Why Join a Church?

Many people are asking this question: Why bother joining a church? What is the big deal about church? Isn’t the church just a dying institution irrelevant to the world today? Although many people question the importance of church and the importance of being a member of the church, the Bible tells us that the Church is the people of God on mission to transform the world through the Gospel (1 Pt 2:9). The church is the vehicle for displaying God’s glory to the ends of the earth. Therefore the church is hugely important in God’s plan for redeeming the world through his son Jesus Christ. Jesus tells us that the church will endure and survive as the uniquely blessed people of God and that the “gates of hell will not prevail against it”. (Mat 16:18)

The Foundation of the Church

“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”” (1 Peter 2:4–6, ESV)

“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28, ESV)

The Church was founded and established by Jesus Christ. Yet, we see that from the beginning of the Old Testament God had a grand plan to spread his glory through a corporate people. The first fruits of this cosmic plan was through Israel. As we move into the New Testament we see that God plans to create a new kingdom and a new humanity from people of every ethnicity and nation. The way that God created these new citizens of the heavenly kingdom was through the death of His son Jesus Christ. The cornerstone and foundation for the church is and always will be Jesus Christ.

Jesus the Cornerstone

The Bible makes it clear why Jesus came. Jesus who was fully man and fully God came for the purpose of redeeming humanity. Jesus lived a life of complete perfection, without sin and without disobedience. Where you and I fail every day, Jesus succeeded. As a result, Jesus could be the only sacrifice who could pay the price for our sin. Every human being has fallen short and has rebelled against the Almighty God (Rom 3:23). We are hopelessly lost in our sin, yet God was gracious in sending Jesus to us. Jesus, out of love for us, went to the cross and was nailed to that tree for you and me. On the cross Jesus purchased our salvation and our freedom from the bondage of sin. On the cross Jesus purchased our entry way into this new community and new humanity. In Jesus we have been given citizenship into the kingdom of God. All we must do to receive this incredible gift from God is simply call out to Him in faith. We turn from our sins and put our trust in Jesus Christ. This is the entry point into the church and it is the only way to belong to the people of God.

The church is established by Jesus. His death is the founding stone upon which the church is built.. You see the church can often be made up of a variety of people of different ethnicities, education levels, social backgrounds, and many other things. Yet the One who brings these diverse people together is Jesus Christ. Often times there are a variety of areas on which people build community. People might build community on a special interest like a hobby or a special cause, but the church is a people united by Jesus Christ. The founding stone, Jesus, brings us all together and forms us into a new people called the Church.

Local vs Universal

The church can be seen in two light: There is the Church universal, made up of all believers in Jesus Christ at all times and the church local, which is made up of specific believers at a specific place. All true Christians belong to the Church (universal) but not every Christian belongs to the church (local). This is important to remember that being a member of a church does not grant you entrance into God’s kingdom, only Jesus does that. Yet, the church is made up of people who have received salvation through Jesus.

The Purpose of the Church

The ultimate purpose of the church is to display God’s glory. This happens as the church worships God, disciples and trains other believers to maturity, and proclaims the Gospel through evangelism and missions. The purpose of the Church is to worship, disciple, and evangelize.

Ministry to God: Worship

As a people formed and created for the glory of God, worship is the essential duty of the church. Scripture reminds us of the importance of corporate worship in the life of the church. Colossians 3:16 Paul tells us to “sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thanksgiving in your hearts to God”. We are also told “to live for the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:12).

It is vital for those who belong to the church to worship the Lord. This is why churches  meet every week. The purpose of this time is for one reason to worship the Lord. We want to praise and honor the Redeemer of our souls and give our lives to him in worship. The worship services are centered around the Gospel message as revealed in the Bible. As a result, preaching is heavily emphasized because as God’s people we need to hear from God’s word. In addition we sing together, singing about our God. Our worship also includes the giving of our finances showing God that He is first.

Ministry to Believers: Discipleship

The Church also has the task of training and building up other believers to Christian maturity. The church should seek to make every man and woman mature in Christ Jesus (Col 1:28). The way believers are built up and made mature in Christ is through the teaching of God’s word to the corporate body of Christ.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, ESV)

The Scriptures are essential if we seek to grow in our relationship with Christ. As a result, the local church should focus heavily on the teaching of the Scriptures. Churches offer a variety of Sunday School classes and Bible studies to help train our members in the Scriptures so they may be complete and equipped for every good work. In addition it is also vital that believers learn to minister to one another in community. Discipleship happens best, not in a class room, but through relationships. As a result, we seek to help our members build relationships with one another so that they can grow deeper together in their relationship with Jesus.

