership

    I agree, and have preached as much over the pulpit… except that I think we also need to consider what constitutes being a member of a church.

    For the past year, for the first time in my adult life, I am not a member of any church. More precisely, I am not listed by any church as being a member. I DO regularly attend a church and thereby have opportunity to obey every single “one another” command on the list, with the exception of observing the Lord’s Supper. (I’ve done that with family and friends in a home.) So am I a church member? I am a Christian who is trying to obey all the one another commands, even hosting extra prayer meetings in our home and serving and teaching in the church when I am invited and able to do so. But it seems that the church I attend, which manages a list of members, may not be obeying the “accept one another” command, for they expect me to do a lot of extra-biblical things before they will receive me as a member.

    It seems clear to me that conversion, baptism, membership in Christ’s Church, and acceptance into the local body of believers are all inseparably linked in the New Testament. In order to remain true to that pattern, should not local churches today accept as a member anyone who they believe is a true disciple of Christ? The pain of being considered a Christian, but not being “accepted” as a member, can be great.

    In summary, I think some churches desperately need to align their concept of church membership more closely with the biblical pattern. For when they don’t, it leaves some of us feeling rather “unaccepted” and faced with very difficult membership choices.

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      …they expect me to do a lot of extra-biblical things before they will receive me as a member.

      What kind of things?

      • Hungry for Membership

        Wear a beard, have my wife and daughters wear a prescribed form of dresses, disconnect/discard my radios, get rid of any Christian pop music, not go to any state fairs or similar events, and in general support a church which is shaped more by tradition than by a current, fresh consideration of God’s Word. There are many sincere, loving believers in this church–some quite satisfied where they are, some hungry for much more. Leadership has at best a grade 8 education and little training in biblical interpretation or intentional leadership practices. The church supports closed communion, teaches seven “ordinances,” prohibits its members from truck driving, etc. Too many of the sermons are dominated by “to do’s” which are not clearly linked to the gospel, contributing to a general sense of fear and what my wife calls oppression. It is the church where my wife grew up and where her parents, whom we are assisting with health needs, still are members. If we became members elsewhere locally, there would be many who would be either confused or disappointed. So we wait… expecting we will not live in this community for more than a couple more years. Meanwhile, we remember our former church (out of state) where we were active members, even assisting on the leadership team. I stay spiritually and intellectually stimulated through books and online lectures and sermons and am trying to refine my understanding of God’s Word and Christ’s Church in preparation for service in the future.

        • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

          Yikes. That’s quite something.

  • http://www.arnizachariassen.com/ithinkibelieve Arni Zachariassen

    Excellent! Shared this on our church’s Facebook page. Thank you!

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