Church membership is a reference to being an official member of a local church that you attend and participate in regularly. To be a growing Christian without a church is similar to being a baby without a family. The following are my suggestions regarding church membership:
1. Understand your need for a church. It is no secret that there are some sinful people in every church. Some of the Pastors are no good. Some of the officers are awful. Many of the members are hypocrites.
But yet you need to be a member of a local church. You need to have church membership in the best church that you can find, because you are stronger in the church than you are by yourself.
Television, radio, and even reading articles like this one are no substitute for assembling with others who are on the Lord's side (see Heb. 10:24-25).
You need to be in a church, so you can receive nurture and help others. You don't know it all. Somebody can help you learn a little more. And the more you know, the more God expects you to share with others.
2. Understand the ideal of the church. Ideally, the church should be a place where you come to learn more about God. And then you develop supportive relationships to help you live by what you have learned about God and His will.
Matthew 28:19-20 teaches that the church is to make disciples of those who are baptized. Acts 2:42 teaches that fellowship, learning, and worshiping with others are essentials.
3. Understand the reality of the church. The reality is that the church is made of people who are not ideal. Every human in the church, from the pulpit to the pew, has some sin issues that they are wrestling with. Some are seriously wrestling, and others seem to be simply waddling in their sins.
However, God is still able to work through the church. God did great things through Abraham, in spite of his lies (see Gen. 20:1-3) and through David, in spite of his sins with Uriah's wife (see II Sam. 11:2-5).
God did great things through Peter, in spite of his denial (see Mk. 14:69-72), and God is doing great things through less than ideal people in local churches today.
4. Look for the Word, work, and fellowship. Three key things to look for in a church are the Word of God, good works, and an accepting fellowship. Look for a church that puts great effort into teaching and preaching the Word of God. Attend the Bible studies and takes notes during the classes and sermons.
There should be good works being done in the community and in other places. Read the announcements and inquiry about missions or outreach projects that the church supports.
You should feel accepted. Now, you have to do your part. You cannot come late, leave early, and sit down with folded arms waiting for someone to approach you. You need to smile, shake hands, introduce yourself, and let people know you are looking for a church home.
5. Make a decision. At some point, you need to make a decision. I recommend taking no more than three months to decide which church to join. Visit those who have a good reputation, based on your asking people and even having a short phone survey of those that look interesting in the phone book.
Make notes of your visits. Chose the best that you have found. Join and make the church a better church with your participation.
6. Be careful about hopping around. There is no such thing as a perfect church. If you find one, don't you join it. Because if you joined it, you will mess it up, with your imperfect self (smile). Pray and be still for at least a year, before you leave a church.
But then there are times when you need to move your church membership. If you are going to Bible study but not being fed, it may be time to leave. Notice you have to go to Bible study, before you can claim you are not being fed. If you are not serving anywhere then perhaps you need to go somewhere else. Go somewhere where you can do some good.
In summary, there is some distance between what the church should be and what it is. However, God still wants you to find and join the best one that you can find, in a reasonable amount of time. Don't be guilty of church hopping.
Dr. Robert E. Baines, Jr. uses his doctorate of ministry degree and twenty years of pastoral experience to provide quality and helpful Christian living information to 1,000's of visitors a month.
Make sure you secure your free copy of his ebooklet, "How to Encourage Yourself: 21 Practical Tips," and sign up for his newsletter that features great articles, helpful devotionals, and Bible based teaching notes at www.RobertBaines.com.
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