Ministry to the World: Evangelism

The church also has the great purpose of proclaiming the good news of Jesus to the world. This is our greatest task given to us by Jesus. We are called to go and tell others about Jesus Christ. The task of the church is to make sure others hear about how they can have salvation in Jesus.

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:14–17, ESV)

The Bible makes it clear that every Christian has the responsibility of making sure this good news is heard across the world. In order for people to be saved through faith, they first must hear about what Jesus has done.  Evangelism is not just the task for missionaries or pastors but for every believer.

The Mission of the Church

The mission of the church is found in Matthew 28:18–20. The resurrected Lord, before he ascended into heaven, gave this charge to the church:

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:18–20, ESV)

God’s Glory Displayed in the Church

As the Church faithfully proclaims and lives out the Gospel, God’s glory will spread to the ends of the earth. As people come to know Christ and join God in his mission to redeem the world, God will cover the earth with his worshipers. This will happen as we work together in a local church as the people of God working in unity of our cornerstone, Jesus Christ. We are a sinful people redeemed and forgiven by Jesus. Jesus is the hope of the world and the church is God’s ordained means of taking that hope to the ends of the earth.

So Why Join a Church?

So why would you want to join a church? Well, part of the reason is because it is biblically commanded.  To not join a local body of believers is to be disobedient to God’s command.  Hebrews 10:24-25 states we are commanded not to forsake the assembling together. So joining a local church as a member is something commanded by God, but it is much sweeter than just a rule to follow.

So why would you join a church? You desire to join a church Because God has given you salvation by His grace through Jesus, and you want to share that good news with others. You want to join yourself to the people of God to whom Jesus has bound you. You want to lock arms with other believers to worship the Lord, to grow in maturity together, and to work together to tell the world about our savior. As the church achieves its mission, we have the promise that Christ will be with us and that nothing will stop us. Businesses will go bankrupt and nations will collapse, but the church, the redeemed people of God, will survive for eternity as God’s glory is displayed through us.

So why join a church? The better question is, why would you not?

We Belong to One Another

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The following are selected excerpts from my sermon yesterday I preached at Forest Hills Baptist Church titled "We Belong to One Another" from Ephesians 2:11-22.

Our Relationship was broken with God and His People (v. 11-12)

Ephesians 2:11-22 describes the unity of the church through the cross of Christ.  The text can be broken down into three primary sections. Paul commands the church to  remember that they were once alienated.  There was once a rod of tension between Jews and Gentiles, the circumcision and the uncircumcision.  Once Gentiles were outcasted and separate from the People of God and had no hope.  A practical appellation to this section is that we all start off this way.  Each and every one of us were alienated from God.  However we were not only alienated from God, but we are alienated from the community of faith.  We were strangers to the people of God.  However through the miracle of the cross that will change.

We are Brought Together through Jesus (v.13-18)

Ephesians 2:13-18 describes how the walls of hostilities between the Jews and Gentiles were destroyed.  In Christ, those who were far from God have now been brought near.  How? Through the blood of Christ.  It is through the death of Jesus that those who are alienated from God and the people of God come nearer.  Through the cross, Jesus has made peace and has taken the two hostile parties, Jew and Gentile, and has brought them together and made them one.  He does this by removing the wall of hostility, which is the law and commandments.  Jesus fulfilled the commandments of the Law, so therefore the one who has faith in Jesus, whether Jew or Gentile, can now be brought into reconciliation with God and with one another.  Peace has been made through the death of Christ. God has created a brand new humanity.  He has created a new people, the church.  He has created "one new man in place of the two".  Therefore it does not matter what our racial background is.  It does not matter about our religious background.  It does not matter about our social-economic background.  It doesn't matter who we were, through Christ we have been made together as a new people, unified through the blood of Jesus.  In Christ, we are one.  Peace has been made. Therefore in church we have been from all sorts of background.  A church surely ought to be a melting pot of people.  People of different ethnicities, different education levels, different age groups, different tax brackets. Why does this happen?  Because we are a new people, created through Jesus. Despite all our differences we now have something far more in common than our skin color or check books.  We have salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.  

We are Built Together by the Holy Spirit (v.19-22)

Ephesians 2:19-22. Therefore since we who are alienated have been brought together as a new people, we now belong to one another. We are fellow citizens of the people of God. We are members of the same household. However in this unity what is our foundation as a community? Paul tells us in this passage, our foundation is the teachings of the apostles and the prophets with Jesus himself as the cornerstone. Jesus is our foundation, he has the one who has brought us together in unity. However the framework for this structure is the teaching of the apostles and the prophets. Our church must be built and structured around the Word of God. The whole structure is being joined together. You and I are coming together, and through the power of the Holy Spirit you and I are being created as a holy temple unto the Lord. An outpost for the World to see God. Therefore the world should be able to look at us as Forest Hills Baptist Church and see God in our midst. When our community talks about us it shouldn't be negative. They should think those people love God's word and the love each other. I see the presence of God in their midst.

We must Take Serious our Commitment to One Another

When you join our church, you are not just putting your name on the church rolls. You are committing yourself to this people. You are declaring that I belong to these people and I am committed to them. Why? Because we have been brought together by the blood of Jesus Christ. This is why in our non committal culture, where if your marriage is getting difficult we give up and quit and get a divorce. Where when things start getting tough we decide to quit and find something else. That same lack of commitment and dedication has been carried over into how you think about church. Listen carefully, many of you think way to lightly about church membership. The reason so many of us take church membership so lightly is because we fail to realize that our unity with one another has been purchased through the blood of Christ. When you leave and go to another church just because you are frustrated and irritated you walk out on your family. You abandon the people God has called you too. You leave behind your brothers and sisters to fend for themselves. You leave the comrades in arms that you are fighting along side in the trenches. However most of us do not think this way about belonging to a church. As a result we have a generation of church hoppers who jump ship when community together gets difficult. It is a disgrace and it is mocks the supernatural work God has done in bringing us together as his people.

As a result, rather than visiting from church to church never getting committed, I would much rather you find one church, invest yourself in that community and belong there and be committed, even if that is not Forest Hills Baptist Church. I hope you want to be belong to our church. I pray that you want to be apart of what God is doing in us and through us. I pray that you will commit with us to make much of Jesus in this community. But if your not going to do it here, than at least go and do it at another congregation. Don't sit on the side lines, get involved and get invested.

Younger Generation, this is where the older generation has much to teach us. They know the meaning of commitment. We have several couples in this church who have been married 60 plus years. We have several seniors in our church who have literally spent their entire lives as members of this church. Why? Because they understand that this is my people. Christ has purchased my deliverance through the cross and has brought us together. Therefore I'm not going to give up when hard times come on our congregation. Therefore I'm not going to find another church just because it is a tough season, I'm committed! Why? Because I belong to these people and they belong to me.

We Must Act in such a Way in which We are Building up One Another

As a member of this church, you are given the responsibility and privilege of building up your brothers and sisters.  Therefore speak and act and serve in such away in which you are adding to the spiritual maturity of the people around you.  We must use our gifting and abilities to feed one another the Word of God.  We must encourage one another, grab each others hands and pray for one another.  This is not just the job of pastors.  This is not just the job of deacons, but every person who is a member of our church.  The Scripture commands you to build up your brother and sister, why? Because we belong to one another.

Paul tells us all throughout the book of Ephesians to build up one another.  It is a common theme that runs throughout the book:

  • Ephesians 2:22 - You also are being built together
  • Ephesians 4:12 - “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God”
  • Ephesians 4:16 - “When each part is working properly makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love”.  
  • Ephesians 4:29 - “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up.

Therefore, when we tear each other down, we hinder God's work as a church.

We Must Not Grieve the Spirit's Work in Our Congregation

In Ephesians 4:30 Paul gives the church the warning not to "grieve the Holy Spirit"  What does Paul mean by this?

Ephesians 4:30 is in the context of church comminity. This passage is written about how church members should interact with one another. We are not to slander one another. We must not tear each other down. Why? Because we do not want to grieve this spirit of God. What does Paul mean when he warns us not to grieve the Spirit? Well in the context of the whole book of Ephesians it is quite simple. We grieve the Spirit when we tear down the body of Christ rather than building up the body of Christ. This comminity the Spirit is building is hindered when you harbor bitterness to the person in the next pew. The Spirits work is hindered when we do not forgive one another. Some of us strongly dislike each other. We avoid each other. When we do that we are grieving the Holy Spirit.

God is doing a miraculous work in our church as he builds us up as his people.  Remember that you were once broken from fellowship with God and his people.  You were brought near by Jesus Christ, and we are now being built together as a holy temple for the glory of the Lord. Therefore lets continue to hold fast our commitment to one another, build each other up, and watch the Spirit work in the life of our congregation.  May God do this for the sake of His magnificent glory and for our good!